If you are lucky enough to be able to spend a season in St. Martin, be sure to join the St. Martin Yacht Club. Dues are very inexpensive, you get a discount on food and drinks and, best of all, the proceeds of your dues go to training the next generation of local sailors. Another major perk: you get to take out the Club’s dinghies! They have excellent trainers like the RS Zest I have been taking out, in addition to other other offerings like Lasers.
I’ve gone out sailing in the lagoon three times now, each time in gusty winds ranging from 0 to massive 30 knots gusts (seriously – the breeze here is really up and down)! It’s terrific practice and instantly brough me back to that giddy, child-like excitement one feels when a dinghy accelerates in an instant and hops up on a plane. The sea state in the lagoon is also very flat, making for an excellent training ground.
I am proud to say that over the course of three days I have not flipped the boat or gone swimming yet (jinx!) and have only submarined the nose once on a blast reach. Fortunately, the Zest simply imitated a Volvo Ocean Race boat and scooped up a bunch of green water that washed back along the decks instead of spinning out and flipping or, potentially much worse – pitch poling! Submarining the nose on these boats is really only a risk when they are accelerating from a low speed, combined with the mistake of not getting crew weight aft fast enough to keep the nose up. Once they are on a full plane they are totally stable and benign. In fact in all conditions these boats are really forgiving – when getting blasted with a gust going upwind they are much more prone to spinning up into the wind with a stalled rudder than flipping. They are also super quick and easy to rig and de rig, so they are at once benign enough for training and entertaining enough for experienced sailors.
If you’re new to dinghies or need a refresher, the Yacht Club offers lessons too. After an exciting morning of sailing, you can pop up to the bar where you can lie to your friends about how good of a dinghy sailor you are over lunch and some drinks. One last perk: the Yacht Club is immediately adjacent to the bridge through which mega yachts enter and exit the lagoon, which is very entertaining to watch. What a great setup! St. Martin Yacht Club is literally a playground for adults who love sailing.