Monday, April 3, 2017

Stormy, Windy, Sunny St Thomas International Regatta!

J/105 sailing St Thomas (St Thomas, US Virgin Islands)- This year’s St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR), sailed from March 24th to 26th, offered a full range of exhilarating sailing challenges from frequent tacks along offshore cays to cross currents and wind shifts around the east end and slalom-like conditions in the downwind. The island’s Virgin Islands National Park served as the picture-perfect backdrop for this incredible and highly competitive event.  Most importantly, the weather prognosticators were again wrong for at least half the regatta.  While Thursday and Friday on the dark and stormy side, by the weekend, the front blew away and the fleet was treated to sunny, breezy, classic Caribbean weather conditions.

The event started off with the Round The Rocks Race, a popular one-day warm-up that takes the boats 21.0nm clockwise around the beautiful, very mountainous island of St John.  Twenty-three boats took off from the start and headed across Pillsbury Sound, they fought the current and then the winds changed direction and it was tough. The sail up the south side of the island was nice, but then the wind died by the time the fleet got to Coral Bay. After that, they shot around to Francis Bay, enjoying smooth seas although the winds changed direction often. Then, the ride down the north shore was great straight to the finish.

The J/122 EL OCASO, which race charters under Caribbean Yacht Racing based in the British Virgin Islands, finished second class.

J/122 El Ocaso sailing St ThomasDay 1- The Wind (or the Bird) was the Word
Nearly cat’s paw calm in the morning combined with typical Caribbean tradewinds gusting to 20-plus knots in the afternoon provided something for everyone during the first day’s racing to the Charlotte Amalie harbor and back. These polar-opposite conditions plus the challenge of round the islands rather than strictly buoy racing proved the talk of why some of the best sailors in the Caribbean, U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand put STIR on their list of must-do’ regattas each year.

“It was almost like two separate races today with the wind conditions,” said crew Jeff Johnstone, on the J/88 TOUCH2PLAY. “Rig settings are really important in light wind. Trim and drive is everything in big breeze. A squall went through mid-day and didn’t progress, but the breeze kept building. That was fine for us. It wasn’t overpowering.”

In the insanely competitive CSA 2 Racing division, Rob Butler’s J/88 TOUCH2PLAY sailed a very steady 2-3 to hold a narrow one-point lead of Jordan Mindich’s J/105 SOLSTICE that posted a 5-1.

J/88 PINK- aka Touch2Play racing from Canada sailing St Thomas!Day 2- Rock & Roll Time
STIR proved its reputation as the ‘Crown Jewel of Caribbean Yacht Racing’ by superbly delivering on its signature mix of round the rocks and round the buoy courses on the event’s second day of competition. What’s more, 6 to 8 foot seas off the island’s east end, gusts blowing to 20 to 25 knots and a mix of rain and sun all added to the fun. Yup, it was a dark & stormy day for all!

It was the three W’s – windy, wavy and warm – that appealed most to the crews in attendance. Some of the hottest competition today was in CSA Spinnaker 1.  Bob Hillier, who hails from Lake Geneva, WI, and his J/122 EL OCASO alumni were trying to nip at the lead all day.

“We have a real interesting class,” says Hillier, charter manager for Caribbean Yacht Racing Ltd. “Two boats, the Melges 32 and RP 37, plane, we and the King don’t and the Andrews 70 is out so far in front we don’t see them. What each of us needs to do is sail our boats to their potentials.”  In the end, EL OCASO posted a 3-2 to hold on to 2nd place for the day.

At the end of the day, the J/122 EL OCASO posted 3-3 to hang on to second place in their CSA 1 Racing division.

In CSA 2 Racing, the J/88 TOUCH2PLAY added a 3-4 to drop into second place by one point.  Just following them 2 pts back was the J/105 SOLSTICE.

J/80 sailing St ThomasDay 3- Perfect Cocktail Racing
On the last day, the fleet enjoyed a mix of signature round-the-island courses combined with conditions that ranged from near breathless calm to blustery gusts over three days of racing. Warm weather, turquoise seas and quality competition delivered STIR sailors the perfect cocktail.

In the end, Hillier’s crew on the J/122 EL OCASO closed with a strong 2-2 to take the silver in their CSA 1 Racing division.  Yet again, the J/122 has shown her consistent ability to get on the podium in virtually every Caribbean regatta it has sailed in her lifetime- truly an astounding record!

The CSA 2 Racing fleet saw a fight to the finish.  One tack, one gybe, one takedown, that was the difference between the J/88 TOUCH2PLAY winning outright versus losing on a tiebreaker! With a 1-4 on the last day, Canadian Rob Butler’s crew knew where they had lost the regatta, literally by 17 seconds!  In any event, taking the silver was a great outcome for their crew’s first time racing in St Thomas!  Taking the bronze was Jordan Mindich’s J/105 SOLSTICE, sailing to a steady average score of 3.5!  Sailing photo credits- STIR/Dean Barnes and STIR/Ingrid  For more St Thomas International Regatta sailing information Add to Flipboard Magazine.