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29 March 2003, 12:18 pm
Day One
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International Rolex Regatta
St. Thomas

Three races were sailed yesterday, and the breeze was light but welcome, since it was more than the stillness the islands had endured over the past week.
For opening day of the 2003 International Rolex Regatta, the 8-10 knot winds meant that all but one of the 11 classes competing could complete three races and still have plenty of time for enjoying the steel band back at the St. Thomas Yacht Club. With 97 boats competing, the Rolex event is celebrating its 30th season and has drawn its enthusiastic racing contingent from the islands (46 entrants), Puerto Rico (22), the U.S. (19), UK (9) and Spain (1).

The IC24 class featured some of the tightest racing, since the hybrid boats--with J/24 hulls and Melges 24 decks--are evenly matched one-designs. St. Thomas' John Holmberg, a perennial favorite at this regatta in the catamaran division, is making his debut in the IC24 Stinger and had a solid first day to lead the 13-boat fleet.

"We bumbled the start in the first and second races and came back to finish first and third, respectively," said Holmberg. "Then in the third race, we were right there on the starting line, right on time."

Finishing third overall in Spinnaker Racing Class 1 was four-time Rolex Regatta winner Carlo Falcone aboard the Custom 44 Caccia Alla Volpe. Although the boat hails from Antigua, the crew is mainly Italian and includes Falcone's son Shannon Falcone, fresh from his stint with the America's Cup campaign Mascalzone Latino.

"Light winds are not our conditions," said Shannon, who pointed out that his father's most recent victory here was two years ago in heavy air and the team recently won the St. Croix International Regatta in heavy air. "We also have a wide range of boats and handicaps in our class." Leading the fleet is Flirt, a custom Oyster 49, skippered by Richard Matthews of Ipswich, UK.

Racing continues tomorrow and concludes Sunday with the Coral World Race, a distance race that shows off the beauty of the islands.
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