It may be the Caribbean, but that doesn't mean sailors will be laid back tooday when they hit the starting line at the 2003 International Rolex Regatta in St. Thomas, USVI.
Tough competition, warm Caribbean breezes, blue-water courses and a mix of island culture and energy will be on tap from March 28-30 for the annual event, which this year celebrates its 30th year.
Before the close of registration Thursday evening, over 90 boats had signed up. Winners in each of the classes, which include spinnaker racing, spinnaker racing/cruising, non-spinnaker racing, IC24, J/24 and beach cats, will be awarded a Rolex timepiece.
"This is one of the three greatest regattas in the world for me,"
said Bill Alcott of Detroit, Mich., the owner and skipper of an Andrews 68 named Equation, who also counts Key West and Block Island Race Weeks among his favorites. "I wouldn't miss it for anything." Alcott, who has competed in the regatta since the early '90s and most recently won in 2001, will go head-to-head with another perennial competitor Jim Muldoon of Washington, DC, aboard his custom 72 Donnybrook. "Donnybrook is bigger than us, but that doesn't mean we can't give them a battle," said Alcott. Missing from the over-50 foot action will be Tom Hill of Puerto Rico, who has sailed to victory more than once aboard his various boats named Titan. The newest Titan XII was meant to compete but has been delayed in its construction.
"This is a pure racing regatta with few if any charter boats,"
said Regatta Director Ruth Miller. "With top-notch racing and stellar shoreside parties and activities, the 30th International Rolex Regatta is certain to be memorable."
The bulk of the fleet will be comprised of mid-size boats ranging from 24 to 45 feet, with a large contingent of beach cats and IC-24s rounding things out.
The beach cat competition will benefit from an influx of talent from stateside, including three-time North American Tornado Champions Jay and Pease Glaser (Long Beach, Calif.) and two-time Worrell 1000 Champions Brian Lambert (Ft. Walton Beach, Fla.), and Jamie Livingston (Miami, Fla.). Puerto Rico's designated 2004 Olympic Tornado team of Enrique Figueroa and Jorge Hernandez will have to size up against USVI's Olympic Tornado hopefuls Terry Jackson and Morgan Avery.
The IC24 class will be packed with local talent, including last year's winning tactician Chris Rosenberg aboard Old and Gray. Introduced to the regatta in 2001, the IC24 is constructed from an old J/24 hull with a new deck mold not dissimilar to the Melges 24. The result is a yacht that is relatively high performance, very inexpensive and more comfortable to sail than a J/24.