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25 March 2012, 11:01 am
Checks And Balances
Budget Marine/Gill,
MADRUGADA

International Rolex Regatta
St Thomas, US Virgin Islands

A second day of racing for 68 boats at the International Rolex Regatta showcased the coastal beauty of St. Thomas and St. John islands with IRC and CSA distance courses that meandered through the smaller islands and cays that lie between them.
Winds of 12-18 knots cooperated to give those classes (four in all) two races, while the one-design IC 24s and Beach Cats pounded out six buoy races on the more sheltered yet still tactically demanding playing field of Great Bay, just around the corner from the event's host, St. Thomas Yacht Club.

In CSA 1, Andrea Scarabelli (Cole Bay, St. Maarten) hung on to first today by sailing his Melges 24 Budget Marine/GILL to finish positions of 2-4 to post eight points to Magnitude 400's nine in overall scoring. The latter boat, a Farr 400 skippered by Doug Baker (Long Beach, Calif.), won both races today and is 16 feet longer than the Melges, so it rarely finds itself in close proximity to it on the race course.

"We don't race against them really," said Magnitude's tactician Chad Hough (also Long Beach), explaining that his team, which includes Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Eric Doyle, is more concerned about beating the other similarly rated 40-footers in the class but still wants to win in the end. "We won both starts today, so we got control of the shifts, but the Melges 24 is much lighter for its weight ratio and could take better advantage of today's planing conditions."

As for Scarabelli, he knows that the team's close striking distance is something of which to be wary. "Everything will be decided tomorrow," he said, "but so far, we are happy with our performance both against the other Melges 24 (Henry Leonnig's BVI entry Firewater, in fourth) and the 40 footers."

Yesterday's leader in CSA 2, Jaime Torres's (San Juan, PR) Beneteau First 40 Smile and Wave, fell to second today while Jonathan Lipuscek (also San Juan) climbed to the top of the scoreboard (from third yesterday) with two bullets today on Dark Star. In an unusual scoring situation, Torres is only a half point out of first; in today's first race he corrected out exactly even with the J/80 Otracosa for fourth place, so each boat was given 4.5 points (halfway between fourth and fifth) and he posts 9.5 points to Dark Star's 9 while Sergio Sagramoso's J/122 Lazy Dog, another Puerto Rican entry, is one point behind that in third.

"We had to work so hard (for our positions) today compared to yesterday," said Torres, who won this event in 1976 sailing with his father. "Today's first race had lots of reaching legs, which favored the boats with asymmetrical spinnakers like Dark Star, Lazy Dog and Otracosa, but we sailed upwind really well, and we had good starts, which is where we've made the greatest strides as a team."

Anthony Katoun (Newport, R.I.), a crew member on Peter Cunningham's (George Town, CAY) 52-foot PowerPlay described yesterday as a "day of attrition" in the IRC class, with Ashley Wolfe's (Alberta, Canada) Mayhem being disqualified (for infractions prior to the start of Race 2) and Lord Irvine Laidlaw of Rothiemay's (MON) IRC 52 Highland Fling XII being dismasted. "We're just trying to keep our noses clean out there," he said before racing today, and that they did with a 1-2 that increased the team's lead to six points over Willem Wester's (Breskens, Zeeland, NED) Antilope. "Since Antilope is more of a cruising design, we figure if we get a few hot angles for planing, we can beat them," added Katoun, "and today's courses suited us well for that."

Six races in the IC 24 class saw Puerto Rico's Fraito Lugo (Ponce), onboard Orion, rise to the top of the scoreboard with 34 points, with Frits Bus/Chuck Pessler's (St. Thomas) Team Coors Light trailing in second with 41 points. Yesterday's leader Carlos Sierra (Guaynabo, PR) aboard Banana Boat/Fuataka has 47 points, and with six races scheduled for tomorrow it's anyone's game, although Fraito has won a Rolex watch here eight times.

As they were yesterday, Jorge Ramos's (San Juan, PR) Hobie 16 Universal and John Holmberg's (St. Thomas) Hobie 16 Time Out are tied on point scores after six races today, with Universal claiming the lead due to tie-breaker rules. Tomorrow's anticipated two races in this class should be nail biters as they determine the final winner. This was the first time that the Beach Cats strayed from doing the same second-day racing as the IRC and CSA classes, and the challenge of short courses in catamarans was magnified by today's shifty 10-12 knots in the choppy Great Bay arena. "The races lasted only 20-30 minutes each," said Ramos's crew Jose Mattei. "In such short races, you don't have too much time to recover."

In CSA non-spinnaker class, the J/36 Cayennita Grande, which was in second yesterday, found itself at the top of the scoreboard today. It was by no accident, however, said Tony Sanpere (St. Croix, USVI), even though he is helping the boat's next owner Stan Jones (also St. Croix) get used to the boat and training Jones's crew of West Indian high school students in the fine art of sailing the "Cayennita way." "I yelled at them a little, but I yell at myself, too," said Sanpere said with a chuckle. "Repetition over two long races today helped in their boat handling; I promised them a podium position, and we can do that."

Racing concludes tomorrow and will be followed by the Rolex Awards party where prizes in all classes will be given and Rolex watches awarded to winners of IRC, CSA 1 and 2 and IC 24 classes.

How to Follow the Event?
Further information about the 2012 International Rolex Regatta, including results and nightly video, may be found at www.rolexcupregatta.com.

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