SCOTIABANK’S TALLSHIP RACE & PARADE OF THE HEINEKEN REGATTA 2002  (reprinted from Nautical Scene - 2002)

By – Nancy Terrell


My interest in Tall Ships began when I was a child and would see these lovely ladies sailing up the Potomac towards Washington, D.C. where they would participate in the various water parades that graced this capital city.  This was after World War II when our country felt that it had something to celebrate.  My love of Tall Ships continued as I learned how to sail and spent summers on the Chesapeake Bay.  I have participated in many Tall Ships events, including a spot on the Nina during the Tall Ship Parade 1992 that accompanied the celebration of the 500th Anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s visit to North America.  That was truly a remarkable event.  


But never have I experienced the high seas, rough water and gusty wind shifts that occurred during the 2002 Heineken Regatta Tall Ships Parade in Marigot Bay, St. Martin, where these ladies of yesteryear led over 250 racing boats and a large contingent of international marine media. The Heineken Regatta's Tall Ships Race is a one-day match only, but for people who like sun, competitive sailing and huge tropical parties this is normally an ideal opportunity to get away from it all.  Although "serious fun" has long been the motto for the regatta the event also has a serious commitment to Maritime History through the financial support of Scotiabank who sponsor the Tall Ships Parade.


What a day!  The parade started in Marigot followed by the race to Great Bay, Phillipsburg, and led the last day of racing during the regatta, now in its 22nd year.  Two days of serious racing, with three races – one on Friday with two on Saturday – set the pace for the Tall Ships.  Having been invited on Swan Fan Makkum for a Press Cocktail Party during the preceding Saturday evening only increased my wonder if sailing would indeed occur the following day.  The seas were rough for reporters and several writers had difficulty climbing from the water taxi via the boarding ladder onto the ship.


However, Sunday’s races (Mar. 3rd) indeed started with the Tall Ship Parade.  Only two of these majestic boats were able to participate this year, but sailing on a tall ship was just as much fun as I had remembered. With the dangerous 20-knot+ weather, the Sir Robert Baden Powel, winner of Tall Ships 2001, sailed past the start line and onto Great Bay amid confused and choppy seas.   The winds on the course were so strong that problems occurred immediately as Swan Fan Makkum ripped a grommet out on one of her topsails.  However, this did not keep her from winning the Most Photogenic Performance Award – a framed picture of the boat under sail – and what a shot that is.  The winning Sir Robert Baden Powell was then awarded the Scotia Cup for the fastest vessel and did she ever earn it.  


Built in 1956 this beautiful Barkentine of Dutch registry is now used as a charter cruiser for the famous Windjammer Cruises.  The Sir Robert was named after the Founder of the World Scout Movement author Sir Robert Baden Powell who was internationally acclaimed as the Chief Scout of the World.  Powell, oddly enough, wrote on the Afghan War 0f 1842 and its aftermath and on skirmishes on the Northwest frontier.  His later books included “My Adventures as a Spy” and were first published in 1915 during the first years of W.W. I.  With this type of a background it is appropriate that the Sir Robert’s win over Swan fan Makkum came amidst some of the worst seas to ever grace the Heineken Regatta in Sint Maarten/St. Martin.


All I could think about was what in the world it must have been like to sail the oceans of the world, in seafaring days gone by, aboard one of these powerful vessels!  Whether seen from the shore or on the water, the skill and dedication of captains and crews of old, that sailed the seven seas, had to be remarkable, indeed.  


Swan fan Makkum is the world's largest Brigantine ship. The commissioning of this stately ship in 1993 in Gdansk, Poland, marked the fulfillment of captain and owner Willem Sligting's boyhood dream of participating in the Cutty Sark Tall Ships Race with his own ship under Dutch Flag.  Her majestic length of 61 metres and beautiful lines,  combined with her 1300 sq. meters of sail, make the Swan fan Makkum not just the largest brigantine, but also one of the most striking sailing vessels currently sailing the seas.  Yet, while honouring the spirit of her illustrious predecessors, the Swan fan Makkum well fits into yachting today and is equipped according to modern demands on comfort and safety. During the winters she accommodates up to 30 guests in tropical destinations such as the Cape Verde, the Caribbean or the Seychelles. In the summer time she stays a bit closer to home, in order to attend the many international Tall Ships events in Europe.


I was able to visit with several of the passengers during this race as they chartered the boat just for this purpose.  Even with a green tinge to their pallor and a glass full of club soda, for their tummies, they agreed that Tall Ships 2002 was an experience they would never forget.

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