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Puerto Rico’s Luis Juarbe’s Melges 32, Soca, sails downwind into Charlotte Amalie harbor. Credit: Dean Barnes
Puerto Rico’s Luis Juarbe’s Melges 32, Soca, sails downwind into Charlotte Amalie harbor. Credit: Dean Barnes

Thrills & Spills on First Day of Racing at 41st St. Thomas International Regatta

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Boom or bust was the big story for the 69-boat fleet racing on the first day of the 41st St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR). Thirty-plus knot gusts tested the mettle of equipment and crews as the fleet sailed along the island’s south shore into scenic Charlotte Amalie harbor and back again amidst a mix of sun and squalls.

“The winds were great today. We loved it,” says Australia’s Robert Date, at the helm of his RP 52, Scarlett Runner, with a 15 strong crew. Date set sail last July on a circumnavigation to race some of the world’s great regattas. He chose three events in the Caribbean – the STIR, Les Voiles de St. Barth and Antigua Sailing Week. Scarlett Runner finished fourth in the six-boat CSA Racing 0 Class, where the lead is tied on points between Near Miss, Switzerland’s Franck Noel’s TP 52, and Tonnerre de Breskens 3, the Netherlands’ Peter Vroom’s Ker 46.

The team aboard El Ocaso, the USA’s Rick Wesslund’s new J/122, also enjoyed the brisk breeze as well as finishing at the top of the 10-boat CSA Racing 2 Class. “It went well. We had a good day,” explains Kyle Jones, primary trimmer. “The course was fun and the squalls make it extra difficult. All and all it was good, especially since this was only the third time we sailed the boat in competition. The first was Key West Race Week and the second the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta.”

Puerto Rico’s Angel Ayala wasn’t as happy when a squall blew at the start and caused his J/80, Sun Bum, to broach and snap the boat’s shrouds in the process. “We feared the mast might go, so we sailed in under jib,” explains Ayala, who hopes to race Saturday after rigging repairs. Meanwhile, fellow Puerto Rican sailor, Francisco Figueroa, aboard his J/24 Colibri, leads the CSA Racing 3 Class.

In the unmeasured ToT (time-on-time), a new fun class added this year, St. Croix’s Tony Sanpere was ready for the start aboard his Catalina 30, Nauticayenne. Unfortunately, Sanpere’s high hopes came crashing down along with his mast some 150 feet off the dock. “It has arthritis,” Sanpere joked about his 1976-built boat. Sanpere has won his class many times in this event over the past four decades. Kastor Polux, a Moorings 4300 sailed by the USA’s Jerzy Poprawski, leads this class.

In other classes, St. Croix, USVI’s Morgan Dale, aboard his Melges 24, Boogaloo, tops the CSA Racing 1 Class; the BVI’s Jon Charlton, driving his C&C 41, Reba – Team Red Stripe, is in the lead in the CSA Non-Spinnaker Class; and Puerto Rico’s Marco Teixidor, at the tiller of his Cachondo, is winning the highly-competitive one-design, 15-boat IC-24 Class. Finally, USVI’s sailors John Holmberg and Terri McKenna finished strong and the front-runner in the Beach Cat Class aboard their Nacra 17, Flight Risk. Holmberg and McKenna hope to represent the USVI in the 2016 Summer Olympics in the Nacra 17.

Racing continues Saturday off the southeast side of St. Thomas. The Captain Morgan Yacht Haven Grande Party, with Spectrum Band on stage, takes place from 6:30-11 p.m. Sunday features the final day of regatta competition. Up for grabs is who will take their place on the podium. Music by Full Circle greets the fleet from 2:30-5:30 p.m. The Regatta Awards Ceremony starts at 6:30 p.m. on the St. Thomas Yacht Club beach, followed by the Final Fling party with Ah We Band playing from 7-11 p.m.

Weather Routing Inc. (WRI) is the Official Weather Provider for the STIR and will provide forecasts by 6 a.m. daily during the regatta. These forecasts are available at: www.wriwx.com/clientproduct.php?id=4759 Weather maps and products specifically created for this event are also available at this link.

For more information about the STIR and real-time results, visit www.stthomasinternationalregatta.com. Or, follow for the latest information on Facebook www.facebook.com/rolexregatta, Instagram #IRRSTYC and Twitter @IRRSTYC

The St. Thomas International Regatta is sponsored by Captain Morgan and Heineken, distributed by Bellows International, Little Switzerland, and the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism.

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