An awesome spirit of competition and camaraderie thrived at this year’s 18th Budget Marine Commodore’s Cup, held May 6 – 7 out of Coral Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. This regatta, cooperatively hosted by the St. John, Coral Bay and Nauti Yacht Clubs, provides for an annual testing of who has the best boats and best crews when it comes to boat handling skills. In the end though, it’s a single-handed test of dinghy sailing prowess that determines the ultimate champion. Saint John’s Doug McLean passed with flying colors and successfully defended his title for the second year in a row.
“I hadn’t planned to sail in the Commodore’s Cup this year having just raced in the St. Thomas International Regatta and BVI Spring Regatta. In fact, I had taken the boat over to St. Thomas to pull the rig. But my friends and crew wouldn’t take no for an answer. When they got together and sailed the boat back over to St. John and into Coral Bay, I knew there was no backing out,” says McLean, a former collegiate All-American sailor, U.S. Sailing Team member and Olympic hopeful in the Soling in the late ‘80s and ‘90s.
Fifteen boats raced in four classes: Pursuit, Multihull, PHRF under 30ft and PHRF over 30ft. McLean, who helmed his IC24, White Album, won the PHRF under 30ft class.
“Our main competition was Leo (Perez) in the Multihull class. He started one and a half hours after us in the pursuit-style start in what turned out to be a three-plus hour race around the three offshore islands of Le Duck, Flanagan and the Indians. It was fun to see him aboard his Nacra 19 try to catch up to us, and he almost did by the time we got to the finish line outside of Johnson Bay. That really pushed us,” says McLean.
Perez, sailing his Yee Haw, won the Multihull class.
Meanwhile, it was Sara O’Neill at the helm of her Camper Nicholson 32, Odege, who bested the Pursuit class. O’Neill was in close competition with Lori Morelli, aboard her Cape Dory 18, Lydia. Only five minutes separated the two in scoring after two full days of racing.
“This was the first race we did after I was dismasted last year at Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta, so it was nice to have her sailing again,” says O’Neil, of Odege.
Rounding out the class winners was Gary York, who with wife Deedra and crew, finished first in the PHRF over 30ft, aboard the York’s Pearson 40, Long Distance.
“Winds blowing 15 and 20 knots were perfect for our boat the first day, and we finished five minutes ahead of our nearest competitor even though we started five minutes late after some last-minute preparations,” says York, who bought Long Distance as a day sail charter yacht in November and in April decided to enter the Commodore’s Cup at the invitation of a fellow charter captain, who saw the Pearson’s potential for speed. “The second day, our nearest competitor from the previous day didn’t show up and we won by over 30 minutes. It was definitely a lot of fun, especially for my wife who had never set foot on a sailboat before.”
A four-boat laser race off was held between the winners of each class to determine the overall champion.
“Doug (McLean) was in the lead from the start, and then he capsized halfway through the race. He recovered quickly to regain the lead and went on to earn the trophy again. Doug accepted this proudly at the Awards Ceremony at Skinny Leg’s Bar & Restaurant, while still wearing his wet clothes,” said Stephen Hendren, commodore of the Coral Bay Yacht Club.
The Commodore’s Cup benefits the St. John Kids and the Sea (KATS) program.