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First-Time Harbor Race Draws Mixed Reactions

For the first time in the history of the International Rolex
Cup Regatta, competitors sailed down the south side of St. Thomas for a finish
in the Charlotte Amalie Harbor, and took their start in this picture-perfect
and populated location for a race back to St. Thomas east end.

John Bonds,
Principal Race Officer, explained the idea behind the new course: "Peter
Holmberg and Bill Canfield came up with it because they wanted to make the race
accessible to the general public. The problem is, we’ve taken racing offshore
in the name of preserving purity. In doing so, we’ve given up the visual
aspects of the sport. Now we’re trying to bring that back."

Many sailors
enjoyed their run into the harbor.

“It was nice,
something special,” said Frits Bus, skipper aboard his Melges 24, 2 Contact
Carib.

Tony Sanpere,
helming his Soverel 27, Cayennita, agreed. “I’m from the old school. That is, I
like point-to-point racing or around government marks. It was great for
non-spinnaker boats.”

Likewise, Peter
Heck, a California-based trimmer aboard Tom Hill’s Reichel-Pugh 75, Titan XII,
said: “It was something new. I’ve never sailed on this side of the island
before. But, it’s the kind of sailing that you expect when you come to the
Caribbean. Tom was happy with the day.”

On the other hand,
Puerto Rico’s Efrain “Fraito” Lugo, who skippered his J/24, Orion, said: “If
you sail one-design, you want windwards-leewards because it makes it more fair.
But it was beautiful anyway."

Some sailors
didn’t like the harbor’s light winds.

“A lot of folks on
our boat (Sweetness, a J/29 skippered by St. Thomas’ Peter Clark) weren’t happy
because the wind died and we were behind,” said St. Thomas’ Wally Bostwick, who
crewed aboard.

Even though they
won the race, Antigua’s James Dobbs, helming his Olson 30, Lost Horizon II,
said: “A course like this has nothing to do with yacht racing. There was little
public interest downtown that I could see. And the winds were light. If they had
set the course outside of Water Island, where there was wind, that would have
been fine."

The harbor’s fluky
winds proved an advantage to at least two boats

“We were well
behind when we saw the rest of the class fall into a dead air hole off Frenchman’s
Reef,” explained John Holmberg, aboard his IC-24, Stinger. “We were able to
avoid it and end up placing third.”

Similarly, “It was
a bit puffy in the harbor, but that helped us,” said the BVI’s Guy Eldridge,
who sails his Melges 24, Mistress Quickly. “Don Q had overtaken us. Then, they
got hit hard with a puff and broached. We sailed around and overtook them.”

Local knowledge
did come in handy, said Augusto Tromben, crewmember aboard John Foster’s J/27,
Magnificent 7. “Just as we rounded into the harbor, we called the Greenhouse
and ordered seven hamburgers and two fries. We crossed the finish and sailed
over to the bulkhead and the delivery guy had them waiting.”

“Too long” was a
resounding consensus from nearly all racers about the course back, which
included a leg up to the Dog Rock buoy. Many boats didn’t start coming into the
beach until nearly 5 p.m.

“We can fix this
easily,” Bonds said. “Maybe we’ll blow off French Cap and end the race where we
started the fleet without going up to the Dogs.”

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