Dad and Daughter Rock the Melges 24

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Frits Bus and his crew, including his daughter Berit, are racing the Melges 24 Team Island Water World, sitting in second place in class after day one of racing BVI Spring Regatta. Bus has been competing at the regatta since 1982 and for many years he would sail the 24-foot boat the 100 miles, give or take, from St Maarten to the BVI. The journey would take at least a day, depending on the conditions. This week they towed the Melges behind a live-aboard catamaran, making life a lot more comfortable.

“We love to race, and we like to come here,” Bus said. “I used to sail the Melges even to Puerto Rico
when we had the CORT (Caribbean Ocean Racing Triangle) series which was back-to-back racing in
Puerto Rico, St Thomas, and BVI. We loved those parties, regattas, and the fun.”

Originally from the Netherlands, Bus came to the Caribbean in 1980 after graduating from university to
take a job as a doctor in the emergency room at a Curacao hospital. Five years later he moved to St
Maarten where still resides and is currently commodore of the St Maarten Yacht Club. He first started
racing on a Beneteau First Class 8, and a Hobie 33 because there was one other in St Maarten and Bus
wanted to have the same boat so the two could spar.

“I like one design racing – I also like sailing Lasers – and I was so fed up with the politics around the
ratings, especially PHRF,” Bus commented.

He started to race Melges 24s in 1995, after seeing a guy in Puerto Rico fly downwind and beat

“The rating for the Melges 24 at that time was way lower than it is now, and I bought one with a friend.
We had so much fun with that boat, we started going to Miami, we did the World Championship, Key
West Race Week, so we bought another Melges 24 to keep in Florida.”

Bus has owned a number of Melges 24s over the years and regularly races the Melges around the Caribbean circuit. One mishap he recalls was losing a boat on the tow back from the BVI after Spring Regatta. The boat happened to have a hole in it, and it sank irretrievably.

“I was sitting in the Melges, my (now) wife was in the motorboat towing, it was blowing thirty-five knots with big waves, and I was trying to keep the water out and at a certain moment the boat was just sinking too quickly so we had to cut it loose around Saba. At the same time, the motor on the boat that we were using to tow it had stopped,” Frits laughed as he recalled the moment.

Short of a long story, the boat eventually washed up on Mona Island, a small island located between Puerto Rico and Hispaniola. Bus never recovered it, but a Puerto Rican friend found it and took the mast and rudder off.

“The rudder was still in really good condition,” Bus laughed.

Berit, a dietician who works with doctors on St Maarten including her dad, also remembers entertaining
moments sailing the Melges 24 to the BVI, like sleeping up on the bow one night when they were sailing
over and a whole lot of fish jumping on deck in the middle of the night. But it’s part of the reason she
loves sailing.

“I really enjoy it, I really like sailing and the community of sailing, and the challenging parts of it, Berit,
33, said. “The weather is always unknown; every time is different. We’ve been doing these trips every year, but every regatta is different and every year the competition is different. And I still enjoy racing
with dad, I love him! I’ll sail with him for a bit longer…”

The other Melges 24 team, Exodus, owned and helmed by Keki Figueroa, racing this week are from Puerto Rico, currently in sixth place in CSA 3 and excellent sailors, Bus acknowledged.

“What’s nice about the sailing community here and returning to these regattas, in all those years I have
made so many friends in all of the islands – when I come here anytime I always have friends I can see
and stay with and the same when they come to my house in St Maarten. You build up such a friendship
around all of the islands.”

BVI Spring Regatta 2024, Island Water World