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16th Annual St. Croix Intl Regatta and Valentine Optimist Regatta

Competition was tough and heavy weather made racing even tougher at the 16th Annual St. Croix International Regatta held February 20-22, 2009. Registrations were down from last year and the number of starters was even less due to nasty weather preceding a weekend of close racing and great Crucian parties. This year, two winning skippers were awarded their weight in Cruzan Rum, raising the stakes for those who would brave the challenging conditions and prevail over the CSA competition in the Buck Island Channel.

Wind speeds held at 20-26 knots, with gusts to 30 and seas to match. Joe San Martin, lone entrant in Multi-hull class, reported boat speeds of 10-12 knots in his Newick trimaran, Piglet. He lost a halyard in the Gallows Bay race, one of the many gear failures the fleets experienced during the weekend. Kevin Rowlette’s Olson 30, Rushin Rowlette, suffered a split jib, followed by a broken mast.

Steven Schmidt sailed “a horrible trip” from Curaçao single-handed to race his Santa Cruz 70CR, Hotel California, Too, in the Main & Jib class, “But the regatta was worth it,” he said. With a record-breaking 20 pick-up crew members on the rail, the customized sled made short work of the Gallows Bay course but did better on the triangles and windward-leewards on corrected time.

“They did good, we broke stuff,” said Schmidt regarding his second-place finish behind Tony Sanpere’s recently acquired J-36, Cayennita Grande. Sanpere raced with Schmidt last year and said, “What we broke was smaller stuff than what they broke, except we almost lost a crew overboard.” Sanpere bought the boat in Marblehead last fall and has a brand new crew, some of whom have never raced before. He said “the crew came together better with each race,” and he was pleased with the victory, especially as the boat’s new instruments had not been wired yet.

Local junior sailors grown up, Chris Stanton and his brothers Peter and Scott took their Melges 24, Devil 3, to a Spinnaker 1 victory with six bullets in seven races. However, the Cruzan Rum went to the most competitive class, Spinnaker 2, where Chris Thompson of St. Thomas attributed his J-27, J Walker’s success to driving off the jib and flogging the main. He delegated to his largest crewman, Frank Barnes, the all important job of sitting on the scales.

Tortola’s Guy Eldridge won the rum for the Racer-Cruiser/Main & Jib fleet on his Beneteau First 10R, Luxury Girl. The Commodore’s trophy and two Cape Air round trip tickets went to Peter Haycraft for his many years of having the best visiting boat, Pipedream, a Serena 38.

Thompson, Schmidt, Sanpere, Stanton and several other skippers will compete again in Culebra and in the BVI, the next and final legs of the Caribbean Ocean Racing Triangle (C.O.R.T.)

Inside the reef, in beautiful Teague Bay, three Rhodes 19’s raced on the one-design course with new SCYC commodore, Alan Mallory taking home the trophy. Also inside the reef in only slightly calmer waters, competitors in the Valentine Optimist Regatta saw tough conditions for the tiny dinghies and young skippers.

“The kids just were worn out from trying to sail and bail at the same time,” said Julie San Martin, regatta chair, explaining the numerous DNF’s and DNS’s on the results reports. Kyle Brego, 14, of St. Thomas took overall fleet honors, with six bullets in ten races. Top finishers in the Opti classes were Addison Hackstaff (Blue), Kyle Brego (Red), Colin Brego (White). CJ Walker, 13, of St. Croix braved the elements to win Green Fleet honors, crossing the finish line in nine of the ten races.

San Martin had encouraging news regarding the future of the St. Croix regatta, which has not had a name sponsor the past two years: the event will be affiliated with the National Hospice Regatta Alliance for 2010. As a charity race, all contributions are (U.S.) tax deductible and will go toward great racing and sorely needed hospice care for an aging population. Getting started early, the regatta saw $2200 donated during the awards ceremony to Continuum Care, St. Croix’s hospice, which has cared for 800 families during its eight years of operations.

Read more on the Regatta’s website: www.stcroixregatta.com

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