It wasn't inter-island ferry wake, seaplanes landing or a pirate ship full of visitors that proved challenging for sailors competing in Charlotte Amalie harbor at the 3rd annual Carlos Aguilar Match Race, (CAMR), presented by Ulysse Nardin/Trident Jewels & Time and held December 2-5, it was the wind. Or, lack of it. Yet, the USA's Genny Tulloch and Portugal's Alvaro Marinho certainly figured it out to win the Women's Division and Open Division, respectively. In doing so, both of these sailors improved their world rankings and put St. Thomas more firmly in the spotlight on the global match racing scene.
The first three days of the regatta saw some exciting and extremely close racing as eight Women's Teams and an equal number of Open (Men's) Teams fought their way through a series of double round-robins in light and shifty winds. Defending champ in the Open Division, winning America's Cup helmsman and St. Thomas native Peter Holmberg summed up the wind challenge well: "It was more light than shifty. The pressure changed all the time and we often had to keep an eye more on where the next puff was coming from than our competitor."
Yet, by the final day of racing a semblance of the trade winds had returned, so that tactics proved a bigger key to winning.
In the finals of the Women's Division, both Tulloch and Great Britain's Lucy MacGregor sparred so ferociously that after two races the score was tied, with each team winning one race. The decider came in the third race when Tulloch took the start and handed MacGregor a penalty at the same time. MacGregor fought back and caught a puff the USA team missed to overtake them at the first windward mark. Tulloch caught up and passed MacGregor on the second upwind run and stretched her team's lead over the Brits to nearly eight boat lengths by the finish.
"It was good for us to take our losses early, figure out what we did wrong, do it better and clear our heads," says Tulloch. "I think that mental regrouping was a big reason for our success."
Tulloch's GETsailing Team includes Liz Hall, Jen Chamberlin and Alice Leonard.
Winning this International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Grade Two event meant Tulloch improved her world ranking to an all-time career best of 8th.
In the Finals of the Open Division Holmberg didn't let Marinho off easy. The first two races, like the women's, ended in a draw with each team winning one race. In the third and final race, Marinho pulled ahead of Holmberg at the start and held his lead, albeit sometimes a very slim one over the Virgin Islander and his ace crew, with Holmberg nipping at the Portuguese team's heels the whole way.
"This win is huge for us," says Marinho. "Not only was it great to win the event, but to beat someone as good as Peter Holmberg was incredible. The local guys were very tough. My crew did a great job and I think our success came in calling the shifts right."
Seth Sailing Team crew members included Luis Brito, Nuno Barreto and Antonio Fontes.
Marinho boosted his ISAF open match race ranking to a best-ever 13th.
In just three short years, the CAMR has gained international recognition and this year became a prestigious Official World Tour Qualifier (WTQ) for the 2011 World Match Racing Tour (WMRT). Marinho's victory earned his Seth Sailing Team an invitation to the Stena Match Cup Sweden, in Marstrand, July 4-10 2011.
For full results, visit www.carlosmatchrace.com
Report submitted by Carol M. Bareuther.