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25 March 2006, 10:40 am
First Day A Treat
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International Rolex Regatta 2006
St Thomas, US Virgin Islands

After Thursday night's rousing welcome party, complete with Carnival dancers and a reggae band, the St. Thomas Yacht Club yesterday kicked off the on-water action at the 33rd International Rolex Regatta with a packed morning and afternoon of course racing.

Hundreds of sailors competed aboard 92 boats, ranging in size from 24 to 72 feet, while a brisk 12-16 knot breeze under notoriously blue Caribbean skies kept the competition tight and the action non-stop.

'The conditions were perfect - just paradise,'
said Martin JACOBSON of GREENWICH, Conn., owner of the Swan 44 Crescendo, which leads the Spinnaker Racing Cruising class after posting three victories in as many races today. 'We liked having the three races with shorter legs of about 1.5 miles each. We got better as a team throughout the day.' JACOBSON is one of 22 owners on the entry roster representing the U.S. mainland. It is his first International Rolex Regatta, and he is acutely aware that a Rolex watch is at stake for each winner in the eight classes. 'Tomorrow could be different,' he said, referring to a planned distance race to Charlotte Amalie Harbor, followed by a race back to the yacht club. 'We have 15 boats in our class, and it's a strong class competition-wise.'

Also showing strong are Spinnaker Racing classes 1 and 2 and their respective leaders Danilo SALSI of Milan, Italy, aboard the Frers 45 Dsk Comifin, and Robert ARMSTRONG of St. Croix, aboard the J/100 Expensive Habit. Both skippers won all three of their races today, ARMSTRONG with the help of 2004 J/24 World Champion Jens HOOKANSEN, who grew up in St. Croix but now resides in Middletown, Rhode Island.

Amazing growth in the local IC-24 class translated into 19 boats competing, and close competition was reflected by the scores after five races. Local sailor Christopher CURRERI's Brand New Second Hand leads with 24 points overall, followed by fellow St. Thomian Chris ROSENBERG with 27 points and defending champion Robby HIRST of Road Town, BVI, also with 27. Aboard Curreri's boat is local Ben BEER, a veteran world racer at age 33, who has sailed the last several Rolex regattas aboard the 75-footer Titan 12. 'Titan couldn't be here this year, so I decided to come back and do something really fun. Not that sailing on big boats isn't fun, but these are my home waters, and IC-24 racing is just different. It makes sailing new again for me.'

CURRERI and BEER are joined by Lee ICYDA of Stuart, Florida, another well-known sailor who is trying something different. 'This is what happens when you sail all over the world - you meet people and get asked to do cool things like this,' said ICYDA, who is an Yngling World Champion and is campaigning the Olympic-class boat for Beijing in 2008.

The US Virgin Islands are represented by 30 entries and Puerto Rico by 22. The balance of the fleet comes from the British Virgin Islands (7), Antigua (2), St. Martin (2), Canada (1), Belgium (3), Ireland (2), Italy and Great Britain (1 each).

Live results by Interactive Creations (www.yachtscoring.com) are 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 9 p.m. 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 30 April through Saturday 6 May 2006.

Barby MacGowan. Image, Abacadabra from Antigua: © Daniel Forster/Rolex
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