From dinghies to one-design, native St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands’ sailor Tim Pitts has spent most of his young life sailing. Today, though Pitts now lives in New England, albeit in the sailing capital of Newport, he not only remains active in sailing but is igniting excitement for a new one design class. Thanks to Pitts, class vice president, and Nicklaus Fordham, series organizer, there was a first-ever dozen one-design VX Ones racing this year in the St. Thomas International Regatta and BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival.
“I first started sailing Optimists at age eight when my parents enrolled me in the St. Croix Yacht Club’s (SCYC) summer camp,” says Pitts.
He got a taste of keelboat sailing three years later when SCYC sailing coach Nick Castruccio invited Pitts and a couple other junior sailors to race with him aboard his J/30, Annick II.
“It was incredible to be part of a team and expected to do a job on a big boat in a big regatta. I was only 12 when I did my first Heineken Regatta in St. Maarten on Annick,” Pitts recalls.
In 1999, with several major keelboat regattas in the northern Caribbean under his belt, Pitts enjoyed a big podium finish. Pitts, along with Peter, Chris and Scott Stanton, whose family owned the J/24 Jersey Devil, won the overall trophy at the BVI Spring Regatta. It’s a feat that hasn’t been repeated by any other team whose sailors were all under the age of 18 at the time.
“We put in a lot of time and practice on the boat, like we did as junior sailors when we were sailing dinghies, and it paid off. I think it shocked a lot of the adults,” says Pitts.
Dinghies, specifically the Laser, took on a huge role in Pitts life during his college years at the University of Rhode Island. Pitts got his first Laser at age sixteen. He found because of his size, it was a boat where he could really blossom and take sailing to the next level. That next level turned into an Olympic bid in the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, Greece. His road to Athens started with a seventh place finish at the U.S. Nationals even though he tore a ligament in his knee. After that, he took a year off from school, practiced hard enough to go from 660th to 120th in the Laser world rankings, and hoped to qualify for an Olympic berth at an event in Turkey. A bad case of tonsillitis, that landed him in the hospital, dampened his dreams. However, he was awarded a wild card spot that earned him entry to the Games.
A few years later, when he thought he wouldn’t find love again like he did with the Laser, his boss’s son set him up on a blind date to sail a VX One. A VX One is a two- to three-person lightweight keelboat.
“I had that speech ready, the ‘thanks but no thanks’, but I had to eat my words. The VX One is a rocket ship that literally leaps out of the water downwind. I got involved fast. Since 2013, the class has grown from 28 to over 120 boats sailed in ten countries,” he says.
The thought of getting back to his home Caribbean waters has never strayed far from Pitts mind. The opportunity presented itself when organizers of the BVI Spring Regatta were looking for a one-design class to invite. The two-regatta 2016 VX One Caribbean Cup was born as a result.
“I’d like to see this become an annual or biannual event,” says Pitts. “If we could establish a fleet of six VX Ones in the Caribbean and bring down two trailers each with six boats every spring, that would put 18 boats on the start line. That number is unheard of for a one-design class in the Caribbean. That’s pretty exciting.”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.