The Caribbean’s finest sailors and the world’s best match racers squared off in St. Thomas’ Charlotte Amalie Harbor in early December at the 1st Annual Carlos Aguilar Match Race Championship, presented by Trident Jewels & Time. The result was thrilling racing with suspense from start to finish, and more than one surprise ending. This was all delivered in a venue that saw locals set up beach chairs and visitors stop their shopping to watch.
After two round-robins raced on two successive days, it was Texas native Genny Tulloch and her crew who emerged victorious in the Women’s Division title. This feat came after a down-to-the-finish line last match with California’s Liz Baylis, ranked 4th in the world of women’s match racing and former Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year.
“In many match races you’re just concentrating on your opponent,” said Tulloch, female collegiate sailor of the year at Harvard and member of Roy Disney’s Morning Light crew for the Transpac 2007. “At this event, we also had to focus on the constantly shifting winds which made it really challenging and fun.”
Anyone watching Olympic sailing this summer on television instantly recognized Florida-based Anna Tunnicliffe, who won gold in the Laser Radial. Tunnicliffe, her hand firmly on the tiller of an IC-24, met her match more than once.
“Match racing and fleet racing are both fast paced and intense,” said Tunnicliffe. “The difference is that in match racing, you’re on for shorter periods of time.”
In the Men’s Open Division, it was St. Thomas’ Taylor Canfield who won. “I’ve done a fair amount of match racing this past year and this win is an incentive for me to keep going,” said 19-year-old Canfield, currently ranked 152 in ISAF’s Open Match Race Rankings for October 29, 2008, and a member of Boston College’s Sailing Team who would eventually like to compete in the ultimate match race, the America’s Cup.
Canfield triumphed over fellow islander and teenager, William Bailey, in a final best out of three races that saw Bailey take a dip in the harbor when a penalty flag flew out of his hand. This allowed Canfield time to do a penalty turn and finish ahead of Bailey by five to seven boat lengths to win.
“One team couldn’t make it, so I volunteered to sail two days before the regatta,” said Bailey, an avid Laser sailor and member of the Antilles High School Sailing Team. “Maurice (Kurg) was awesome. I learned so much from him. It was amazing.”
Kurg, who served as Bailey’s tactician, crewed for St. Thomas America’s Cup sailor, Peter Holmberg, during Homberg’s international match racing days in the 1990’s.
Being a good sailor doesn’t make you a good match racer. This is something Puerto Rico’s Fraito Lugo found out.
“I didn’t have any match racing background before coming here,” said Lugo, undisputedly the fastest IC24 skipper in the Caribbean. “It showed. The first day we lost all of our matches. We were always defenders, never contenders.”
Not depressed, Lugo was impressed into action.
“I met with Peter (Holmberg) and a few of the judges that evening and they taught me the rules and what I had to do,” said Lugo. “The second day, I applied that and it was a totally different game. Being a good sailor means knowing how to do it all, fleet racing and match racing. We want to do more match racing and set up some events in Puerto Rico.”
At the Awards Ceremony at Yacht Haven Grand Marina, all agreed the event was a success. Holmberg, who served as Principal Race Officer, summed this up nicely when he said, “This regatta was as good or better than any Grade I event I’ve sailed in around the world. It’s gratifying for me to showcase my home island this way and also to help jump-start match racing in the Caribbean.”
The one person missing was Aguilar himself. Gunned down in November 2007 following a robbery at his home, Aguilar loved sailing and took an avid interest in teaching the young members of the St. Thomas Yacht Club how to race. Ironically, the first and second place finishers in the Men’s Open Division – Canfield and Bailey – both were Aguilar’s protégées.
“Carlos loved the kids, sailing and teaching,” said St. Thomas’ ISAF Judge, Pat Bailey at the Awards. “He would have wished he were here.”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.
1. Taylor Canfield, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
2. William Bailey, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
3. Alec Anderson, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
4. Chris Haycraft, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
5. Peter Stanton, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
6. Fraito Lugo, Puerto Rico
7. Chris Curreri, St. Thomas/El Salvador
8. Frits Bus, St. Maarten
1. Genny Tulloch, California
2. Liz Baylis, California
3. Anna Tunnicliffe, Florida
4. Lee Icyda, Rhode Island/St. Thomas
5. Sandy Hayes, Massachusetts
6. Louise Bienvenue, New Orleans