For winners in nine classes at the three-day International Rolex Regatta 2004, life was good today. Real good according to Chris CURRERI of St. Thomas, who--like the other class leaders--claimed a Rolex watch for his efforts in the IC-24 class.
The event, in its 31st year at the St. Thomas Yacht Club in the U.S. Virgin Islands, hosted 91 boats and hundreds of sailors who were tested by a variety of wind conditions on the racecourse and never a dull party moment ashore.
Curreri, sailing Brand New Second Hand, was barely on the radar after a rough start early in the regatta, but today he sent off alarms when he went into the last of three races tied for first with yesterday's leader Seahawk, a British Virgin Islands entry co-skippered by Michael and Robert HIRST.
"I grew up sailing against Robert Hirst and some of the others here in the fleet,"
said Curreri, adding that Hirst is an Olympian and national champion from the British Virgin Islands. "and I was always the light one and they blew me away. Today in the last race, I flashed back to my childhood and thought, 'It's heavy air, a long beat and we're really light--I'll never hold them off."
The opposite was true, however, and Curreri took the gun, only a quarter of a boat length ahead of the Hirsts.
Reflecting on winning the Rolex watch, the 28-year-old noted that he'd crewed in every Rolex event here since he was eight years old, but never had finished aboard a winning boat. Adding an interesting twist to Brand New Second Hand's victory was the fact that Curreri had only last week launched the boat, having built it himself using J/24 hull #5 and adding the Melges 24-like deck that makes this hybrid class unique if not unusual.
For the remaining eight classes, which sailed on a different circle than the IC-24s, a 180-degree windshift in today's would-be first race begged the Race Committee's mercy and resulted in abandonment. A race that followed in 15 knots was completed and determined the class victors.
Locking in to keep the Spinnaker Racing ("Over 50 ft.") Class lead today was Tom HILL'S Titan XIII, a Reichel/Pugh 75 launched just last year. Rosebud, the Reichel/Pugh Transpac 52 owned by Roger STURGEON of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., was Hill's closest competitor and finished second.
"When today's first race was cancelled, we were going the same direction as Rosebud but they were on the opposite tack,"
said Hill. "We're not sure how we would have made out against them if the race had continued and the wind stayed on their side. "
"It was so much fun sailing a bigger boat here,"
added Hill, who has won his class twice before at this event, also sailing boats named Titan but never a Titan so large. "We were going 20-21 knots on the first day."
Bill DOCKSER of Bethesda, Md., also was enjoying going fast again today to win today's race and the series for the Spinnaker Racer/Cruiser 1 Class on his chartered "Formula One" Farr 65 Team Atlantic. "I had an incredible time,"
said Dockser, who has never raced in the Caribbean before but has dreamed of it. "I got to live the dream and accomplish the dream. Four out of four line-honour wins and four wins on corrected time.I am very excited."
Important to Dockser was the fact that his crew was made up of family members, friends, the crew from his Oyster 70 cruising yacht and a few pro sailors "who really made it come together for all the enthusiastic amateurs.
"Today when the wind shifted and died in the first race, we were way out in front,"
said Dockser. "We were frustrated when the Race Committee cancelled, but we were confident that if we resumed another race, we would be able to win."
In Beach Cats, it came as no surprise that Puerto Rico's 2004 Olympic Tornado team of Enrique Figueroa and crew Jorge FERNANDEZ aboard Movistar/Suzuki/Red Bull won its final race to clench a four-race series. This was the first year in recent history that the Beach Cats were not divided into spinnaker and non-spinnaker racing classes. Sailing to a Portsmouth handicap while other classes sailed to the Caribbean Sailing Association rating rule, the Beach Cats were dominated by Figueroa's Hobie Tiger, sailing with a spinnaker. Close on his heels in second was the Hobie 16 Exodus/Ensysa, sailing without a spinnaker and skippered by another, but unrelated, Enrique Figueroa, also from Puerto Rico.
Carlo FALCONE'S Caccia Alla Volpe out of Antigua maintained his command over Spinnaker Racing Class 1 by winning today's race, while in J/24s, Fraito Lugo of Ponce, PR sailed Orion/Coors Light to another victory today after posting three wins in as many races over the last two days. He also won last year's event with all bullets.
In Spinnaker Racing 2 Class, J-Bird, skippered by Dave JANES of Newport Beach, Calif., won, while Spinnaker Racer/Cruiser 2 Class was won by Geoffrey PIDDUCK'S Antiguan entry Trouble. Non Spinnaker Racing honours were taken by Wildflower, skippered by Ron NOONAN of Marion, Mass.
"The weather tested the Race Committee and the sailors,"
said STYC Commodore Peter HOLMBERG, an America's Cup veteran who sailed aboard the winning Titan XIII, "and we all came out looking pretty smart."
Class winners received commemorative Rolex Submariners, manufactured with a special green bezel and unique black dial to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the timepiece's debut in 1953.
Complete results and photos are on the event website at the address below.