Frustation in St Thomas

Day two of Rolex International Regatta cancelled too

Saturday March 30th 2002, Author: Barby MacGowan, Location: United States
After a lack of breeze yesterday caused the cancellation of the inaugural USVI Governor's Race, sailors gathered today for the first official race of the 29th International Rolex Regatta - only to face harsh reality again.

The dependable winds that have helped win this regatta its acclaim as one of the Caribbean's best sailing tests failed to materialise and race officers made the call to cancel racing for the day.

The decision was a sound one, made early enough for hundreds of sailors on the 78 boats entered to head back to the docks in time for some rest and relaxation, and maybe a little touring of St. Thomas, before the launching of the next beach party by the regatta's host St. Thomas Yacht Club.

"It's amazing," said Regatta Director Chuck Ollinger, "that before yesterday, we had only lost one other race to light air and one to too much air over the course of all these years. The good thing is that tomorrow is another day and we have two days left for racing."

The beach cats are raring to go and pumped up their entrants this year by arranging special transportation through Tropical Shipping for six Hobie 16s from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Carlos Gonzales, helm of one of the 16s named Fitness Warehouse, will sail in the ten-boat Class 1 for non-spinnakered Beach Cats.

"We figured that since Enrique Figueroa had switched to racing with a spinnaker, we all had a chance to win!" Figueroa, who will sail in Beach Cats Class 2 on his Olympic Tornado 20 named Suzuki Tornado, is a Hobie 16 and Hobie 18 World and National champion as well as a Hobie 20 National champion. Typically untouchable at this regatta, he is also Puerto Rico's Olympic hopeful for 2004 in the Tornado class.

"We are sailing the new Olympic Tornado rig here for the Olympics," said Figueroa's crew Jorge Hernandez, explaining that there is much more sail area than ever before. "It's scary fast."

The roster of Hobie sailors includes another unrelated Enrique Figueroa as skipper of Exodus Sambiago and Alfredo Figueroa as the skipper of a husband-wife team aboard Inabon. Their sons, Alfredo and Francisco Figueroa are sailing Flywind. "Opposite to what you might think, the name is not that common in Puerto Rico," said Gonzales, "but both Enrique Figueroa's are really good sailors, and there is yet another Enrique Figueroa in Puerto Rico who also is a great sailor. I think I will have to name my son this."

Also having expanded their fleet (from six to ten) since last year are the IC24s, unique hybrids of J/24s and Melges 24s. In this class's case, the champion to watch is Chris Rosenberg of St. Thomas, who has won the Rolex four times before, most recently in 2001 aboard a Melges 24. Rosenberg, who will sail the IC24 named Old & Gray, has been instrumental in getting this relatively new class off the ground and says it has boosted club racing in St. Thomas immensely.

"It's hard to sustain the spending of money for sailing in a slow economy, but if you can spend a little and have so much fun, it's great!" said Rosenberg. "We wanted to find a boat that an 80-year-old could sail against a junior. The J/24 was a good performer but uncomfortable and the Melges 24 was a good performer and comfortable but quite expensive, so we put the open-cockpit layout of the Melges on the hull of a J/24."

Rosenberg's envisioned elder-vs.-junior scenario will play out well with entrants such as Dick Johnson, who owned the very first J/24 in the islands when it was first introduced. Johnson will sail his IC-24 Stinger against the likes of 12-year-old Taylor Canfield, who will sail his father's IC-24 Boat Drinks.

Another import to this class, at least for this regatta, is Anthony Katoun, a native of St. Thomas who now lives in Newport, R.I. Katoun is the current Shields National Champion and a '99-'00 Collegiate All-American sailor from St. Mary's College.

"It not about speed this time," says the wind-addicted Katoun, an avid kite surfer and boardsailor. "It's about competition and friends."

European Entrants include David Cook's Beneteau Diadem Star, Matt Abbiss' Sigma 33 Disco Inferno, Phillip Allen's Beneteau Hullabulloo, Harry Spedding's Farr 65 Spirit of Isis, the E/24 Runaway of Glaswegian Bruce Pettie and Jecy a Beneteau belonging to Italians Emanuel Giancomelli/Stefano Spangaro.

Racing resumes tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. and concludes on Sunday, March 31. The Governor's Race trophies, which were to be awarded to winners of today's first race, will be held over for tomorrow.

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