Not many, if any, Caribbean regattas can boast a fleet that includes everything from a 1913-built island trader, two 1933-constructed Argentine ketches, a Coral Bay Cowhorn, a traditional Bequia workboat, modern J boats and cruisers. This eclectic mix of vessels, plus a real community sailing spirit, is what made the 33rd Thanksgiving Regatta, hosted by St. John, USVI’s Coral Bay Yacht Club and held November 28th – 29th, so special.
“The heart of this event is the boats,” says Sara O’Neill, who with an all-women crew won the Pursuit 30-40ft Class in the crewed racing portion of the regatta on November 29 aboard her 1975-built, Ron Holland designed Camper Nicholson 33, O’dege. “We had 25 boats in seven classes that sailed a pursuit-style race. The committee did a great job of rating the boats, even the ones that had never sailed here before, because everyone finished close to one another.”
Ratings aside, very light winds blowing seven to nine knots from the east made racing challenging albeit still quite enjoyable.
“It was a short course, due to the light winds, around Flanagan Island (near Norman and Peter Islands) and around Le Duck (on the western side of the entrance to Coral Bay),” explains Denise Wright, who has sailed her Bill Lapworth-designed Cal 2-27, Reality Switch, for over 30 years in the Virgin Islands and who won the PHRF Non-Spinnaker Class. “We were first over the start line in our class and first out of Coral Bay. The boat in our class closest to us after rounding Flanagan Island was Zephyr (Jim ‘Bear’ Austen’s Pearson 29.5). We had even more fun racing from then on as we were so close, even exchanging the lead a few times.”
The people are what draw Mike Finley to this regatta. Finley and his crew won the PHRF Spinnaker Class aboard his IC24, Ocean Potion.
“For us, coming over from St. Thomas, we only get to see some of these folks when we race in Coral Bay. It’s always a great treat. Coral Bay is full of character and great older boats,” says Finley. “Our biggest competition was Osprey (a Luders 44 owned by Larry Best) because she was bigger and we had to go right against her nearly all the way up to the windward mark. We did get past her about halfway up the leg. Then, we had a hard time staying in front when we started back to the harbor but with good crew work we hung in there.”
Other winners were Brion Morrisette’s, Sweet Ting in the Pursuit Under 30ft Class, Leo and Erin Perez’s YeeHaw in Multihulls, John and Roni Everton’s Goucho in the Traditional Class and Elliot Hooper’s Silver Cloud in the Island Trader Class.
A single-handers race took place the day before on November 28th. Nine boats in three classes competed, with YeeHaw winning the Multihulls, Doug McClean’s White Album the Monohulls and Colin Hansen’s Buxom in the Traditional Class.
“We put 100 percent of the proceeds from the two-day regatta into Kids and the Sea (KATS), a learn-to-sail program for young people that has produced Olympic sailors,” says Stephen Hendren, commodore of the Coral Bay Yacht Club.
The Thanksgiving Regatta was sponsored by Skinny Legs Bar and Grill, Glazer’s Premier Distributors and the Coral Bay Yacht Club.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.