"Last year we really raised the bar, by adding some intriguing new twists on the water and back onshore," said Tracy Roberts, who co-directs the regatta with fellow St. Thomas Yacht Club member Colin Probyn. "There was near-perfect harmony between exciting competition and extreme fun." Roberts explained that on one of the competition days, short-course buoy racing was traded in for a coastal romp that took the fleet from Cowpet Bay, where the St. Thomas Yacht Club is located, to a finish line just inside the harbor of Charlotte Amalie, formerly plied by privateers and now the island's cruise ship port. The fleet then reversed course to beat back home, where reggae, rum and barbecue awaited the tired but happy competitors. Added Probyn: "This year the race will be repeated but augmented by some IC-24 windward-leeward racing in the harbor. This will show the racers St. Thomas's beautiful capital and afford the islanders and visitors alike a flavor of competitive sailing."
The IC-24s are indigenous to the area having been developed from J/24s by a group of St. Thomas sailors and attracting the very best in inter-island talent. In size (24 feet) they are the same as J/24s, which had their own class last year and a strong Puerto Rican contingent including six-time watch winner Fraito Lugo. A little smaller but a lot faster are the Beach Cats, which always arrive in full force with plenty of Hobie and Nacra class stars competing, including Puerto Rico's multiple world champion and Olympian Enrique Figueroa. At the other end of the scale is the 2005 winner Titan XII, a 75-footer with Puerto Rico's Tom Hill at the helm and America's Cup veteran Peter Isler serving as tactician, a fine example of the top-notch competition that is always on hand. Titan will compete in the Over-50 Foot Class for the biggest boats; there are other classes for boats ranging from 30 to 50 feet that also include the hottest Caribbean sailors as well as visiting professional and semi-pro racers.
"There are additional classes where mere mortals have a chance, too," says longtime competitor Wally Bostwick about the event's more laid-back Racer/Cruiser and Non-Spinnaker Racing classes, "but it's always for bragging rights, and you'd better bring your best game and a dash of luck. Each of the Northern Caribbean regattas has its special flavor and strong point, but only at the International Rolex Regatta can you win 'The Watch.' Just a little something around the wrist to point out that you happen to be one of the best sailors in the Caribbean."
According to Roberts, "If you enjoy sailing and good times, you enter the International Rolex Regatta and give it your best shot. It's our job to make it so you keep coming back for the fun, winner or not." It was announced earlier this year that Rolex also will be the title sponsor for the Rolex Antigua Sailing Week, due for its 39th running from Sunday, April 30, through Saturday, May 6, 2006.
Denis Comment, a long-time supporter of the International Rolex Regatta and Director for Rolex Caribbean and Central America, is the event's Honorary Chairman. Returning as co-chairs of the International Jury are local Ruth Miller and international judge Arthur 'Tuna' Wullschleger, who has served as Chief Judge at the regatta for 23 years. Principal Race Officer David Brennan (Miami, Fla.) will manage the on-water competition.
Other regatta committee members are Frannie Newbold (Committee Desk); Christine Thompson (Sailing Liaison Officer); Barbara Birt (Merchandise); Shanda Chiumento (T-Shirt Designer); Terry Hudson (Dock Master); Colin Probyn (Events Coordinator); Comestibles Corp (Food and Beverages); Herbert Seiler (Boats); Rob Carlin (Parking); Walter Bostwick (Public Relations); Bill Canfield (Race Committee/Trophies and Awards); John Sweeney (Race Equipment); Lyn Reid (Registration); Jackson Roberts (Scoring/Chief Grip); Jennifer Firestone (Accommodations); Kelly O'Brien (Accommodations); Dr. Jeff Chase (EMS); Tara Ashmore (Treasurer); Ansen Sigler (Web Master).