St. Maarten’s Gem: The legacy of Stars & Stripes lives on at the 12 Metre Challenge

Stars & Stripes, winner of the America’s Cup in 1987

If you’ve ever watched the America’s Cup or sailed you will love this and it is worth traveling to St Maarten just for the opportunity to do it!

Two weeks ago, I had the chance of a lifetime to race on one of the fastest yachts in the world – the America’s Cup winning yacht, Stars & Stripes. Stars & Stripes was the boat Dennis Conner and his team raced during the America’s Cup regatta in 1987. This was a huge event in the yachting world as it meant America would finally have the cup back after the Australian boat won it in 1983. (Between 1857 – 1983, the American’s had the prize and Australia’s win in 1983 ended the longest winning streak in the history of sport.)

Stars & Stripes now lives in the warm waters of St Maarten and takes passengers (or yachties in training) on the ride of a lifetime.

I met Colin Percy, the owner of 12-Metre Challenge, while in St Maarten. Colin was living in Canada and for health reasons moved to the Caribbean. He told us how he was an avid sailor and through years of coincidences and lucky breaks he was able to bring, not one, but five America’s Cup boats to St Maarten. This was no easy task and took years, and a lot of good fortune to happen – but it looks like Colin’s stars have aligned. His stories are fascinating and we finally learned how he managed to convince Dennis Conner to let go of his pride and joy. Not an easy task, but you can ask Colin to tell you the story himself when you visit.

Colin Percy, Owner of 12-Metre Challenge, briefs the teams on what to expect

In the briefing before the race, Colin put into perspective what were were about to do. More people have landed on an aircraft carrier than sailed on an America’s Cup boat. There are apparently no more than 700 very elite sailors in the world that have raced America’s Cup yachts. Growing up in New Zealand, a country that takes yachting, and the America’s Cup, very seriously, I knew that this was a very big opportunity. Having been on other yachts before I thought it would be similar, but there is nothing like actually racing against another team to experience the power and speed that these boats are built for.

Canada II, considered one of the fastest boats in the yachting world

We were divided into two teams and raced against Canada II, the 1983 Canadian America’s Cup contender. Everyone is given a role to play and each team has a skipper and two crew that teach you how to perform your role during the race. I think our skipper had the best job in the world – sailing every day and traveling the world for regattas and races. Each of the crew are very experienced and sail professionally in addition to their jobs with 12-Metre Challenge. There is no way to explain how much fun this is when you are going fast, and turning fast, especially in the sun and beautiful waters of the Caribbean.

Unfortunately, I’m sad to say, Dennis would not be happy with our team, in the last leg of the race the other boat got ahead and we lost.

After the race is over I get to take the helm of Stars & Stripes!

12 Metre Challengeis located in Phillipsburg, Saint Maarten. They have five America’s Cup yachts: Stars & Stripes 86, Stars & Stripes 87, Canada II, True North I, and True North IV. Make sure you go and experience this incredible trip for yourself!

On board Stars & Stripes


Oh no! Canada II takes the lead!

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4 Comments on “St. Maarten’s Gem: The legacy of Stars & Stripes lives on at the 12 Metre Challenge”

  1. Hugh Darley January 19, 2011 at 9:55 am #

    What a great experience! Nice day at work!

  2. Patrick A McLaughlin March 6, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    Recently back from St. Marteen. Met Colin Percy and his crew. Fabulous. They exhibit positive, progressive attitudes, are more than capable and treat every single person with great respect and care. Combine that with the Caribbean Sea and an after race cocktail and you have got something!
    Go Colin!
    Thank you.
    Patrick A McLaughlin
    Santa Barbara, Calif.

    • Mindy Joyce March 6, 2012 at 9:29 pm #

      Hi Patrick, so glad to hear this. Colin is wonderful and it is such a fantastic experience. Thanks so much for commenting on my blog! Cheers, Mindy

  3. Kevin November 16, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

    September ’12. Had a fantastic time “crewing” Canada II against Stars and Stripes. Well worth the $. Going to look into signing on at the local yacht club.

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