Peter Holmberg (left) racing to victory. Photo courtesy of Dick Schoonover

Mother Nature played a decisive role in the 11th Pete Sheals Memorial Match Race, hosted by the Royal BVI Yacht Club on December 1st – 2nd. Eight teams from six nations waited in vain for the winds to fill in on the second day of the event, sanctioned as the Caribbean Match Racing Championship. Thus, the USVI’s Peter Holmberg’s 7-0 score during the first day’s round robin earned him the title. The BVI’s Colin Rathbun finished in second place and Puerto Rico’s Marco Teixidor third.

“This was our first event in two years so we used it as a training session to get our team back in form,” explains Holmberg, formerly the top ranked match racer in the world and an Olympic Silver Medalist who sailed with Maurice Kurg on main and tactics, Morgan Avery on trim and Ben Beer on bow. “The racing went well and we slowly got better as the event went on. The winds were a spotty five to ten knots so it was not just match racing, but also sailing well and finding the best wind.”

Holmberg won this event last year and in doing so put an end to the BVI’s Colin Rathbun’s record four-year winning streak. Both Holmberg and Rathbun qualified for the semi-finals, yet didn’t get to do battle due to lack of wind.

“We knew what to expect out of ourselves after racing so many times with each other,” explains Rathbun, who sets up match racing practices aboard Lasers throughout the year and avidly watches televised World Match Racing Tour events for tactical tips. “We were pretty calm and collected.”

Third place finisher, Puerto Rico’s Teixidor, is an experienced sailor and team racer from his college sailing days at Georgetown University. However, he is new to match racing and only started sailing IC24s at the 2012 International Rolex Regatta.

“It took us a couple of matches to really get into the match racing mindset,” says Teixidor, who adds that the interest in match racing is growing in Puerto Rico. “Our boat handling also improved throughout the day, which is crucial in such a short course and having internationally ranked teams made this event very competitive. Most of the teams were evenly matched, which made for some intense racing. Our success came from having good starts and avoiding penalties.”

In other scores, Peru’s Juan Mauri finished 4th, the USA’s David Storrs 5th and David Niemann 6th, St. Maarten’s Frits Bus 7th and the USVI’s Thomas Walden 8th.

Fourteen-year-old Walden won the ‘Spirit and Enthusiasm’ award. This was his first match racing event.

The event is named in memory of Pete Sheals, who moved to the BVI from Ireland in 1999, was an avid and competitive sailor and died tragically in 2001.

Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.