St Thomas wrap up

Action from the recent Rolex regatta in the US Virgin Islands

Saturday April 6th 2002, Author: Barby MacGowan, Location: Caribbean


The maxi yacht Equation

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.

The J-24 ElShaddi II leads Jersey Devil and KQ-LO at the leeward mark

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