Sailboat racing is the perennial way to burn off Thanksgiving dinner calories in Coral Bay, St. John. True to a tradition that started with the launch of the first island-built cowhorns in the 1970s and the founding of the Coral Bay Yacht Club in 1982, a fleet of nearly 30 gaffers, ketches and schooners set sail at the end of November in the Coral Bay Thanksgiving Regatta.
The first day of sailing saw the single-handed and gaffers race.
"It was perfect conditions for my boat," says John Constanzo, skipper of the 32ft Block Island Schooner Calabreeze, which won the Gaffers 35ft and Under Class. "Winds were 15 to 20 knots, which is what I need since I've got a 5000-pound keel. I had all the sails up."
Constanzo, who has raced in every regatta except one when he left the island to visit his parents on their 60th wedding anniversary, kept his eye on fellow St. John sailor Brion Morrisette at the helm of his 18ft Bequia-built, Sweet Ting. "He couldn't point in the strong wind, so he had to sail off the wind. That's how I beat him, even though I had a lousy start and was late to the line. Brion's become the new man to beat."
Other first day Class winners included Zing, Ocean Wave, Castanet and Breath.
The regatta's second day featured a pursuit-style race, where each boat had an individual start time calculated on handicap and performance the year prior. The 17-nautical mile course wound around the uninhabited islands of Pelican, Flanagan and Le Duck east of Coral Bay.
"Lucky for me, I was next to last, last year, so I had a good start time this year," says Doug Weaver, who won the Cruising Over 30ft and Under 40ft Class on his Tartan 33, Runaway.
Weaver's win was remarkable because he pretty much single-handed the race.
"First, it was just my wife and I with our eight-month old," he says. "Then, we had another friend call to ask if we had room and when I went to pick her and her five-month old up at the dock there was another friend with her one-year-old. So, it was me, three women and three infants. We had a great time."
Sweet Ting, Liberty, Gaucho, Zing, Simones Voyage and Wave Goodbye also won their Classes the second day.
Organizers Dick and Mary Burks won this year's Peter Muilenberg Spirit of the Regatta Award. Muilenberg, who built his cowhorn, Breath, on the beach in Coral Bay, founded both the regatta and Coral Bay Yacht Club.
The Coral Bay Thanksgiving Regatta is a fund raiser for the Kids and the Sea program.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.