When it's "off" season in other spots around the world, Caribbean racing will be in full swing at the start of the 31st International Rolex Regatta, hosted by St. Thomas Yacht Club in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
From March 26-28, the three-day regatta is compact yet large in terms of offering dependable tropical trade winds, warm water and serious competition for everything from over-50 foot "Sleds" right down to beach catamarans. With some notable new big boats expected to show, it will be hard to determine which end of the size spectrum will enjoy the more fierce competition or have the better fun (because that's what Caribbean racing is all about, too) both at sea and ashore. Winners in each of the classes, which also accommodate plenty of mid-size boats in the 20-45 foot range, win a Rolex timepiece, which has become a coveted symbol of racing excellence around the world.
Making its debut appearance at the regatta will be Roger STURGEON'S (USA) Reichel/Pugh designed Transpac 52 'Rosebud', which was launched in June of 2002 and has been making waves ever since, including delivering a Rolex watch-winning performance at the St. Francis Big Boat Series in September of 2003.
"It will be the boat's first time in the Caribbean,"
said Rosebud Racing, Inc.'s Gary EVANS, who has personally sailed in the Rolex Regatta three times and says the crew will include veterans from the America's Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race. "We're looking forward to going from Key West Race Week to the Islands for the Rolex regatta and three other events there."
The crew of 'Rosebud' will not be disappointed, according to St. Thomas Yacht Club's new Commodore Peter HOLMBERG, himself an America's Cup notable who has just joined Team Alinghi for the next competition. "If you look at the schedule, you have the Rolex Regatta followed the next weekend by the BVI Regatta. It's the perfect opportunity for a big boat to race three days, then spend four days doing some quality cruising or fun racing with the BVI pre-event before enjoying another three days of racing."
Holmberg, who has competed in the International Rolex Regattas since he was a child, plans to sail the 2004 event aboard Tom HILL'S (PUR) new 'Titan XII', a Reichel/Pugh 75 that was meant to compete last year but was delayed in its construction. 'Titan XII' will find Bill ALCOTT'S (USA) Andrews 68 'Equation' and Jim MULDOON'S (USA) custom 72 'Donnybrook' familiar adversaries, since the latter two boats have been show stoppers at the regatta for years, sailing against Hill's previous boats, also named 'Titan'.
Another new boat that will loom ominously on the starting line will be Bill DOCKSER'S (USA) chartered "Formula One" Farr 65, which sports a black carbon rig and black carbon Kevlar sails. Dockser, who primarily cruises aboard his Oyster 70 'Ravenous', which will also be in the Caribbean, was inspired by his crew of 21 people-"a mix of experienced racers, family and friends"-to field the racier entry.
"It has been one of my dreams to do the Rolex,"
Racing takes place under a Caribbean Sailing Association handicap and is mainly around the buoys with one day devoted to a distance race that takes participants through the surrounding islands. Quality racing is the objective, with professional Principal Race Officer Peter "Luigi" REGGIO (USA) heading up the race committee. Serving as Chief Judge is Arthur "Tuna" WULLSCHLEGER (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), who has done so at the regatta for over two decades and is known as one of international sailing's top international judges.