All questions seemed to revolve around wind at the 2002 International Rolex Regatta, held March 28-31 in St. Thomas, USVI.
For Thursday's optional and first-ever USVI Governor Race as well as Friday's official opening-day races, the question was "When is it going to materialize?" Unfortunately, the answer came in the cancellation of both attempts at competition. (Only two other times in the 29-year history of the event had this happened-once for lack of air and once for too much of it.) Thankfully, however, waiting ahead were two more days in paradise, offering more satisfying racing conditions for the hundreds of sailors competing on 79 entries in 12 classes.
The race committee, spearheaded by professional race manager Peter Reggio, had called things off early enough on Friday for sailors and their families to enjoy a romp on the beach, which segued lazily into a Full Moon Party--with plenty of rum and reggae--at the St. Thomas Yacht Club. Instant camaraderie and the relaxed yet festive atmosphere set the tone for the regatta's nightly social activities, highlighted by a Cruzan Rum-sponsored Pirate Block Party in nearby Red Hook, a bustling oh-so-Caribbean center of retail and boating activity. By Saturday afternoon, when a 12-15 knot breeze allowed the race committee to handily tick off three races, enthusiasm for racing had bounced back fully. Nearly identical conditions repeated on Easter Sunday for the completion of two races, and at an awards banquet the same evening, overall winners in each of the 12 classes received Rolex timepieces from A.H. Riise, the Official Rolex Retailer in St. Thomas.
During the five-race series, the critical question for tacticians to answer was "What will the wind do?," and those who stayed one step ahead of the sometimes dramatic changes in wind direction placed their boats at the front of the fleet and the top of the scoreboard.
"It was a matter of hitting the shifts," said Mark Ploch of Clearwater, Fla., who served as tactician aboard Tom Hill's Puerto Rico entrant Titan XI, an Andrews 68, in the Over 50 Foot Class. "In one race we hit two shifts that put us a minute ahead. It was challenging from that perspective."
Bill Alcott of St. Claire Shores, Mich., was the defending champion in this class with his Santa Cruz 70 Equation, but a smaller rig and less sail area left the boat at a disadvantage against the "turbo sled" configuration of Titan XI. Mentally, Alcott was prepared for the imbalance. Where he placed was secondary to simply being in St. Thomas, where he hoped to purchase a second home before he left.
"I consider the International Rolex Regatta, along with Key West and Block Island, as one of the three great regattas to do," said Alcott, who wound up in second, ahead of the Custom 73 Donnybrook, owned by James Muldoon of Washington, D.C. When Donnybrook failed to show up on Sunday, Equation dueled with Titan XI match-race style for what Alcott called "the best day of sailing in my life-I couldn't stop grinning." The day before, Donnybrook had retired from race three with a torn mainsail and damaged running backstay after tangling rigs with a 30-footer entered in a separate class.
In the largest class--Spinnaker Racing Class 2 with 13 boats--Puerto Rico's Efrain Lugo (Ponce), aboard his Melges 24 named Orion, posted a 1-2-1-5-2 to take the class. According to tactician Robbie Ramos (Ponce), this is the seventh time Orion has sailed in this regatta with the same crew. "This was the first time we were not assigned to a one-design class," said Ramos, who explained that in several of the previous regattas, the Orion entry was a J/24. "We may switch back to the J/24 for next year so we can be one-design again, but it was a lot of fun to see how we sailed against other boats under handicap."
The seven-boat J/24 class had an intriguing series to say the least, with a three-way tie for first being broken by college-aged Scott Stanton (St. Croix, USVI), sailing with his twin Peter aboard Jersey Devil. The Stantons have competed with their own boat in this regatta's J/24 class since their early teens and also won their class at this year's Heineken Regatta in Puerto Rico.
It was no surprise that Puerto Rico's 2004 Olympic representative in the Tornado class, Enrique Figueroa (San Juan, P.R.), a Hobie 16 and Hobie 18 World and National champion, topped the six-boat spinnaker Beach Cats Class 2 with five straight victories aboard his Suzuki Tornado. It was unusually intriguing, however, that another Enrique Figueroa, unrelated but from the same town, topped the 10-boat non-spinnaker Beach Cats Class 1 aboard his Exodus-Sambaigo.
The catamaran sailors had pumped up their entrants in Class 1 this year by arranging special transportation through Tropical Shipping for six Hobie 16s from San Juan. Carlos Gonzales, the skipper of one of the 16s, explained, "We figured that since the world champion Enrique Figueroa had switched to Class 2 for racing with a spinnaker, we all had a chance to win!"
Also expanding their all-St. Thomas fleet (from six to ten) since last year were the IC24s, unique hybrid boats that feature Melges 24-style modifications to a J/24 hull. Chris Rosenberg's five-zip win in the IC-24 class also was no surprise. A local sailor who has won the Rolex four times before (most recently in 2001 aboard a Melges 24), Rosenberg has been instrumental in getting this relatively new class off the ground and says it has boosted club racing in St. Thomas immensely.
"Between hurricanes and a slow economy, it's hard to sustain the spending of money for sailing, but if you can spend a little and have so much fun, it's great!" said Rosenberg. "We wanted to find a boat that a senior could sail against a junior, and we proved this could happen with 79-year-old Dick Johnson (skippering Stinger) out there sailing against 13-year-old Cy Thompson (steering No-Sea-Um) and 12-year-old Taylor Canfield (steering Boat Drinks).
In the seven-boat Spinnaker Racing Class 2, early leader Mermaid II, a Custom 40 footer owned by Bill Berardelli (Bluebell, Pa./Tortola), conceded to Twisted Lizard, Mike Lathrope's (Naperville, Ill./St. Thomas) Mumm 30 on the final day. After winning both of Sunday's races, Twisted rose from third to first in overall standings.
Also on Sunday, Hullabulloo, a Beneteau First owned by Phillip Allen (Southampton, U.K.), maintained an early lead to take the five-boat Spinnaker Racer/Cruiser Class 1. In the five-boat Spinnaker Racer/Cruiser Class II, Cold Beer 2, a Tartan 10 owned by John Schultheiss (Tortola, BVI), strung together five victories to win, as did Ex Mero Motu, sailed by Antonio Mari Jr. (San Juan), in the J/80 class.
Other winners were Ron Noonan (Marion, Mass./Tortola) aboard Wildflower in Non-Spinnaker Racing Class and Edwin Cruz (Fajardo, P.R.) aboard Nemesis in Jib & Main class.
Recipients of the USVI Governor's Race trophies were determined by finishes in the first official race of the International Rolex Regatta. Winners, who had to have been registered for the cancelled Governor's Race to be considered in the standings, were John Schultheiss (Tortola, BVI) aboard the Tartan 10 Cold Beer; Peter Haycraft (Tortola) aboard the Sirena 38 Pipedream; Efrain Lugo aboard Orion, Bill Berardelli aboard Mermaid II; and Tom Hill aboard Titan XI.
On the Monday following the event, the Caribbean tradewinds resumed their normal patterns, piping up early in the morning and holding through until the end of the day. It there was any question about the wind's long-range dependability, it was answered not with words but with the actions of the International Rolex Regatta Organizing Committee, who met to begin planning next year's event.
Racing Over 50 Ft. Class (3 boats)
1. TITAN XI, Andrews 68, Tom Hill, San Juan, P.R., 1-1-1-1-1; 5
2. EQUATION, Santa Cruz 70, Bill Alcott, St. Claire Shores, Mich., 2-2-2-2-2;
3. DONNYBROOK, Custom 73, James Muldoon, Washington, D.C., 3-3-4-4-4; 18
Spinnaker Racing Class 1 (7 boats)
1. TWISTED LIZARD, Mumm 30, Mike Lathrope, Naperville, Ill./St. Thomas, USVI,
2. MERMAID II, Custom 40, Bill Berardelli, Bluebell, Pa./Tortola, BVI,
3. CACCIA ALLA VOLPE, Vallicelli 44, Carlo Falcone, Antigua, 5-4-2-2-2; 15
Spinnaker Racing Class 2 (13 boats)
1. ORION, Melges 24, Efrain Lugo, Ponce, P.R., 1-1-1-5-1; 9
2. CONTACT CARIB, Melges 24, Fritz Bus, St. Maarten, AHO, 2-2-2-6-3; 15
3. LOST HORIZON II, Olson 30, James Dobbs, Antigua, 6-4-3-1-8; 22
Spinnaker Racer Cruiser Class 1 (5 boats)
1. HULLABULLOO, Beneteau First, Phillip Allen, Southampton, U.K., 2-1-1-1-2; 7
2. PIPE DREAM, Sirena 38, Peter Haycraft, Tortola, BVI, 1-2-2-2-1; 8
3. SPIRIT OF ISIS, Farr 65, Harry Spedding, U.K., 5-3-3-3-3; 17
Spinnaker Racer Cruiser Class 2 (5 boats)
1. COLD BEER 3, Tartan 10, John Schultheiss, Tortola, BVI, 1-1-1-1-1; 5
2. DISCO INFERNO, Sigma 33, Matt Abbiss, Herts, U.K., 3-2-2-2-3; 12
3. J.DOE, J/30, Cynthia Ross, St. Thomas, USVI, 2-4-3-3-2; 14
Beach Cats Class 1 (10 boats)
1.EXODUS-SAMBIAGO, Hobie 16, Enrique Figueroa, San Juan, P.R.1-1-1-5-1; 9
2. BLAME IT ON RHEA, Prindle 19, Mark Chong, St. Thomas, USVI, 6-2-4-1-4; 17
3. YUISA, Hobie 16, Rosarito Martinez, San Juan, P.R., 7-3-2-4-2; 18
Beach Cats Class 2 (6 boats)
1. SUZUKI TORNADO, Tornado 20, Enrique Figueroa, San Juan, P.R., 1-1-1-1-1; 5
2. RED HOOK AGENCIES, Inter 20, John Holmberg, St. Thomas, USVI, 2-2-3-2-2; 11
3. CENTURY 21, Tornado, Terry Jackson, St. Thomas, USVI, 3-3-2-3-3; 14
Non Spinnaker Racing Class (3 boats)
1. WILDFLOWER, Ron Noonan, Marion, Mass./Tortola, BVI, 1-1-1-2-1; 6
2. ATN, J/27, Marcus Compton, St. Thomas, USVI, 2-2-2-1-2; 9
3. JECY, Oceanis 461, Emanuel Giancomelli/Stefano Spangaro, Rimini, Italy,
Fun Class - Jib & Main (no pole) (5 boats)
1. NEMESIS, Hunter 42, Edwin Cruz, Fajardo, P.R., 2-1-1-1-1; 6
2. WINDFLOWER, Alberg 35, Stan Joines, St. Croix, USVI, 1-2-2-2-2; 9
3. FAR CRY, Bombay Clipper, Herve Chassin, St. Thomas, USVI, 4-3-3-3-4; 17
IC-24 Class (10 boats)
1. OLD & GRAY, Chris Rosenberg, St. Thomas, USVI, 1-1-1-1-1; 5
2. VOILA, Tracy Roberts/Anthony Kotoun, St. Thomas, USVI/Newport, R.I.,
3. RED DOG, IC-24, Mike Williams/Skip King/Jessica Rosenberg, St. Thomas, USVI,
J/80 Class (4 boats)
1. EX MERO MOTU, J/80, Antonio Mari Jr., San Juan, P.R., 1-1-1-1-1; 5
2. ABRACADABRA, J/80, Carlos Camacho, P.R., 2-2-3-2-3; 12
3. SUN BUM II, J/80, Angel Ayala, Carolina, P.R., 3-4-2-3-2; 14
J/24 Class (7 boats)
1. JERSEY DEVIL, J/24, Scott/Peter Stanton, St. Croix, USVI, 8-2-1-4-1; 16
2. DON Q CRISTAL, Michael Serralles, P.R., 8-1-3-1-3; 16
3. BACARDIO/URAYO, Gilberto Rivera, P.R., 1-8-2-3-2; 16