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26 March 2004, 10:46 am
Caribbean Classic Kicks Off Today
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International Rolex Regatta
St. Thomas

With racing at the event starting today, 26 March, and continuing through the weekend, hundreds of sailors registered on 92 boats have prepared for the regatta's traditional mix of tough competition, warm Caribbean breezes and blue-water courses.
Crew rosters are sprinkled with high-profile names from the America's Cup and Olympic arenas, as well as those famous in these Caribbean parts for their own notable accomplishments.

"I've sailed all over the world," said Geordie SHAVER, the bowman on BMW Oracle Racing during the last America's Cup, "but I've never raced here, so it's going to be a real treat." Shaver, from Newport, R.I., is taking his turn as bowman on the Farr 65 Team Atlantic, skippered by Bill DOCKSER of Bethesda, Md. The boat is entered in the Spinnaker Racer/Cruiser Class 1 and will compete against eight others, including Igoodia, a Jeanneau 52.2 that won its class at the recent Heineken Regatta and was named most worthy boat in that event's 'round-the-island race.

Another America's Cup notable, Josh BELSKY (USA), will also transfer his skills--as pit man for Alinghi--to the position of pit man for Tom HILL'S Puerto Rican entry, Titan XII in the Spinnaker Racing ("Over 50 ft.") Class. The Reichel/Pugh 75 also will have Peter HOLMBERG onboard, the Commodore of the St. Thomas Yacht Club who is not only an America's Cup veteran, but also an Olympic medallist and past Rolex Regatta winner. The Over 50 foot Class will have seven boats competing, including past favourites Equation, an Andrews 68 owned by Bill ALCOTT (USA), and the custom 72 Donnybrook, owned by Jim MULDOON (USA). Added to the class mix this year will be Richard MATTHEW'S (GBR) Corby 50, Flirt, which won its class last year at this event; Raincloud, a J/145 48-footer owned by David LEUSCHEN (USA); the custom 44-footer Storm, owned by Les CROUCH (USA); and Rosebud, Reichel/Pugh Transpac 52 owned by Roger STURGEON (USA).

Headlining in the Beach Cat division is Puerto Rico's designated 2004 Olympic Tornado team and defending champions Enrique FIGUEROA and Jorge HERNANDEZ. The duo, known as Team Movistar/Suzuki/Red Bull, decided to sail a Hobie Tiger, an 18 footer that is popular in Europe and which Figueroa, the Hobie dealer in Puerto Rico, is trying to promote in the islands. "It is very much faster than a regular Hobie 18 and more like our Olympic Tornado." Figueroa explained that a Portsmouth Handicap system will keep them honest when it comes to matching up with the other catamarans in their class.

The fun is not all reserved for the top-end racers. Plenty of cruising boats are signed up, one of them a J/30 named Zing built in 1979 and owned by native St. Thomian Chris THOMPSON, whose father, Rudy THOMPSON, represented the USVI in the Flying Dutchman class at the 1967 Olympics. According to Chris, who has sailed in the event for 20 years and wears one of the three Rolex's he and his father have won here, the regatta isn't necessarily about racing with hot equipment. "It's about sailing with friends and doing the best you can with what you've got." Chris just took ownership of Zing and will sail in the Non-Spinnaker Racing division with his father, now 75 years old, as one of his crew. Zing's class will sail separate courses from the Spinnaker Racing divisions.

Having their own race circle for the first time will be the IC24s, which have exploded growth-wise in the Caribbean. Introduced to the regatta in 2001, the boat is a hybrid design, constructed from an old J/24 hull with a new deck similar to the Melges 24. The result is a yacht that is relatively high-performance, very inexpensive and more comfortable to sail than a J/24. The IC24 class will be packed with local talent, including the class's founder and four-time Rolex winner in the Melges 24 class Chris Rosenberg aboard Old and Gray.

Complete results, photos and competitor lists are on the event website at the address below. (As Amended By ISAF News Editor)
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