Cruising to the Finish

HH66 Nemo crushes the CSA 1 racing class to win the 6th Caribbean Multihull Challenge; Diam 24 Merlin Named Most Worthy Performer
Catamaran racing in the 2024 Caribbean Multihull Challenge
There was no shortage of rock-star talent in the CSA 1 class, with a pair of 66-foot heavyweights trading punches throughout the eight-race series. Laurens Morel

After a challenging four days of unusual light Caribbean weather, close competition on the race course—and an adventurous island tour of St.Maarten/St. Martin and St. Barth’s for the cruising set—the 6th running of the Caribbean Multihull Challenge Race and Rally concluded with a prizegiving ceremony on the grounds of the hosting St. Maarten Yacht Club. 

The “Most Worthy Performer” prize went to Alexis de Boucaud’s Diam 24 Merlin, which strung together eight victories in a 12-race series to win the 10-boat class of sprightly trimarans. In presenting the award, CMC steering committee member Robbie Ferron had high praise for the popular, growing fleet of one-design multihulls, which are taking the island by storm. 

“The Caribbean has never seen a fleet of this quality with racing this close and competitive,” he said. “It was very, very impressive.”     

In accepting the award, de Boucaud gave high praise to his close-knit crew comprised of tactician Benoit Champanhac and floater Ivan Skobtsoy. 

“We weighed in at 257 kilos (the minimum weight in the class is 220 kilos) and we were definitely the heaviest of all the Diams,” said de Boucaud. “We were worried in the light air that we’d be hammered.” Instead, they dominated the class, finishing the regatta by winning three of the last four races. “We spent two days prepping the boat beforehand, and then practiced for a day-and-a-half,” he continued. “Teamwork was the key. We had really good, aggressive, excellent starts. We quickly saw that Erick Clement’s Karibuni was going to be our main competition, so we had our eyes on them like hawks. We covered them on every tack and jibe, it was like match racing. Anticipate, anticipate, anticipate, that’s what we tried to do. In the end, it was really about flawless maneuvering more than anything else.”  

There was no shortage of rock-star talent in the CSA 1 class, with a pair of 66-foot heavyweights trading punches throughout the eight-race series. Aboard Ricardo Pavoncelli’s Gunboat 66 Mana, the crew included two offshore legends: Brit Brian Thompson and Frenchman Loick Peyron. But American Todd Slynstad’s squad on Nemo was no slouch, and included pro sailors Ryan Breymaier, Mat Bryant and Jan Majer. It was a winning combination, as Nemo registered three bullets on the final day of racing to seal the CSA 1 championship.  

“I always worry about coming here to St. Maarten with Nemo because the trade winds typically blow much more than what we had, but this time they didn’t,” said Slyngstad. “The whole regatta kind of fell right into our wheelhouse and played to our strengths. We were able to utilize all of our tools. It was fun and not too stressful.”

Merlin catamaran
Alexis de Boucaud’s Diam 24 Merlin strung together eight victories to win the 10-boat class of trimarans. Laurens Morel

For Slyngstad’s Nemo, the regatta was a swan song of sorts. The owner plans to move up to a MOD 70 trimaran and hopes to also move up a notch in boat speed and have some more fun.  

With the usual easterly trades on hiatus, the conditions were unlike what the Caribbean generally dashes up. With no breeze whatsoever on the event’s third day with high pressure settled atop St. Maarten, principal race officer Chris Mansfield was forced to cancel the day’s competition. Still, the field took what the weather gods offered, and was able to conduct three fine days of competition.

The weather presented few issues for the 16 multis in the Rally portion of the event, which visited Great Bay, Orient Bay, Anse Marcel and St. Barth’s over the course of their travels, a movable feast which featured shoreside parties, music and food all along the way. When all was over, a pair of Rally entries scored awards at the prizegiving ceremony: Pierre Yves-Legris’s Alibi 65 Surprise won the time trials in which boats were challenged to predict their expected times of each leg of the Rally. And Ron Boehm’s Antrim Perry 52 Little Wing took home a pair of prizes, for both the Navigational Challenge and the Bingo Card Challenge, in which the Rally boats were charged with completing a host of tasks along the way.

Andrew Parkinson and captain Hans Heule
Cruising World Editor-in-Chief Andrew Parkinson and captain Hans Heule aboard the Sunsail 424. Matthew Burzon

For Cruising World Editor-in-Chief Andrew Parkinson, who hopped a ride aboard the Sunsail 424 charter boat Midsixty, his first experience participating in the Rally portion of the event was an eye-opener. 

“With the participation rate in multihull cruising having experienced exponential growth over the last several years, the timing of an annual event like the Caribbean Multihull Challenge couldn’t be better,” Parkinson said. “The racing component was a natural entry point for competitive multihull sailors. With the addition of a fun, ‘no-pressure’ Cruising Rally component—not to mention being in this idyllic Caribbean setting—the CMC has again raised the bar in terms of inclusivity of the cruising set, which is a slam dunk for the Cruising World crowd. Parallel to the ongoing growth of the multihull market, I fully expect participation in the CMC to continue to grow by leaps and bounds.”       

Long-time sponsor and CMC supporter Chris Marshall of F.K.G. Rigging summed up this year’s edition well, noting: “CMC VI was another wonderful, very successful event. The light air meant they couldn’t run the big distance races like the FKG 60 Mile Sprint sponsored by our firm, but that’s sailboat racing. The organizers certainly think this year was an outlier, so they’ll be back stronger than ever in 2025 with a full slate of inshore and offshore racing, the Cruising Rally, and the great shoreside activities at the St. Maarten Yacht Club and other venues. We will be there and we will try again for the Sprint. See you then.”