From new sponsors and organizers to new courses and classes, this season’s Caribbean spring regattas are ready to offer sailors a blend of the old tried and true with a bit of the new.
January 26-January 30: 14th Annual LaSource Grenada Sailing Festival
Last year, the LaSource Grenada Sailing Festival’s cast of competitors secured the event’s role as an early tune-up for the Caribbean’s spring racing season by welcoming the best-ever entry of top quality yachts from the UK, USA, France, Holland, Antigua, Barbados, Trinidad and Grenada itself. At the end of four hard days of racing, Les Crouch’s Reichel Pugh-designed Storm took the title of Overall Festival Winner, as well as the LaSource Cup. “This was our first time,” says Crouch. “The entire crew felt the regatta was well run and really fun.”
This year, there looks to be “Pure Sail, Pure Spice" again. The 2007 Festival is based at True Blue Bay Resort & Marina and the race schedule will again feature the ComNavNX2 Cup, sponsored by Canada’s ComNav Marine Ltd. The Mount Gay, Heineken and LaSource Race Series will run on the Saturday, Monday and Tuesday of the event. The ever popular and traditional Cable & Wireless Work Boat Regatta will also be a high spot of the four day Festival, with some fiercely competitive racing off Grand Anse Beach on Saturday and Sunday, January 27 and 28 – this is the event that proves sailing can be a spectator sport.
February 9-11: 14th Annual St. Croix International Regatta
Dates for this annual competition have moved up by one week and the regatta is now two days rather than three. Regatta director Julie San Martin says that airline seats and hotel rooms will be more readily available than in past years when the island held several major events simultaneously.
What will stay the same, adds San Martin, is the top prize. “The overall prize for the most competitive boat in the most competitive field is the skipper’s weight in Cruzan Rum.” In 2006, winning skipper Dave West of Chippewa, a Farr 395 from Bayfield, WI, opted to put his heaviest crew member on the club’s giant scale and took home eight cases.
Classes include Spinnaker Racing, Racer/Cruiser, Performance Cruiser, IC-24, Beach Cat and Large Multi-hull. The St. Croix International Regatta kicks off the three-race CORT (Caribbean Ocean Racing Triangle) series, followed the next month by races in Culebra, Puerto Rico, and Tortola, British Virgin Islands.
Along with the big boat regatta will be the 4th annual International Valentine Optimist Regatta for young people under age 16. Last year’s winner, Jose Nigaglioni from Ponce, Puerto Rico, hopped on the scale and took home his weight in Gatorade.
March 1-4: 27th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta
This year’s “Serious Fun” St. Maarten Heineken Regatta will go down in history for the participation of ABN AMRO 1, the sensational sailing machine that won the Volvo Ocean in grand style. “The ABN AMRO 1 is a speed machine that surprised even the most skeptical with the speeds that were produced consistently going around the world. She was the fastest of a crop of boats that were going around 27 percent faster than the fastest boats of the race four years earlier,” says regatta director Miriam Leffers. It has not been announced which crew will sail the boat.
Another entry that is expected, says Leffers, “is that of Lia Ditton, a solo racer and artist who took a 5th place in the Ostar sailing a 34 foot trimaran, Shockwave. She will first be sailing the Route du Rhum after which she will do a series of Caribbean Regattas with her 40-foot trimaran that was previously Spirit of Canada, sailed by Erek Hatfeld in the 2001 Around Alone, and is now called Dangerous when Wet. She will be offering charters and taking investors on the boat in the Caribbean, an area with which she is familiar having done charter skippering as well as sailing on some of the boats that raced here like Rosebud.”
March 9-11: Heineken Culebra International Regatta
Doubling its participation last year and adding a title sponsor, the Heineken Culebra International Regatta, will again be hosted out of the Costa Bonita Resort. This second leg in the C.O.R.T. series will feature a first time Snipe class and a larger contingent of sailors in the native, chalana, class. “We’ve had requests from many of the sailors to run a round the island race again, like the first year,” says regatta director, Angel Ayala, “and we may indeed do this.” There will also be a dinghy regatta for Optimists and Lasers held simultaneously.
March 23-25: 34th International Rolex Regatta
New directors and new classes are features of the 34th International Rolex Regatta, hosted by the St. Thomas Yacht Club March 23 to 25. This year, Bill Canfield, who coordinates operation and use of the Club’s facilities, will serve as Rolex Regatta Coordinator, while Sandy Symkens will join John Sweeney as a Regatta Co-Director. If these new directors’ plans pan out, there will be one-design classes for Farr 40s, Melges 32s and Swan 45s.
"Every year we have a well-rounded fleet, ranging from small cats to maxis, with sailors from all walks of life and levels of experience,” says Sweeney. “All sailors can count on cool breeze, warm water and a splash of rum.”
Yachts racing under the CSA handicap will include Multihulls, CSA and One-Design classes of at least 24 feet as well as Beach Cats. Continuing over three decades of tradition, winners of qualifying classes will be awarded trophies for first through third places, and the winner of each class will take home a Rolex timepiece.
March 27-April 1: BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival
The BVI Spring Regatta Committee, always known for injecting that ‘something different’ into the race scene, invites sailors to join them in the protest room this year – to sit on the judge’s side of the table.
Professional jurists and International Judges (IJs) supplant sailors on protest juries. However, regatta chairman Bob Phillips believes that this has deprived the competitors of a learning opportunity. “Quite often the competitors have a different view of the on-water action and actual sailing conditions and this is what we are trying to get back into the protest room. I expect that they will interject a very pragmatic and practical approach to this process.”
This year’s Spring Regatta will re-involve the sailors in the protest process by asking each skipper at registration if there is someone on board who is conversant enough with the Rules to serve on a Protest Committee. No competitor will sit on a committee that hears a protest that would affect results of the class in which he sails and, if necessary, competitors will be given the opportunity to appeal a decision to an International Jury.
According to the racing rules of sailing, although a decision made by a Protest Committee can be appealed, the decisions made by an International Jury are final. “We will have enough IJs for a full International Jury if one is needed, as would be the case where liability or injury is involved, and to hear any appeals arising from decisions of the Protest Committee,” Phillips says, “The first stop for adjudication will be four sailors and one IJ sitting as a Protest Committee.”
April 29-May 4: 40th Stanford Antigua Sailing Week
The 40th anniversary of Antigua Sailing Week (ASW) will see many new changes. Neil Forrester, regatta chairman, says, “There will be some changes to the racing categories, particularly to Division A boats. We are looking to harmonize the racing categories throughout the Caribbean in the optic of establishing a Caribbean Racing Series for 2008."
Another major change will be welcoming back multihulls, like catamarans and trimarans. "These have been absent from ASW for many years but there is now a serious group of racing multihulls from Guadeloupe and BVI that we would like to see come and race in Antigua" The race is now open to racing multihulls which will race in Division A and the cruising catamarans that will race in Division B. Race courses will change to give sailors less time away from their home base in English Harbour.
Another new change is that Stanford International Bank comes aboard as title sponsor. Since it is the 40th anniversary, Forrester said that something special will be organized on shore. Expectations are high that this year’s ASW will attract over 200 participants.