He has never sailed in the U.S. Virgin Islands, nor in an IC-24 or with this combination of crew. Yet, Chicago's Don Wilson proved his match racing prowess by winning the 6th Annual Carlos Aguilar Match Race (CAMR).
Wilson defeated the USA's Dave Perry 2-1 in a first to two win Finals.
Wilson and his crew - tactician Jordan Reece, trimmer Willem van Waay, bowman Josh McCaffrey, and two Antilles High School students who served as floaters, Teddy Nicolosi and Amanda Engeman - led right out of the gate.
"We started ahead and we stayed ahead in the first race against Dave Perry. That was good,"
recaps Wilson, who is World #24 and is the number one ranked U.S. match racer as well as founder of the sponsoring Chicago Match Race Center (CMRC).
In the second race, Wilson got a good start coming off the line compared to Perry who went pretty thin at the pin end.
"We tacked over and wanted to go right, but then Dave got some nice pressure on the left and he was able to get ahead of us. We never caught up with him after that,"
says Wilson. "It was really tricky. Sometimes the right was better and sometimes the left. So you really had to be on your toes."
With the score 1-1 in the first to two win Finals, it was the third match that proved the ultimate decider.
"Dave was tight going towards the committee boat at the start,"
explains Wilson. "So we hung there to windward of him and eventually he luffed head to wind. We felt that he actually was tacking when he went through head to wind, and then we tacked and bore off and extended. I think it was pretty close to him getting a penalty there, but he didn't. Fortunately we were able to come off the line with much better speed and then the team did a great job of finding the puffs and extending."
Wilson credits his win to a great team.
"I barely sailed the boats just enough to get the hang of it by the final day,"
he says. "We look forward to coming back and racing next year."
Perry, a four-time winner of the U.S. Match Racing Championship and most recently rules advisor to Artemis Racing in the 2013 America's Cup, used his podium appearance as the second place finisher to praise organizers foresight in adding youth sailors aboard each boat.
"I've talked about doing this for years and all I hear is about how it can't be done,"
says Perry. "Giving young sailors this opportunity is critical. They are the future of our sport."
The USVI's Peter Holmberg and USA's Stephanie Roble went head-to-head in the first to one win Petite Finals. Ultimately, Holmberg won 2-1 over Roble to finish third and Roble fourth in the final standings. Holmberg won this event in 2009.
In other team scores, Finland's Antti Luhta finished 5th, the BVI's Colin Rathbun 6th, the USA's Dave Dellenbaugh 7th, the USA's Chris Poole 8th, Greece's Stratis Andreadis 9th, and USA's Jennifer Wilson 10th.
Sailors competed in IC-24s, a local adaptation of a J/24. The CAMR is an International Sailing Federation (ISAF)-provisional Grade Two event.
The Virgin Islands Sailing Association (VISA) is the organizing authority for the CAMR, namesake for the late Carlos Aguilar, who was an avid sailor. The CMRC is the major sponsor.
Supporting sponsors of the CAMR are the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism; Heineken Beer and Captain Morgan, distributed in the U.S. Virgin Islands by Bellows International; Budget Marine; Hooters; Patron, distributed by Glazer's Premier Distributors, LLC; Choice Communications; Bolongo Bay Beach Resort; Yacht Haven Grande; Gill and St. Thomas Yacht Club.
Results and copyright-free downloadable images by Virgin Islands-based photographer, Dean Barnes, are available for editorial use on the official event website (www.carlosmatchrace.com
1. Don Wilson, USA
2. Dave Perry, USA
3. Peter Holmberg, ISV
4. Stephanie Roble, USA
5. Antti Luhta, FIN
6. Colin Rathbun, BVI
7. Dave Dellenbaugh, USA
8. Chris Poole, USA
9. Stratis Andreadis, GRE
10. Jennifer Wilson, USA