Clean bottoms were a feature that united class winners at the 35th annual 2016 Coral Bay Thanksgiving Regatta, held out of Coral Bay, St. John in late November. This time-honored regatta, sponsored by the Coral Bay Yacht Club and benefiting Kids and the Sea (KATS), marks the end of most boats hurricane season hiatus on the hard and the beginning of the winter-spring regatta season.
What makes this regatta so special is that its classes mimic the eclectic fleet of liveaboards, cruising and race boats that call Coral Bay home. That means serious PHRF racers, Gaff Riggers, Cruisers, Single Handers, Multi-hulls and Traditional boats compete. There is even a one-boat class for a beautiful vessel that’s hard to classify, the 117-year-old, 110-foot, iron-hulled, tall ship, Silver Cloud, owned by Elliot Hooper, who this year won his namesake ‘E’ Class.
“The Race Committee gives me my own start, I get to the line when I want and if I finish I win,” says Hooper, whose Silver Cloud serves as the committee boat for Foxy Callwood’s regattas in the neighboring British Virgin Island of Jost Van Dyke. “We had perfect winds for us, blowing 18 to 20 knots on Friday with gusts over 20 on Saturday; new sails from the late St. Thomas sailmaker Manfred Dittrich; and five crew aboard. Plus, a few weeks before I had sailed the boat back up from the yard in Trinidad where I got a total refit including the bottom cleaned, so she was fast.”
The PHRF Non-Spinnaker Class was certainly more competitive, since it had more boats. However, practicing and polishing the hull proved successful for Dave Dostall, who helmed his 22ft Pearson Ensign, Doxie, to first.
“I won 40ft and under, and overall in the single-handed race on Friday,” says Dostall, who named the boat for the late Dr. James Clayton, who originally donated it to KATS and before that sailed it as the Doc-Sea. “It really surprised me because I hadn’t been sailing that much. Plus, I had just bought the boat from KATS because the program is moving to IC24s. It was in rough shape. I spent the week before cleaning her up, including giving her a new coat of bottom paint, and going out sailing single-handed every day.”
On Saturday, Dostall, with longtime KATS instructor Vicki Rogers and new St. John Yacht Club race officer, Mark Hall, as crew, finished the longer course rounding the offshore islands of Pelican, Leduck and Flanagan in four hours. Even though this marked the longest time for the smallest boat in the fleet, the hours were enough to earn Dostall’s Doxie the class win on corrected time.
The decades’ old rivalry between John Costanzo’s locally-built 32ft custom ketch, Calabreeze, and fellow islander Colin Hanson’s 1938-built custom wooden ketch, Buxom II, decided in Costanzo’s favor this year in the Classics class.
“Buxom didn’t race Friday, and on Saturday I was over the line first and after that, let’s just say I did a horizon job on them,” says Costanzo, who credited a fresh haul-out in Tortola and brand new bottom for his speed.
Costanzo has sailed in the Coral Bay Thanksgiving Regatta every year but one. The event got its start, he says, when several people built ‘cow horns’ or Block Island-style schooners, on the beach in Coral Bay back in the 1970s. As the fleet increased, a natural desire arose to start a yacht club and hold regular regattas.
“The cow horns were a community effort and today the regatta remains a community event,” says Costanzo. “Even if there’s someone who participates that we don’t know, they’re likely sailing on a boat we do know. It’s great fun.”
2. White Album
3. Huron Girl
1. Reality Switch
2. Southern Breeze
3. Sally IV
2. Buxom II
1. Silver Cloud
*Photos by Leah Randall/www.facebook.com/mermaidtalesstjohn