Local sailor Chris Rosenberg has won the competitive Melges 24 fleet and lifted the International Rolex Cup in St Thomas for the fourth time.
For a while it looked like he had blown it. On Saturday he was one of a number of Melges helmsmen who were a little eager to start, and he had to return to restart correctly along with the other offenders. On Sunday, with another starboard-biased line, all 13 boats were gunning for pole position in the final race.
Rosenberg, who left the dock early in the morning to practise with his crew on Seaborne Airlines, was also a little early for the start and this time he was the only one required to go back and restart. "We were dead last and things were not looking at all good," he said. "But there was a strong current running and we were able to get out to the right of the fleet quite early on." By the first mark he was already fifth, and more crucially he managed to overhaul his closest rivals for the Melges title, Efraim Lugo's Orion from Puerto Rico.
Once again America's Cup sailor Mike Toppa revelled in the light wind conditions to win his second Melges 24 heat in a row aboard Liqor 43. But with the previous day's long distance race thrown out on a technicality after Chris Rosenberg put in a protest, Toppa's poor performance in the two strong-wind races on the first day still left him in fourth place overall. "It was a practice day for us, that first day, we were not up to speed. So we were always going to struggle to get into the top three," he said. Now Toppa departs for some work with Team Tyco, the Volvo Ocean Race campaign, and later in the year begins working with Dennis Conner on his next America's Cup challenge.
For John Holmberg in the Beach Cat class, it was a ding-dong battle with Enrico Figueroa aboard Suzuki Hobie Fox. "We were ahead, then he got past us, then we ground him down on the downwind leg, then he got past us, and then we passed him again," said the skipper of Claims Paid. "It was tough but we did it." Like Rosenberg, Holmberg is another local sailor who continues to dominate at the International Rolex Cup.
Bill Alcott was fourth of the four Turbo Sleds in the final race, but he went on to steer his Santa Cruz 68 Equation to overall victory in Class A thanks to his two bullets in the strong winds. Alcott was only 10th overall in the total fleet of 91 boats, but relaxing in the pool and playing beach volleyball afterwards, he didn't seem to care if he had won or lost. "I might have cared when I was younger, but as long as I'm having fun with my crew then that's all that matters. And how couldn't you have fun in the Caribbean?"
In Class B, overnight leader Caccia Ala Volpe - Carlo Falcone's Vallicelli 44 from Antigua - had an appalling end to the series by finishing last of the nine boats in her division, and yet still emerged victorious thanks to her two wins in the big breeze on Friday. Just a point behind were three yachts tied for second place, but with the tie-break falling in the favour of Lost Horizon, James Dobbs' Olson 30 also from Antigua.
After winning their first eight races in the brand new IC24 class, Mike Williams and his local crew on Red Dog faltered slightly on the final day, with a second and third place. But he made amends in the final heat and won that one, and dominated the six-boat fleet.
Williams might not have it quite so easy next year, though. Chris Rosenberg, who helped get the new class launched by rejuvenating discarded J-24 hulls for just a few thousand dollars, put his victorious Melges 24 up for sale immediately after the regatta and plans to compete in his own IC24 in next year's event. "I'm really keen to see the class get established, and I think we'll see some really tough competition with more boats at next year's International Rolex Cup."
Rosenberg and the winners of the other 10 classes all received Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner Chronometers at the prizegiving held at the Sugar Bay Hotel on Sunday evening. www.rolexcupregatta.com ation.com