Eight to 10 knot winds, sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-80s provided ideal training conditions for the fourteen international teams that took to the waterways of Charlotte Amalie Harbor Wednesday for an official practice race. On Thursday, these sailors will launch off in the first flights of the 4thÂ Carlos Aguilar Match Race (CAMR), presented by Ulysse Nardin/Trident Jewels & Time.
“I love St. Thomas and I love to match race,” says three-time Rolex Women’s Match Race champion, Sandy Hayes, from the USA.
Hayes looks forward to the new Open format that features mixed teams of men and women and pits both sex skippers head-to-head on the race course.
“I like racing against the guys,” says Hayes. “In the old days, when we competed against the other women’s teams, we were always worried about gaining points. But racing against the guys in this regatta means that we can just go out there and focus on sailing our best. We’re looking forward to some good racing this weekend.”
One of the top seeds in this regatta is Virgin Islands’ native, Taylor Canfield. Canfield, who is currently ranked 28thÂ in the world, won this event in 2008 and finished second in 2009.
“Yes, the pressure is on and we hope we can turn it around and take the title,” says Canfield. “I’ve sailed against Stefan (Stefan Lindberg from Finland; 15thÂ ranked) and Dave (Dave Perry from the USA; 35thÂ ranked) several times as well as Sally (Sally Barkow from the USA; 4thÂ ranked), so I know the competition.”
The CAMR winner receives a distinctive Ulysse Nardin precision timepiece as well as an invitation to the prestigious Stena Match Cup, to be held in Marstrand, Sweden, in the summer of 2012. The CAMR is an Official World Tour Qualifier (WTQ) for the 2012 World Match Racing Tour (WMRT).
“Entry into the Stena Match Cup and World Match Racing Tour would be huge for us,” says Canfield. “It would give us the opportunity to travel to major match racing events around the world as well as to major sponsorship opportunities.”
The four-day CAMR, sailed in Inter-Club (IC)-24s, will kick-off with the first roundÂ robinsÂ on Thursday.
Bill Canfield, principal race officer, says, “It’s always exciting racing in the St. Thomas harbor because it’s so beautiful. The problem is with a late north wind that makes it very shifty on the race course. This makes it fun for spectators because the wind changes mean lots of action. But it’s challenging for the competitors who have to figure out what the wind is doing 20 to 30 yards in front of them. That’s what match racing is all about. It’s all part of the game.”
Match racing pits one identical boat against another on a short courseÂ oftentimes near to shore. On-the-water umpires make instant calls and enforce the rules. The result is very exciting racing up and down the Charlotte Amalie waterfront.
The race format will be a double roundÂ robinÂ where the top three teams move forward. The remaining teams enter aÂ repechageÂ event where the top two teams advance. This offers everybody two tries to make it into the finals, which will take place on Sunday and be broadcast live locally on WVWI (AM 1000) between Noon and 2 pm. Spectators are invited to watch the racing under tented bleacher seating where there will be live narration. Viewers around the world can watch via a live webcast onÂ www.carlosmatchrace.com. Racing starts at 9 a.m. (GMT – 4 hrs) daily.
A group of Virgin Island’s youth will have an opportunity to try-on match racing during the Carlos Aguilar Match Race Youth Regatta, which will take place between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday December 3.
The St. Thomas Yacht Club (STYC) and the Virgin Islands Sailing Association (VISA) are organizing authorities for the CAMR, namesake for the late Carlos Aguilar, who was an avid sailor and match racer.
Supporting sponsors of the CAMR are the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism; Heineken Beer, distributed in the U.S. Virgin Islands by Bellows International Ltd.; Budget Marine; Hooters; Patron, distributed by Premier Wines & Spirits; Choice Communications; Bolongo Bay Beach Resort; Yacht Haven Grande; and St. Thomas Yacht Club.
Daily race results and copyright-free downloadable images by Virgin Islands-based photographer, Dean Barnes, will be available for editorial use on the official event website (www.carlosmatchrace.com).