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Top Sailors Expected for 1st Carlos Aguilar Memorial Match Race

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Six of the top women match racers in the world along with eight of the best male sailors in the Caribbean will put their sailing skills to the ultimate test in Charlotte Amalie harbor December 5 to 7, 2008, for the 1st Annual Carlos Aguilar Memorial Match Race Championship. The event will be sailed in IC24s.

Anna Tunnicliffe, 2008 Olympic Gold medal winner in the Laser Radial Class; Liz Baylis, ranked 4th in the world’s women’s match racing rankings; and Sandy Hayes, 2008 Rolex Women’s Match winner, will be headlining the talent in the Invitational Women’s Division.

Meanwhile, in the Men’s Open Division, skippers will be St. Thomas’ Taylor Canfield, St. Croix’s Peter Stanton, the British Virgin Islands’ Alec Anderson, Puerto Rico’s Efrain ‘Fraito’ Lugo, St. Maarten’s Frits Bus, St. Lucia’s Mike Green, Trinidad’s Paul Amon, and St. Thomas’ Chris Curreri helming a team of sailors from El Salvador, Aguilar’s native country.

“This will be our first time sailing an IC24 following our first time sailing a J24 in St Lucia,” says Trinidad’s Amon. “I am looking forward to seeing how the boats compare and to racing against some of the other great names from the Caribbean and away.”

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The BVI’s Anderson adds, “I’m really happy to be invited. Match racing is something I enjoy because of its demand on the rules and teamwork. I plan on putting a good BVI team together so we should be pretty competitive.”

Match racing pits one boat against another in close competition on a short course near to shore, in this case Charlotte Amalie’s harbor. On-the-water umpires will make instant calls and enforce the rules. The result will be some very exciting racing up and down the waterfront. There will also be a commentator narrating the action.

The event’s namesake, Carlos Aguilar, who was killed in 2007, was an avid match racer himself and used every opportunity to encourage others, especially young sailors, to follow in the sport.

“We’re committed to leading match racing in the Caribbean,” says regatta organizer and host St. Thomas Yacht Club (STYC) manager, Bill Canfield, of this Caribbean Sailing Association-sanctioned event. “We intend to make this event an annual affair, make it more international and model it after U.S. Sailing’s Bermuda Gold Cup.”

America’s Cup Sailor, Olympic Silver Medalist, former number one ranked match racer, and U.S. Virgin Islands’ native son Peter Holmberg, will be running clinics prior to the event to boost skill levels.

The event’s NOR (Notice of Race) is available on the STYC website (www.styc.net). For more information about the 1st Annual Carlos Aguilar Memorial Match Race Championship, contact Bill Canfield at styc@vipowernet.net or 340-775-6320.


Match racing isn’t a new event in the Caribbean. For example, the St. Thomas Yacht Club organized the Marriott Frenchman’s Reef International Match Race – the first Grade One international match race to be held within the Caribbean – in 1997 and again in 1998. St. Lucia and St. Croix are among islands that have also hosted match-racing events.

What is new is the renewed interest in this form of racing throughout the island chain. Last month, for example, St. Lucia hosted its BMW J/24 Invitational.

“We hope in 2009 to change this into a fully fledged match racing event with judges and a graded points on the world tour,” says organizer, Michael Green.

The 2009 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta will run its first-ever match racing event, The Budget Marine Match Racing Cup, on March 3.

“Sponsoring match racing is a great opportunity for Budget Marine to promote new and exciting forms of racing to the Caribbean,” says company founder and Heineken Cup pioneer, Robbie Ferron.

The Budget Marine Match Racing Cup will capitalize on the presence of the many top-level sailors that are often present to crew the big boats. The event will be open to 6 teams on an invitation basis. A $5,000 USD first prize will go to the winners. The racing will take place in Jeanneau 20 boats with three-man crew in the Simpson Bay lagoon. This will make it possible for the early arrivals and the boat crews to watch the racing from their dinghies. For more information or to request an invitation, contact director@heinekenregatta.com.

In the future, avid sailor and owner of Trinidad’s Soca Sails, Paul Amon, says, “I think we will see both more match racing as well as more fleet racing in the Caribbean. It really is an equalizer to sail in one-design boats and definitely pits crews together. I think these types of racing we become more popular since crews only need to arrive with themselves and not with their boats. The popularity would be even more greatly increased if we could transport the boats easily from regatta to regatta so that a core number of boats could compliment the home regatta boats to make a larger fleet and allow for chartering in those regattas.”

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

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