Hundreds of sailors at the International Rolex Regatta rallied after hard racing yesterday to enjoy a reggae music concert and food fest last night at Yacht Haven Grande, then hit the water today for a final showdown in one of the most spectacular sailing arenas in the Caribbean, if not the world.
Today's races - magnificently threading their ways through and around cuts, cays and islands off the east end of St. Thomas, US Virgin Island - finalized winners in six classes: one for IRC, three for CSA (Spinnaker Racing, Spinnaker Racing/Cruising and Non-Spinnaker Racing) and one each for One-Design IC 24s and Beach Cats. The event has been hosted by St. Thomas Yacht Club for 36 years and this year attracted over 60 local and visiting teams from the U.S. and Europe.
"The quality of the weather, the racers and the racing was again outstanding," said Co-Chair John SWEENEY, "and with some new features in place, such as the party downtown last night and the marina berthing at Yacht Haven Grande and American Yacht Harbour [for those who choose it over mooring off the yacht club], we've set the stage for a bigger, even better event next March."
In IRC class, Jim MITCHELL's (SUI) RP52 Vincitore turned in two more seemingly effortless victories, adding them to three others in a six-race score line. Yesterday, the boat posted bullets in two "town" races that put both tourists and islanders into stop-and-watch mode as the fleet made its way from the club to the harbour of Charlotte Amalie and back. Today, the course played more to an audience of offshore sea birds, but Vincitore impressed the rest of the class by legging out early and never letting up.
"We won totally because of the crew,"
said MITCHELL. "It's the coolest thing that we had three generations of Mitchells aboard, including my 77-year-old father-that's what it's all about. It was just an awesome time."
Phil and Wendy LOTZ's (USA) Swan 42 Arethusa, which posted a 3-3 today, finished second overall on a tiebreaker with Ron O'HANLEY's (USA) Cookson 50 Privateer, which took two seconds today. That left David AISHER's (GBR) Rogers 46 Yeoman XXXII in fourth, with Jim MULDOON's (USA) Custom 72 Donnybrook finishing fifth.
For his performance MITCHELL was awarded a Rolex watch in a Prize Ceremony that featured a stage on the water built specially for the occasion. Watches were also awarded for winners of the Spinnaker Racing and Spinnaker Racing/Cruising classes as well as the IC 24 class.
Dave WEST (IVB), who steered his Melges 32 Jurakan to victory in CSA Spinnaker Racing Class, said it was fantastic to win a watch, especially after three previous attempts to win this regatta in the same boat, "but the nicest part was sailing as well as we did, because the boat has been managing us for two years and now we are managing it."
Intense practice helped the crew to control the feisty sport boat - described by crew man Anthony KOTOUN
(ISV) as "ripping fast" -- in the regatta's equally feisty winds. "I mean, when the hull is 32 feet long and the mast is 55 feet high, that's just not normal,"
said KOTOUN with a chuckle. West and company took two second-place finishes today to clinch their class's six-race series. They also had three first-place finishes in their score line.
"The courses here are so great,"
added WEST, "with the current, changing wind direction over the course, navigational issues, shallow water. It all makes for very interesting racing."
Any of four boats could have won CSA Spinnaker Racing/Cruising class going into today, but it was the regatta's early leader James DOBBS (ANT), sailing his J/122 Lost Horizon, that pulled the rabbit out of the hat. "We figured we had better than a 50% chance of winning,"
said DOBBS, who before the race reviewed everything he and his crew did wrong yesterday to let them fall into second place behind Bruce MACNEIL's (USA) Morris 48 Barra. "You gotta learn from your mistakes,"
he said after winning his two races today and posting a winning total of 15 points to MACNEIL's 18.
In a more drastic upset, yesterday's leader in IC 24s - Puerto Rico's Fraito LUGO, sailing Orion - was toppled from his position by Chris CURRERI (ISV) on Brand-New Second Hand. "We were third going into today,"
said CURRERI's tactician Kirst FEDDERSEN (ISV), "but we knew that with so many races planned, we could do it."
The one-design class sailed their own schedule of buoy races today, and on Friday had sailed multiple races as well for a total 13 races in all. "By the third race [of seven] today, we had moved up to first, so we knew we just had to sail consistently and well for the rest of the regatta,"
said FEDDERSEN. FRAITO, who said he sailed worse today than on any other day of his life, fell all the way to eighth overall, while Intac, skippered by 17-year-old Alec ANDERSON (IVB) moved into second on the strength of three victories today.
In CSA Non-Spinnaker class, Thomas MULLEN's (USA) J/120 Shamrock V maintained its lead from yesterday by finishing third in that class's single race today. As well, Chris SCHREIBER (ISV) sailed his Hobie 16 Auto-Manic to a second place to stay at the top of his class.
Exciting video footage of today's racing is available for free on-demand viewing at www.t2p.tv
or by clicking on the TV icon on the regatta web site www.rolexcupregatta.com
where live results by yachtscoring.com are posted nightly.
Rolex is title sponsor of the event, with active involvement from A.H. Riise, its Official Retailer of Rolex watches in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The St Thomas shop is one of the largest in the Caribbean and is located on Charlotte Amalie's historic waterfront. Other sponsors of this event are Island Global Yachting, USVI Tourism, Mount Gay Rum, Bellows International and Marriott Frenchman's Reef.