"For sailors going south for the winter, Caribbean racing has never been so full of potential or fun," said Event Co-Director John SWEENEY, noting that the International Rolex Regatta is the first half of the inaugural Virgin Islands Race Week, presented by the US Virgin Islands Department of Tourism. Race Week offers ten days of competition and family activities when it bridges with the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival (31 March-6 April), hosted out of Tortola & Virgin Gorda. There is no additional fee for entering Race Week, and prizes will be awarded to the top IRC and CSA yachts competing. As well, the International Rolex Regatta joins the Presidente Cup and BVI Spring Regatta as the southern circuit of the hotly contested 2008 US-IRC Gulf Stream Series.
Among the boats vying for IRC honors will be the Swan 601CR Aquarious, skippered by Sam FLEET (USA) and the canting keel Cookson 50 Privateer, sailed by fellow New Englander Ron O'HANLEY (USA). After a year's hiatus due to prostate cancer, Bill ALCOTT (USA) will be back to prove he still has what it takes to win on the race course and at life. His Great Lakes-based Equation, a 70-foot Andrews-designed "sled," was just shipped to St Thomas for the season.
"I've been coming to the islands to race since the '80s and there isn't a team that has more fun than Equation's," said ALCOTT. "The CSA rule, however, has never liked my sled, so it was getting harder to persuade people to go sailing when we couldn't do well. It will be helpful for me to see the difference with my results under IRC."
Alcott says the IRC racing, in fact, made all the difference in him coming back with Equation (ALCOTT had chartered a Swan 60 - better optimized for CSA racing - for last year's International Rolex Regatta before his illness made it necessary to cancel his trip). He looks forward to competing in Virgin Islands Race Week, a combination of events he already holds dear and fondly refers to as "the perfect trifecta": the International Rolex Regatta, the race from Tortola to Virgin Gorda's Bitter End Yacht Club (part of the BVI Spring Festival) and back to Tortola for the BVI Spring Regatta itself.
"In my opinion, it's the best ten days of life," said ALCOTT. "When we're in the Bitter End for three days, we rent all the Lasers they have for our own regatta. Cheating is allowed and encouraged!"
Another big gun ALCOTT will be up against at the International Rolex Regatta is Clive LLEWELLYN (FRA) aboard his Judel Vrolik 49 Mad IV. Last year, LLEWELLYN missed winning the Rolex watch in Spinnaker Racing 1 by two points, leaving it to be worn home by Antigua's Carlo FALCONE aboard his Vallicelli 44 Caccia Alla Volpe.
Returning to collect on his 2007 Governor's Cup prize of accommodations for his entire crew at the Marriott Frenchman's Reef Hotel is Marc NOORDHOEK of the Netherlands. His 41-foot X yacht Xpresso competed in Spinnaker Racing Cruising Class and was the boat that traveled the farthest on its own keel for last year's event.
"Every year, hundreds of sailors from the Caribbean, the US and Europe either return to or newly discover the three days of world-class competition that have put the International Rolex Regatta at the forefront of Caribbean racing for three and a half decades," said SWEENEY. "The regatta is the oldest of its kind in the Caribbean and utilizes professional race management to insure the best possible experience for sailors. This year's developments promise to deliver, once again, boatloads of epic island memories."
Most of the competing boats berth or anchor at St Thomas Yacht Club for easy access to beachside events that blend island-style hospitality with the outstanding camaraderie that also has become a trademark of the regatta.
Behind every good regatta is a great sponsor, and the International Rolex Regatta benefits from long-time support of Rolex and A.H. Riise, the official retailer of Rolex watches in the US Virgin Islands and the Islands' oldest and largest retailer of duty-free luxury merchandise. Rolex is synonymous with luxury and excellence in sport, sponsoring some of the most revered grand prix yacht racing events in the world. The International Rolex Regatta is the oldest regatta in the company's portfolio.
Island Global Yachting and Yacht Haven Grande are also supporters of the event, offering full-service accommodations during the regatta for yachts from 50 - 300 feet (www.yachthavengrande.com).
International Rolex Regatta - www.rolexcupregatta.com