Excitement about the Caribbean’s winter/spring sailing season revved up a notch with the introduction of the 2013 Melges 32 Virgin Islands Sailing Series. The Series, which consists of three sanctioned and one unsanctioned event in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, will welcome nearly 20 of the top teams in the world.
Global interest in the Melges 32 is running high with 80-plus teams racing competitively worldwide and more than 150 of these swift-sailing sports boats built and sold.
“If you gauge it by the key people involved in the class, the recognized grand prix owners of the world, and the professional tacticians and trimmers, it is obvious that it is the hottest class going right now,” explains St. Thomas’ Peter Holmberg, who along with the BVI’s Mark Plaxton are among the movers-and-shakers behind the series inception. “A lot of the Farr 40 owners jumped into this class over the past few years; smaller boat, hotter machine, more speed and thrill, tougher competition.”
Inspiration for the Series began with the BVI’s Team INTAC’s involvement in this class starting with Key West Race Week in January 2011. From there, the idea gathered steam and started to attract the interest and support of several key players in the International Melges 32 Class Association (IM32CA), including Harry Melges himself. It was through the combined efforts of these regatta organizers and some influential and respected key local promoters that ultimately brought the series to a reality.
This series will have a massive impact upon the local yacht racing scene, says Mark Stephenson, the BVI-based CEO of INTAC Global Investments. “Each of the four events will bring upwards of 150 to 200 sailors and support crew, with far-reaching economic benefits to the local economy and increased long-term benefits to our tourism industry. We hope that through the success of this inaugural series, the class participants and boat owners will support the possibility of this becoming a recurring biennial series, perhaps alternating between here and the more traditional winter series venues in Florida.
There is even talk of the potential to host the 2015 Melges 32 World Championship here … but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The focus right now is to pull off a well-organized and executed series with all logistics, from the transportation of the boats to the regatta venues and accommodations, being handled at a high level of professionalism, as will be expected from this class.”
There were twelve solid confirmations (with more anticipated) from the USA, Russia, Sweden and Italy as of mid-November, says Joy Dunigan, IM32CA administrator. “Standouts would be back-to-back U.S. National Champion Jason Carroll on Argo (New York, NY) and reigning North American Champion Ryan DeVos on Volpe (Macatawa Bay, MI). There is the potential to see 2012 Audi Sailing Series Champion Vincenzo Onorato on Mascalzone Latino and former Series Champion Lanfranco Cirillo on Fantastica. World Champions William Douglass on Goombay Smash and John Kilroy on Samba Pa Ti may also be joining in on select events.”
In addition to these entrants, there is the beginning of a legitimate Melges 32 class in the Caribbean. This class includes boats owned by the BVI’s Plaxton, St. Maarten’s Ian Hope Ross and most recently Puerto Rico’s Jaime Torres.
“Last year I knew that I wanted to replace my Beneteau First 40 with a more race oriented boat,” says Puerto Rico’s Torres, of his Smile and Wave. “Ten minutes after I heard the new Series announced I made up my mind to buy a Melges 32. We’re now looking forward to stepping up our game to a whole new level.”
2013 MELGES 32 VIRGIN ISLANDS SAILING SERIES:
BVI Sportboat Regatta (sanctioned)
Yacht Club Costa Smeralda
Virgin Gorda, BVI
International Rolex Regatta (sanctioned)
St. Thomas Yacht Club
St. Thomas, USVI
BVI Spring Regatta (unsanctioned)
Nanny Cay Resort & Marina
Caribbean Championship (sanctioned)
Peter Island Resort & Marina
Peter Island, BVI