With more boats pre-registered than ever before, the 33rd annual International Rolex Regatta is counting down to the start of competition, which runs from Friday 24 to Sunday 26 March. To date, over 80 boats are signed up, with a good number hailing from the USA, Canada, England, France, Holland, Ireland, Italy and Switzerland and the balance coming from St. Thomas, Antigua, Tortola, St. Martin, Puerto Rico and other nearby islands.
'There is always a perfect balance between locals and visiting sailors, big boats and small boats,'
said Tracy ROBERTS, who co-directs the regatta with fellow St. Thomas Yacht Club member Colin PROBYN. 'We still expect our traditional rush of additional entries on Thursday.'
The regatta also strikes a balance between exciting competition and extreme fun. As such, it is not only one of the Caribbean's oldest sailing events but also one of the most revered. The event features handicap and one-design racing in a beautiful setting; professional race management; and dependable Caribbean trade winds. On the social agenda are festive shore-side events, which include unique Caribbean entertainment such as the Carnival Dancers and the Rolex Prize Giving partnered with a beachside farewell party at the Yacht Club. With over three decades of history, the tradition of a Rolex watch awarded to every class winner still stands.
Last year's coastal romp from Cowpet Bay, where the St. Thomas Yacht Club is located, to the island's cruise ship port of Charlotte Amalie and back will be repeated. This year the race will be augmented by some IC-24 windward-leeward racing in Charlotte Amalie Harbor. This will showcase St. Thomas's beautiful capital for the racers while affording islanders and visitors alike a flavor of competitive sailing, with the dozens of boats racing around the 100-foot power yachts anchored in the harbor and tied up to the downtown waterfront.
Already, seventeen IC-24s are signed up. The boats, indigenous to the area, were developed several years ago by a group of St. Thomas sailors who retro-fitted J/24 hulls. The fleet now attracts the very best in island talent such as defending Rolex champions Robert and Michael HIRST of Tortola, BVI, who will compete aboard Sea Hawk
Other defending champions are James DOBBS of Antigua, aboard Lost Horizon II
in the spinnaker racing class; Sergio SAGRAMOSO of San Juan, Puerto Rico, aboard Lazy Dog
in the spinnaker racer/cruiser class; and Antonio/Ellen SANPERE of Christiansted, St. Croix, aboard Cayennita
in the non-spinnaker racing class.
In J/24s, six-time Rolex winner Fraito LUGO of Ponce, Puerto Rico returns aboard Orion
, while perennial Beach Cat class favorite Enrique FIGUEROA, Puerto Rico's multiple world champion and Olympian, plans to defend his title, as well, aboard Suzuki/Red Bull.
At the other end of the scale is the Over-50 Foot Class for the biggest boats, which includes the 73-foot Donnybrook
, owned by James MULDOON of Washington, D.C., the 68-foot Equation
, owned by Bill ALCOTT, and the maxi sloop Black Shark
of St. Petersburg, entered by a group from France.
Live results by Interactive Creations (www.intercreate.com
) will be posted on www.rolexcupregatta.com
, where hometown rosters, nightly reports and photos also can be found. Daily video coverage will be available on demand by 2100 each night at www.t2p.tv
or by clicking on the related icon on the regatta web site.
Rolex also is the title sponsor for the Rolex Antigua Sailing Week, due for its 39th running from Sunday, April 30, through Saturday, May 6, 2006.