Wet & Wild Rides on Second Day of Racing in 43rd St. Thomas International Regatta

St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. An island tour on fast forward is the best way to describe the courses and conditions for most classes on the second day of racing in the 43rd St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR). While the one-design IC24 and VX One classes sailed round-the-buoys and the beach cats stayed away on shore, the rest of the racers came out to play on round-the-island courses set off St. Thomas’ and St. John’s southern shores. Winds remained in full force with continual gusts over 30 knots making for some wet and wild rides. 

Round-the-Islands Rules 

“We didn’t do too well today because we have a new crew that isn’t used to sailing in this much breeze and we were off on our spinnaker work,” says Robert ‘Bump’ Wilcox, from Marblehead, MA, who helmed his Beneteau First10r, Bad Monkey in STIR for the first time and in the CSA Spinnaker Racing 3 Class. “But I have to say the racing was beautiful. Going around the buoys maybe a good way to sharpen some skills, but point-to-point racing around the offshore islands and cays especially here in the Caribbean is really breathtaking. Where else can you tack right off the beach and see all the way to the bottom in 20 feet of water. It’s just beautiful sailing here.” 

St. Thomas’ Peter Corr, at the helm of his chartered King 40, Corr’s Light Racing, also enjoyed the inter-island race courses. 

It was varied and tough racing today,” says Corr, whose team sits in second place in CSA Spinnaker Racing 2 behind California’s Doug Baker’s chartered J/122, Team Magnitude-El Ocaso. “The rudder stalled in the higher wind speeds, which made it difficult to steer at times. We won the class last year and beat El Ocaso. Now, they’re in front of us by five points. It’s not game over yet. We’re looking forward to a great last day.” 

Crews aboard the two 60-foot Gunboats, Flow and Fault Tolerant, enjoyed their island tours. However, a large size and twin hulls didn’t make these vessels immune to breakdowns brought on by big winds. 

“Yesterday, we ripped two sails and had to go in to have repairs made at the local loft,” says Jack Slattery, tactician aboard Flow. “Today we pushed it hard. We’d hear a noise of something breaking, fix it and keep the boat going. That’s how we won both of the day’s races.” 

Flow was also equipped with top talent on board. This included champion beach cat as well as America’s Cup sailor, Annie Gardner, and Cam Lewis, who raced aboard the maxi-catamaran, Commodore Explorer, when it won the first Jules Verne Trophy for the world’s fastest circumnavigation in 1993.


That’s the Breaks 

There was nothing spooky about Steve Benjamin’s TP52 Spookie dominating the CSA 1 class with another day of flawless score of first place finishes. Scary though was when Antigua’s Bernie Evan-Wong snapped the rudder off his RP 37, TAZ, while racing and had to get a tow back. Lucky though, the team aboard Dark Star, Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Lipuscek’s J/105, who was racing in CSA Spinnaker 3, was able to retrieve the rudder from the water. Wong’s crew took the damaged appendage to a local boat builder and hope it can get enough TLC to allow the TAZ team to race STIR’s final day. 

In the CSA Non-Spinnaker Class, St. Croix’s Tony Sanpere wasn’t about to risk racing on courses up to 14 nautical miles in blustery gusts with only four crew aboard his Catalina 30, Nauticayenne, Sanpere, who has sailed in over 30 STIRs, faced a dwindling crew count after non-serious injuries in the heavy winds on the first day of racing forced some to stay ashore. 

“The Catalina 30 is a fun boat, but the weather this weekend is better for big boats,” says Sanpere, a member of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ Paralympic Sailing Team, which is actively fundraising to compete in Rio this summer. 

One-Design Fun 

The VX One Class pow-wowed in the morning to discuss wind conditions and seven brave teams decided to venture out. It paid off as the teams that did race had a blast and suffered much fewer capsizes than the first day. One of those racing was 15-year-old St. Thomas junior sailor, Christopher Sharpless. 

“It was so windy that one of the teams wanted to add a third crew member for extra weight,” says Sharpless, who sailed with St. Croix’s Charles ‘Toro’ Goodrich’s Matadora and trimmed the mainsheet. “The boat is fast, scary fast. Going downwind is so much fun. I’d like to see a class of VX One’s here all the time to sail.” 

The home-grown IC24 Class completed the most races of any class. After 8 races over two days, only one point separates the leader, St. Thomas’ Chris Rosenberg’s Bill T from Puerto Rico’s Ramon Gonzalez’s Sembrador. 

“The IC24 Class is a hot bed of Caribbean high performance sailors,” says Puerto Rico’s Jaime Torres, who switched from a Melges 32 to IC24 last year. “It’s so unforgiving and there’s no room to make a mistake or you really feel it on the scoreboard. Today, not only was it windy, but it was puffy and shifty. The better sailors were able to keep the boat going and going in the right direction in these conditions and it showed.” 

Where to Watch, Where to Party 

Competition for the 67-boat fleet – ranging from 16-foot beach cats to 60-foot Gunboats and with crews hailing from the Caribbean, U.S., Europe, South America and Australia –

concludes competition on Sunday March 27. Racing will be in Pillsbury Sound. Music starts on the beach at the St. Thomas Yacht Club at 2:30 p.m. with Flip Switch. 

The Awards Ceremony for STIR, known as the ‘Crown Jewel of Caribbean Yacht Racing’, starts at 6:30 p.m.Class winners receive limited edition Island-theme timepieces from Cardow Jewelers. The skipper of the yacht with the fastest time overall will win his or her weight in Cruzan Rum. The Final Fling Party kicks off right after with Ah We Band.

Thrills & Spills on First Day of Racing in 43rd St. Thomas International Regatta

St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. The signature race to Charlotte Amalie harbor on today’s first day of the St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR) turned into a sprint for some and a splash for others with winds gusting to nearly 30 knots. Most of the 67 boat fleet, divided into eight classes ranging from 16-foot beach cats to 60-foot Gunboats, braved the conditions that saw sailors race 16 nautical miles to the historic harbor and back again to the host St. Thomas Yacht Club (STYC). 

Everyone Knows It’s Windy 

“It was pretty windy and we had some big puffs,” says St. Thomas’ Chris Curreri, who helmed the IC24, Bill T, which is leading the 13-boat one-design IC24 Class according to preliminary scores after three races. “In fact, right as we got to the finish in the harbor on the race down it was blowing 30 knots – a survival finish.” 

The forecast proved a challenge for the 12-boat one-design VX Ones. Class rules for regattas call for no starts when the median wind speed exceeds 22 knots. Class vice-president and St. Croix native, Tim Pitts, called for an increase in that limit to 27 knots. As a result, all but one of the class raced. Everyone, but a few such as Florida’s George Gamble’s My Sharona and Massachusetts’ Paulo Milko’s Milkoway which capsized while racing, reveled in the big breeze. 

“I think as the class grows and matures it’s possible to race at a higher wind limit,” said Pitts, a St. Croix native and currently Newport, RI resident who is leading the class with three first place finishes. “We had a great start in the first race when we popped our kite and shoot out 10 seconds after the gun. We ripped our head sail and finished up that race without a spinnaker. In the last race upwind, it was Chris Poole on Don Winston’s Szforzando and I match racing to the finish and we won. That’s pretty incredible. Not only the close racing, but also beating Chris because he’s a world-ranked match racer.” 

The windy weather only added to the tight racing excitement in the CSA Spinnaker Racing 3 Class. After two races, St. Thomas’ Lawrence Aqui’s Dufour 40, Wild T’ing is in first since he won the last race, while Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Lipuscek on his J/105 Dark Star is second. However, both boats are tied with 3.0 points apiece. 

“This wind isn’t unusual for us,” says Rafael ‘Rafi’ Martinez, tactician aboard Dark Star. Plus, the first day of racing in the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta earlier this month it was blowing this hard, so we’re used to it. On the way down, it was Pipedream that was our closest competitor until they broke a steering cable and we passed them. On the way back up, we traded places for the lead several times with Wild T’ing, until they beat us by less than a minute.” 

There were no complaints about conditions aboard Team Magnitude-El Ocaso, which is leading the CSA Spinnaker Racing 2 Class with two firsts. The Southern California crew headed by Doug Baker, who chartered the J/122, had some local knowledge onboard with the BVI’s Mark Plaxton. It was certainly helpful as while the crew has sailed together many times they were all new to the boat. 

“We finished ahead of Corr’s Lite by less than a minute into the harbor even though we dropped our chute early,” says Plaxton, a podium finisher in previous STIR’s aboard his Melges 32 and IC24, both named INTAC. “On the way up, we had the boat going nearly 8 knots upwind, or about a 15 to 20 percent improvement in boat speed over the first race of the day, which is pretty impressive. We just keep getting better the longer we sail the boat.” 

In the Beach Cat class, in first is the Florida-based husband-and-wife team of Annie Gardner and Eric Witte. Then, out of 8 entries, Gardner and Witte sailing on the Nacra 17, Flight Risk, were the only to complete both races. It’s no wonder with the wealth of experience Gardner has to her credit. The 2006 Yachtswoman of the Year is an Olympic silver medalist in Boardsailing as well as holder of five world titles and 17 national and international titles. 

Entrants in the Gunboat and CSA Spinnaker Racing 1 classes were also pleased with the breeze. Rye, NY’s Robert Alexander’s Gunboat 60, Fault Tolerant, won both of his races. So did Norwalk, CT’s Steve Benjamin driving his TP 52, Spookie. It was the second of two good days of racing as Benjamin, 2015 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, not only won his class, but Spookie’s name on the new perpetual trophy for best elapsed time at 2 hours 22 minutes and 36 seconds in the inaugural Round the Rocks Race on Thursday. The ‘Wing & Prayer’ trophy is named after former St. Thomas resident, Ken Bragg, the architect who designed the STYC in the early 1960s and whose heroic rescue while piloting a B-17 bomber in World War II is the subject of the famous song, ‘Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer.’ 

Finally, it was St. Croix’s Stan Joines and his teenage crew racing Joines’ J/30, Paladin, that ultimately wished for calmer weather when the boat was dismasted in the first race. 

“We were booking it, up with the Swans, as we headed into the harbor. Then, there was a ‘ping’ as a line snapped. We dropped the main and tried to sail in on a jib since the boat doesn’t have an engine, but it was too much and the mast gave out. It broke in more than one place,” says Joines. 

Where to Watch, Where to Party 

Competition continues Saturday, March 26, with racing off the northeast and southeast shores of St. Thomas. The music starts at2:30 p.m., on the beach at STYC with Lourdes & Flip Switch. Then, party like a sailor starting at 7 p.m. at Yacht Haven Grande with Spectrum Band live on stage. 

Racing concludes on Sunday, March 27, with the Awards Ceremony on the beach at STYC starting at 6:30 p.m. The Final Fling Party starts right after with Ah We Band.

Round the Rocks Winners, Nearly 80 Yachts Ready to Stir It Up at 43rd St. Thomas International Regatta

St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. Sleigh rides for some and slogs for others characterized racing in today’s first annual Round the Rocks Race, a 21-mile clockwise circumnavigation of the island of St. John and tune-up for the St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR), taking place March 25 to 27

“We had great racing, conditions were ideal and it was a good course around St. John,” says Boston, MA-based Stephen Cucchiaro, whose Gunboat 60, Flow, beat Rye, NY’s Robert Alexander’s, same make and length, Fault Tolerant, in the Large Multihull Class. “There was some really close racing between us going upwind on the north side, but they (Fault Tolerant) was able to maintain an edge over us. But, we had better boat speed downwind and were able to beat them in the end.” 

In the CSA Spinnaker Class, Norwalk, CT’s Steve Benjamin, wife Heidi and crew including Virgin Islands’ Olympic silver medalist and America’s Cup veteran, Peter Holmberg, ended first aboard Benjamin’s TP 52, Spookie. Spookie crossed the finish line a slim 13 minutes on corrected time ahead of second place finisher, Team Magnitude-El Ocaso, a J/122 chartered by Long Beach, CA’s Doug Baker. Team Island Water World, a Melges 32 with St. Maarten’s Frits Bus at the helm, followed just over 10 minutes later in third. 

“It’s nice to take part in something new and help the organizers out,” says Bus. “We would have done better, but Spookie was already headed downwind when a squall hit. We were going upwind at the time and it really slowed us down. Then the wind died after the squall. Still, it was a lot of fun.” 

Affinity, Marion, MA-based Jack Desmond’s Swan 48, finished first in the CSA Non-Spinnaker Class. 

Flow, Spookie and Affinity’s skippers were awarded limited edition timepieces created by Cardow Jewelers, headquartered in St. Thomas, U.S. VI since 1954. The Love City, named for the relaxed island of St. John, is a product of Swiss craftsmanship and Virgin Islands design. Entrants on all 10 Round the Rocks yachts received HIHO Suntek Shirts, from event sponsor, HIHO a British-Virgin Islands’-based clothing company. The HIHO owners will race in the Large Multihull and IC24 classes in STIR. In addition, the first 24 Round the Rocks entrants received a K3 Bluetooth Outdoor Speaker. 

STIR It Up! Class Preview 

Sixty-seven yachts – ranging from 16-foot beach cats to 60-foot gunboats and with crews hailing from five Caribbean island nations, the U.S., Canada, South America, Europe and Australia – will race in the 43rd STIR. The fleet is divided into eight classes, in which winning skippers received exquisite limited edition timepieces named Squall the Tradewinds, from Cardow Jeweler. 

Here’s a sampling of highlights to look for for in each class: 

Spookie’s Benjamin is looking to defend his win in the CSA 1 class. If the speed and crew work seen today at the Round the Rocks Race is any measure, Benjamin has an excellent shot at making it two in a row. Benjamin, who was named 2015 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year is sailing his ‘new’ Spookie, a TP 52, rather than the same-named yet Carkeek 40, yacht he sailed in last year’s STIR. 

Another yacht with a shot at a podium finish in this class is Antigua’s Bernie Evan-Wong, who helms his RP 37, TAZ. 

“TAZ is all carbon and rates with a 60-foot boat, so we have to get everything just right. Because of the need for precision in tuning, we are still learning the boat. Get it right and she is a rocket, get it a bit out and she is a dog!” says Evan-Wong, who is sailing with nearly an all women crew including his daughters. 

Tschuss, a brand new MAT 1180, designed by Mark Mills and built in Turkey by MAT yachts, is a first-time contender in this class and in STIR. 

“After competing in the last three St. Barth’s regattas and having chartered for the events, Christian (Zugal) commissioned the building of this new yacht for the 2016 Caribbean regatta season,” explains Eamonn Rohan, who is running the program for his Cork, Ireland-based brother-in-law, Chris Zugel. “We are entered into the St. Thomas, BVI and St Barth’s regattas and hope to return next year.” 

In CSA 2, St. Thomas’ Peter Corr will be back to defend his class title aboard a chartered King 40, Corr’s Lite Racing Team. Last year Corr and his team won aboard a chartered Beneteau First 40. 

“I raced the first two years that I did STIR on my 82-footer, Ayana. Then the last three years I’ve chartered, hoping to find a boat better adapted to sailing in the Caribbean regattas. We finished third in class in St. Maarten earlier this month, and I think it was a good tune up for us for STIR,” says Corr. 

A tough competitor for Corr in this class is Baker and his Team Magnitude-El Ocaso. 

“Our crew is from Southern California with a Tortola-based Tactician, Mark Plaxton. 

Last year we raced The True in St. Maarten for a win in our class with a sweep of all races. It’s the same crew that will compete in STIR this year,” says Baker. 

This is the fourth time Lancelot II, a Beneteau First 40 available for race charters by Britannia Corporate Events in Hamble, UK, has done STIR. On board this year is a team from the UK called Supercharged Yachting. “ 

Supercharged Yachting are a London based group of friends who have raced together for a number of years on Reflex 38s and First 40s,” says Britannia’s sales manager, Prue Nash. “Jade Tokarcyzk is in charge. They have a small knitted cat called ‘Travel Vlad’ as a mascot who even has his own Facebook page ‘Vlad TheImpaler’ and he’ll be sending photos from the race course.” 

In CSA 3, Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Lipuscek will be back aboard his J/105, Dark Star, to not only win this class, but also his weight in Cruzan Rum for best overall yacht on time. 

“In preparation for this year’s STIR, we will arrive having sailed in two big competitive regattas, the BRISA Cup in Fajardo, Puerto Rico and Heineken Regatta in St. Maarten. For sure this will help us be ready to face the competition at STIR. Also, the boat owner, Jonathan Lipuscek, has spared no expense in making sure the boat is race ready,” says tactician, Rafael ‘Rafi’ Martinez.” 

Dark Star will be up against long-time race favorite, Pipedream, a Sirena 38, skippered by the BVI’s Chris Haycraft. 

“I have sailed in every STIR. Not with Pipedream, as she is only 31 years old, but on other boats as well. Every year means a lot of very fun moments,” says Haycraft. 

In the Beach Cats, St. Thomas’ Teri McKenna, 2015 Hobie 20 North American Championship winner along with fellow St. Thomian, John Holmberg, will sail for the first time with Eric Witte. Witte, who last year sailed with wife Annie Gardner and won the class, will crew aboard McKenna’s Nacra 17 Olympic Catamaran, Flight Risk. 

“There is a lot of camaraderie among beach cat sailors. We help the newer sailors with rigging or go fast tips, we sail hard against each other, then hang out together afterwards. We set up camp at the far end of the beach next to our boats. Chairs. food, music, a shade canopy, and anything else we might want after a long day on the water,” says McKenna. 

The biggest class of STIR 2016 is 17 one-design IC24s. Puerto Rico’s Marco Teixidor is back at defending champ aboard his Cachondo. 

“Last year was a big win for me. Ever since my dad won the overall trophy in this regatta in 1999, I’ve wanted to win too. This year unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to sail in any of the regattas because I am studying in New York City for my MBA. The team has competed in some regattas to try and maintain form, with my dad skippering. Hopefully it will be enough to get our boat handling and speed up to par.” 

Finally, STIR 2016 welcomes two new one-design classes: the Gunboats and VX Ones. Flow and Fault Tolerant will have another chance to compete head-to-head again. Twelve VX One’s will be on the line in St. Thomas. This group will also race in the BVI Spring Regatta as part of the first-ever VX One Caribbean Cup Series. 

Where to Watch, Where to Party 

Friday’s course takes sailors along the south side of St. Thomas, into the Charlotte Amalie Harbor, and then back east. Best vantage points to watch on shore are the Waterfront Apron and Frenchman’s Reef Marriott Beach Resort between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Ashore, live music starts at the STYC at 2:30 p.m. by the Third String All Stars, with Cool Session Brass taking over the stage from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. 

The competition continues Saturday, March 26, off the northeast and southeast side of St. Thomas. Then, party like a sailor starting at 7 p.m. at Yacht Haven Grande with Spectrum Band. 

Racing concludes on Saturday, March 27, with the Awards Ceremony on the beach at STYC starting at 6:30 p.m. The Final Fling Party starts right after with Ah We Band. 

STIR 2016 is sponsored by Cruzan Rum and Presidente, distributed by Glazer’s Premier Distributors; the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism; the Moorings; Sunsail; Cardow Jewelers; Yacht Haven Grande; Choice Wireless; K3; AeroMD; Switlik; Gill; and Budget Marine.

Round the Rocks Race Provides Great Tune-Up for St. Thomas International Regatta

St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. A fleet of nearly a dozen yachts sets sail in the first-ever Round the Rocks Race on Thursday, March 24. This 21-mile counter clockwise circumnavigation of the beautiful island of St. John will give racers a good chance to tune-up crews and shake-down yachts, while experiencing great racing conditions that span both the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. It’s a perfect way to get ready for the main event ‘Crown Jewel of Caribbean Yacht Racing’ – the 43rd St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR), March 25 to 27

On Your Mark!

 “Having done the St. Maarten Heineken and St Barth’s races, the opportunity to race around an island in the Caribbean is sweet,” says Jack Desmond, from Marion, MA, who will sail his Swan 48, Affinity, in the Round the Rocks Regatta. “It’s a test of your navigational ability as well your ability to keep your boat sailing to its maximum potential. The crew is engaged in the race and the geographical beauty of the harbors and coves as we pass, well, it can’t get much better.” 

A sampling of other entries taking part in the Round the Rocks Regatta include Norwalk, CT’s Steve and Heidi Benjamin aboard their TP 52, Spookie; Long Beach, CA’s Doug Baker driving the J/122 Team Magnitude-El Ocaso; Antigua’s Bernie Wong at the helm of his RP37, TAZ and Puerto Rico’s Jose Teixidor’s Hanse 455, Cachondo in the CSA (Caribbean Sailing Association) Spinnaker Class. In addition to Desmond’s Affinity, St. Croix, USVI’s Tony Sanpere will sail his Catalina 30, Nauticayenne in the CSA Non-Spinnaker Class. Finally, the Large Multihull class sees two entries, Rye, NY’s Robert Alexander’s Gunboat 60, Fault Tolerant and Boston, MA’s Stephen Cucchiaro’s Gunboat 60, Flow

All Round the Rocks entrants receive HIHO Suntek Shirts, from event sponsor, HIHO a British-Virgin Islands’-based clothing company. These shirts are perfect for sailing, in that they are fast drying, ultra-lightweight and comfortable with an SPF 50. The HIHO owners will be racing in the Large Multihull and IC24 classes. In addition, the first 24 Round the Rocks entrants receive a K3 Bluetooth Outdoor Speaker. 

First place finishers in each of the three Round the Rocks Race classes receive a limited edition timepiece created by Cardow Jewelers, headquartered in St. Thomas, U.S. VI since 1954. The Love City, named for the relaxed island of St. John, is a product of Swiss craftsmanship and Virgin Islands design, which is water resistant, scratch resistant, shock resistant, with sapphire crystals, a working chronograph and stop watch. The watches also have date functions, luminous hands to help read at night or in the water, and a limited lifetime warranty. There will also be prizes for second and third place class finishers. 

The Round the Rocks Awards Ceremony takes place on the beach at the St. Thomas Yacht Club (STYC), starting at 7 p.m. Afterwards, the Welcome Party kicks off with Music by Dirty Johnny and the Whisky Pistol Band. 

Nearly 80 Boats STIR Up Excitement

 On Friday, March 25, nearly 80 yachts with crews representing five Caribbean island nations, the U.S., Europe, South America and Australia/New Zealand will set sail in STIR. 

“We have a great fleet of boats this year, including new one-design VX One and Gunboat classes,” says regatta registrar, Lyn Reid. 

Friday’s course takes sailors along the southside of St. Thomas, into the Charlotte Amalie Harbor, and then back east. Best vantage points to watch on shore are the Waterfront Apron and Frenchman’s Reef Marriott Beach Resort between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Ashore, live music starts at the STYC at 2:30 p.m. by the Third String All Stars, with Cool Session Brass taking over the stage from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. 

The competition continues Saturday, March 26, off the northeast and southeast side of St. Thomas. Then, party like a sailor starting at 7 p.m. at Yacht Haven Grande with Spectrum Band. 

Racing concludes on Saturday, March 27, with the Awards Ceremony on the beach at STYC starting at 6:30 p.m. The Final Fling Party starts right after with Ah We Band. Winners in each of the STIR Classes also receive limited edition ‘Island Watches’ by Cardow Jewelers.

Cruzan Rum and Presidente Beer Sponsor 2016 St. Thomas International Regatta, March 25-27, 2016

St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. Organizers of the St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR) are pleased to announce that Cruzan Rum and Presidente Beer, distributed by Glazer’s Premier Distributors, LLC, are the official beverages of the 2016 STIR Regatta. 

“We are very excited to partner for our second year with Cruzan Rum and Presidente Beer for STIR 2016. These products will surely enhance the overall atmosphere of our regatta, especially at our nightly parties with live bands at St. Thomas Yacht Club and big party at Yacht Haven Grande on Saturday March 26. We look forward to welcoming everyone to STIR – sailors and landlubbers, visitors and residents alike – for a great regatta, a Cruzan Rum drink and cold Presidente Beer,” says regatta director, Chuck Pessler.


presidentecruzanbeach2smallCruzan Rum, which is produced at its Estate Diamond distillery on St. Croix, was founded in 1760 and has been run by eight generations of the Nelthropp family albeit with changes in corporate ownership over the years. The company produces some 50 award-winning rum products in different flavors and ages. This year, Cruzan Blueberry Lemonade, the newest flavor to the Cruzan lineup, debuts at STIR. The smooth quality of Cruzan Rum with the sweet fruity flavors of blueberries and tangy tastes of lemon packs a punch of flavor in this rum. 

And the tradition continues! The skipper winning the regatta’s most competitive class as judged by a trio of race officials will receive his or her weight in Cruzan Rum. 

Presidente Beer, hailing from the neighboring Dominican Republic and recognized as the #1 beer of the Caribbean, is also proud to be a sponsor of STIR 2016. Owned and operated by Cerveceria Nacional Dominicana, Presidente Beer is a pale lager with a rich refreshing flavor. 

The entire Cruzan line of Cruzan Rum as well as light and dark Presidente Beer will be available at all of the STIR 2016 events. 

“Rum and sailors have gone together since the days when pirates marauded the Caribbean Sea. For over two hundred years, our locally distilled Cruzan Rum has been the grog of choice in the Virgin Islands and, now, around the world. Just as STIR has welcomed more and more sailors every year from the region and beyond, Presidente Beer, a favorite of our neighboring Dominican Republic, is also proud to be a sponsor of STIR 2016. After three days of salty competition out in the ocean, both Cruzan Rum and Presidente Beer are happy to be the refreshing beverage of choice on shore. We wish all the sailors best of luck for STIR 2016!” says Beth Aycock, senior marketing manager for Glazer’s Premier Distributors, one of the largest distributors of wine, spirits and malt beverage products in the U.S. and headquartered in Dallas, TX. 

YHG partySTIR, now in its forty-third year, is world-renown as the Crown Jewel of Caribbean yacht racing for its fantastic round-the-buoys and round-the-rocks racing, first-class race committee and friendly can-do attitude for the competitors. Over 80 entries from the Caribbean, U.S., Europe and Australia, including first-ever Gunboat and VX One classes as well as Grand Prix yachts and a fleet of over 20 one-design IC24s, are expected to compete in 2015. Crews are a combination of America’s Cup, Olympic and World Champion veterans as well as local Caribbean rock stars. STIR is welcoming a new event, the Round the Rocks Race, a circumnavigation of the beautiful neighboring island of St. John, on March 24.

Gunboat & VX One Classes Debut at 2016 St. Thomas International Regatta – Champion Sailors Set to Race

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Gunboat and VX One classes are first-ever additions to the St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR). Set for March 25 to 27 and hosted out of the St. Thomas Yacht Club, the 16 entries – 4 Gunboats and 12 VX Ones – are among a sleek fleet of 80-plus yachts registered to race. What’s more, these two classes add even more America’s Cup and World Champion talent to the Olympic and Caribbean rock star teams that have long made STIR the ‘Crown Jewel of Caribbean Sailing’. 

Gunboats – Talented Teams Gunning for Podium Honors 

This year STIR welcomes a large multihull class, in addition to its perennial beach cat class. It’s no coincidence that original Gunboat builder, maker of some of the fastest multis in the world and two-time (2013 and 2017) America’s Cup rule maker, Pete Melvin, will be racing aboard one of these boats – the Gunboat 60, Fault Tolerant.


“I am looking forward to sailing with old friends,” says Melvin, partner in Morelli & Melvin Design and Engineering, based in Huntington Beach, California. “The owners of Fault Tolerant, Rob and Libby Alexander, Andy Morrell, and I were all on the Boston University sailing team at the same time in the 1980s, so we will be embellishing stories about how great we were back then. I am also looking forward to sailing in the multihull fleet. The original Gunboats were designed by my company and it will be interesting to sail on Fault Tolerant and learn how she sails.”


Fault Tolerant will race against Phil Lotz’s Gunboat 60, Arethusa; Stephen Cucchiaro’sGunboat 60, Flow and Jason Carroll’s Gunboat 62, Elvis

“We have raced the St Thomas regatta several times, most recently on our Swan 42,Arethusa,” says Lotz, who was the Swan 42 National Champion in 2009 and 2010 and second place finisher in the multihull class in this year’s Quantum Key West Race Week. “We always enjoy the regatta and the course around the islands. This will be our first season racing the Gunboat so we are looking to learn.” 

This will also be the first season of Gunboat racing for the team aboard Flow.


Flow is a new boat to us as of last summer,” explains captain, Tony Teale. “We raced the New York Yacht Club’s Cruise to Maine and by the time we get to St. Thomas we will have competed in the St. Maarten Heineken regatta. Most of the crew are friends of Mr. Cucchiaro’s and have a long history of dinghy, keel boat and multihull racing. We are looking forward to competitive racing with a good fleet of Gunboats, including two identical boats.” 

VX One’s Vie for Caribbean Cup Title 

The VX One Class holds its first international event, the VX One Caribbean Cup, a two-leg series that starts with STIR and concludes at the BVI Spring Regatta. This exciting and fast-growing class is now sailed in 9 countries worldwide. 

One of the dozen 19-foot VX One’s competing in this one-design class is Australia’s Andrew York aboard his Australia Two

I look forward to sailing against my U.S. VX One friends in good breeze and open water,” says York, whose sailing credits include representing Australia in twelve World Championships in four different classes, competing in two America’s Cups and coaching at a national and Olympic level. York’s crew are fellow Aussies, the father and daughter team of Rob and Nicole Douglass. Together, the Douglass’s have won multiple Australia Tasar titles and two World Championships. Separately, Rob is a Spiral National Champ and Nicole has competed on Australia’s Women’s World Match Racing Team. 

One of the U.S. teams York will be testing his skills against is George Gamble aboard his VX One, My Sharona

“Beautiful clear warm water, great competition and a stiff breeze is what we’re looking forward to,” says Gamble, who won the J/111 World Championship and finished third at the VX One North American Championships last year. 

It’s a family affair for another U.S.-based VX One team on Commando. Helmsman Andy Walford, will be joined by crew of wife, Beth, and eldest son, Richard. 

“As club level sailors, we are looking forward to some warm water sailing in the brisk breezes of the Caribbean and a competitive regatta,” says Walford, who grew up dinghy sailing in the UK before moving to the U.S. in the late 1980’s where he sailed in the 505 Worlds in 2004 and Melges 24 Worlds in 2011. “The VX One is well suited to the conditions to provide a really exhilarating ride. Along with the shore activities, it’s going to be a great vacation.” 

Entries Grow for New Round the Rocks Race 

Six entries are already signed-up for the first-ever Round the Rocks Race. Set for March 24, the race, independent of STIR, features a point-to-point course around the island of St. John with separate scoring and a special prize-giving awards. There will be a large perpetual trophy for the fastest elapsed time and first through third trophies for each class. Three Gunboats – Arethusa,Fault Tolerant and Flow, as well as the TP52 Spookie, are among the entrants. 

“We purchased the TP 52, ex-Interlodge, in June,” says Steve Benjamin, who was named 2015 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, and who with wife Heidi raced their former Spookie, a Carkeek HP 40, in last year’s STIR where they won the CSA 1 Class. “So far we did two of the 52 Super Series events in 2015, the Copa del Rey Manfre and the Cascais Cup, and finished 8th in both. In January, we won the Lauderdale to Key West Race and finished second at Key West Race Week. We’re looking forward to as much racing in the Caribbean as possible and very excited about racing around St. John as we know it is a challenging venue with lots of shifts and strong winds. Peter Holmberg will be joining Heidi and I and we’re putting several of the veteran Spookie team back together with a few young guns!” 

Great Parties 

Beach BBQs and nightly parties with live bands will take place at St. Thomas Yacht Club Thursday March 24, Friday March 25 and Sunday March 27. The Awards Ceremony takes place Sunday March 27 starting at 6 p.m. on the beach in front of the Club. On Saturday March 26, there’s the STIR tradition: the Yacht Haven Grande Party with Spectrum Band on stage. Have dinner and enjoy the best of St. Thomas restaurants and bars nearby Yacht Haven Grande while detuning after a day of racing. 

Register Now! 

Register online now for the Round the Rocks Race and St. Thomas International Regatta at stthomasinternationalregatta.com. Both events promise challenging courses, professional race management and island-style hospitality. 

STIR 2016 is sponsored by Cruzan Rum and Presidente, distributed by Glazer’s Premier Distributors; and the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism. 

For more information, contact Regatta Director Chuck Pessler at (340) 642-3204 or Email stycisv@gmail.com. Check out STIR on Facebook (www.facebook.com/stirvi), Twitter @stycvi and Instagram #STIRSTT 

For hi-res photos, please follow links below:




New Round the Rocks Race – Great Way to Tune-Up for the 2016 St. Thomas International Regatta

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Register now for the first-ever Round the Rocks Race! It’s a great way to stir up the fun in advance of the 2016 St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR)! Set for March 24, this one-day event is independent of STIR and features its own point-to-point course around the island of St. John, separate scoring and special prize-giving. It’s a great way for teams to tune up in advance of the main event three-day STIR. 

New Round the Rocks Race“Sailors tell us they want more racing and we’re known for our professional race management. Put the two together it creates the perfect opportunity to offer a new one-day race. Those who don’t want to or can’t race aren’t penalized since scores in the Round the Rocks race don’t count toward the STIR. It’s just another way to sail in our beautiful U.S. Virgin Islands waters and have yet another way to win!” says regatta director, Chuck Pessler. 

Entries to date include a trio of Gunboat 60s. These are Phil Lotz’sArethusa, Robert Alexander’s Fault Tolerant and Stephen Cucchiaro’sFlow

The Round the Rocks Race is open to everyone. This includes CSA; IRC; HPR; Multihull; CSA Bareboat; CSA (unmeasured) for boats from the USVI, BVI and Puerto Rico; Beach Cats and One-Design classes with a minimum length of 20 feet. 

The Round the Rocks Race course is a circumnavigation of the 19-square mile island of St. John. It’s a route that offers a full range of exhilarating sailing challenges against the beautiful backdrop of an island that is two-thirds pristine national park. Crews will need to keep on their toes with frequent tacks along offshore cays, cross currents and wind shifts around the east end and slalom-like conditions in the downwind. Monohull and multihull, sport boat and ocean racer, spinnaker and non-spinnaker boats will all find something to suit. 

Register online now for the Round the Rocks Race at: www.yachtscoring.com/emenu.cfm?eID=1581

Register now too for STIR, set for March 25-27, 2016, if you haven’t already! Pay only US $250 up until January 31, 2016. Plus, on the last day of December and January, one entry each will be selected at random from among all entries to date to win customized long sleeved tech shirts for the entire crew. 

The 2016 STIR promises challenging courses, professional race management and island-style hospitality. 

STIR 2016 is sponsored by Cruzan Rum and Presidente, distributed by Glazer’s Premier Distributors; and the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism. 

For more information and questions, call Regatta Director Chuck Pessler at (340) 642-3204 or Emailstycisv@gmail.com. Check out STIR on Facebook (www.facebook.com/stirvi), Twitter @stycvi and Instagram #STIRVI

New Classes, New Race Set for St. Thomas International Regatta – March 25-27, 2016

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Gunboats and VX One boats are set to sail in first-ever classes at the St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR), set for March 25 to 27, 2016 and hosted by the St. Thomas Yacht Club. What’s more, organizers will also welcome entries into the ORC (Offshore Racing Club) handicap class, plus invite all sailors to tune-up in an all-new round the island race scheduled for March 24. This exceptional program of serious world class yacht racing continues to earn the STIR the status of ‘Crown Jewel of Caribbean Yacht Racing’. 

“We are excited to offer these new classes. It is a perfect fit with our philosophy of giving sailors what they want within the changing trends in global yacht racing. Closer to home, we’ll continue with last year’s introduction of a Non-Rated Cruising Class for boats from the U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The new one-day pre-STIR race gives visitors and locals alike a chance to tune-up as well as another way to win big,” says regatta director, Chuck Pessler.

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Robert Alexander of Rye, New York is one of the first to enter his Gunboat 60, Fault Tolerant, in 2016 STIR. Alexander has campaigned his sleek-sailing catamaran in several high profile events this summer, including Block Island Race Week where he finished second in the multihull class. 

Fault Tolerant is spending the winter in the Virgin Islands and competing in STIR 2016 is definitely on our calendar,” says Alexander. “We love the event’s mix of great racing and fun parties. And, of course, it’s perfect that our Gunboat friends are planning to join the racing!” 

Eleven VX Ones are currently registered to sail in the first VX One Caribbean Cup, of which STIR 2016 is the first leg, including Australia’s Michael James. 

“Being able to fly in from Australia and be part of the VX One’s debut in the regatta and meet up with other owners was just too good to miss out on. This regatta will be the biggest fleet of VX’s that I have sailed against and if the competition is as good as it is here in Australia it will take 100 percent concentration to be successful. Plus the parties look like they are going to be great fun,” says James, who placed second in the 2015 Australia Sports Boat Association Mid-Winters aboard his VX One, the Beast.

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Tim Pitts, vice president of the VX One Class Association and a native of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, anticipates a total of 18 of these swift three-man keel boats on the start line in March. 

“The VX One Caribbean Cup, which spans two of the Caribbean’s foremost regattas – the STIR and BVI Spring Regatta, is a huge step for the VX One Class. This series represents the class’ first-ever international event and it has drawn entries from the US, Australia and UK. These boats are perfectly suited to Caribbean racing. We look forward to hot racing and stiff competition as the group of entered VX One racers dance amid an international line-up,” says Nicklaus Fordham, series organizer. 

Register Now! No other regatta in the Caribbean offers so many classes and rating rules under which to compete. Teams are invited to enter in Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA); IRC; High Performance Rule (HPR); Multihull; CSA Bareboat; Non-Rater Cruising Class (PHRF-handicap); Beach Cats; and One-Design classes with a minimum length of 20 feet. 

The 2016 STIR promises challenging courses, professional race management and island-style hospitality. 

Discount for Early Registration! Entries received and paid for in full by 5 p.m. AST January 31, 2016 pay only US $250. The registration fee between February 1 and March 22, 2016 increases to US $400 for all boats, except US $250 for beach cats and US $300 for IC24s and Non-Rated Cruising Class boats. 

Register online at www.yachtscoring.com/emenu.cfm?eID=1502.  For more information and questions, call Regatta Director Chuck Pessler at(340) 642-3204 or Email stycisv@gmail.com. Check STIR out on Facebook (www.facebook.com/stirvi), Twitter @stycvi and Instagram #STIR2016


STIR 2016 in sponsored by Cruzan Rum and Presidente, distributed by Glazer’s Premier Distributors; and the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism.

Time for Prize-Giving at the 42nd St. Thomas International Regatta

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Some boats leapt into the lead while others strengthened their front-runner status on the third and final day of racing in the 42nd St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR), presented by TAG Heuer. The 62-boat fleet, boasting entrants from the Caribbean, USA and Europe, competed in eight classes on round-the-buoy and round-the-rock courses with 10 to 15 knots of breeze. By the end of the day, there was no doubt which class-winning skippers would take home the prestigious prize of a TAG Heuer Aquaracer Caribbean Limited Edition timepiece and what one lucky fleet winner would earn or her his weight in Cruzan Rum.

A tie-breaker decided the champion in the highly-competitive one-design Melges 32 class. In the end, it was Puerto Rico’s Sergio Sagramoso’s Lazy Dog that triumphed over fellow islander Luis Juarbe’s SOCA by earning the most first place finishes.

“We weren’t able to start the first race on Friday, so we thought we were out of the game. Then, we came back and won four races straight. We almost lost it at the end; we finished fourth in the last race due to a couple of mistakes. The scores were very tight the entire regatta. Racing was intense. Just like we like it,” Sagramoso explains.

Puerto Rico’s Jaime Torres driving his Smile and Wave rounded out third place in the Melges 24 Class.

A collision almost ended the hopes for a podium finish for California’s Annie Gardner and husband, Eric Whitte, who sailed their Hobie 16, Flight Risk, in the Beach Cat Class.

“We were blind-sided at the start of the fourth race on Saturday by one of our fellow competitors,” says Gardner, who has the scars on her patched hull to prove it. “Luckily, local boat builder Morgan Avery towed us back without us sinking. He stayed up all night fixing the boat so we could come back out and sail today.

Gardner’s Flight Risk finished first in the Beach Cat class. Island Sol, a Hobie 16, and Whiplash, a Falcon F-16 owned by St. Thomas’ Paul Stoeken and Teri McKenna, respectively, ended second and third.

The Virgin Islands-grown IC-24 class proved the largest, with 20 boats, and the most exciting. Puerto Rico’s Marco Teixidor, on his Cachondo, handily triumphed after losing first place last year in this class in the final race.

“It’s very challenging because there is no chance to throw-out a bad score,” Teixidor explains. “Our game plan was to sail as best as possible. That meant conservative starts followed by good boat handling and good boat speed.”

Puerto Rico’s Ramon Gonzalez earned runner-up aboard Sembrador, while St. Thomas’ Tyler Rice’s Bill T came in third.

The big boat CSA 1 class saw only two entries this year. This isn’t odd because many sailors internationally are moving to smaller-style sport boats. Spookie, a Carkeek HP 40 sailed by Connecticut’s Steve and Heidi Benjamin, earned the class win followed by Conviction, a TP 52 sailed by Clint Brooks from Barbados.

“After the second race today I told the crew I was really happy we came to race in St. Thomas for the first time. The sailing is fantastic and so were the conditions. Where else can you go swimming and paddle boarding after a day of racing,” says Benjamin.

In the CSA 2 Class, it was the Corr’s Light Racing team, headed by St. Thomas’ Peter Corr, which held its first place position from day one until the end. Corr chartered the Beneteau First 40, Southern Child, from Performance Yacht Charter, with headquarters in the UK and US.

“Our yachts are race ready,” says Lucy Reynolds, Performance Yacht Charter manager. “That means if you bring the right team, we’ll get you a podium finish. This weekend proved it.”

Dunder, the USA’s Rupert and Jan Thouron’s J/122 and El Ocaso, the USA’s Mitchell Padnos’ J/122, ended second and third, respectively.

Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Lipuscek’s J/105, Dark Star, won the CSA 3 Class. What’s more, Dark Star also won its skipper’s weight in Cruzan Rum.

“We have been working very hard as a team for the last six years and it has paid off,” says Chupi Bermudez, the mast man onboard.

The BVI-based Pipedream, a Sirena 38 owned and sailed by Chris Haycraft, ended second in the class the USVI’s Morgan Dale’s Melges 24, Boogaloo, third.

In the CSA Non-Spinnaker Class, the USVI’s Steve Schmidt triumphed aboard his Santa Cruz 70, Hotel California Too.

“I’ve won regattas on other Caribbean islands, but never on St. Thomas,” says Schmidt, who says it was the small class size combined with excellent St. Thomas- and St. Croix-based crew and equally advantageous weather conditions that lead to his boat’s win.

St. Croix’s Tony Sanpere aboard his Catalina 30, Nauticayenne, placed second and Connecticut’s Jeremi Jablonski’s Hanse 430e, Avanti, third.

Finally, St. Thomas’ Kevin Gregory won the Non-Rated Cruising Class aboard his Beneteau First 44.7, Odyssey.

“I raced this regatta in 2009 and then stopped sailing competitively. The addition of a cruising class, and the great time we had this weekend, has reignited my racing bug,” says Gregory.

St. Thomas’ Jamie Madsen aboard his IC-24, Dawn Treader, and fellow islander Brian Emerich’s Beneteau 40, Augura, finished second and third, respectively.

Something to Suit Everyone at the 42nd St. Thomas International Regatta

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Round-the-buoy and round-the-rock courses tested the talents of seasoned sailors and weekend warriors alike on the second day of racing in the 42nd St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR), presented by TAG Heuer. The 62 yacht fleet split onto two different courses that maximized the enjoyment for crews of varying skill levels as well as the performance of assorted yacht makes and models. The result was a whole lot of racing going on and a ton of fun.

The IC-24 and Beach Cat classes sailed around the buoys in Great Bay, which fronts the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas resort.

“The ICs were a tough class today with some really close competition,” says Michael Royer, a native of Peabody, Massachusetts, who moved to Puerto Rico three years ago, took up sailboat racing and is now getting his feet wet by competing on other islands. “This is the first time our crew has sailed together. So, we’ve been working the kinks out and should have it all figured out by the last day.”

Puerto Rico’s Cachondo, Sembrador and Porfin 7, respectively, are in first through third in the IC-24 class.


Puerto Rico’s Marco Teixidor’s Cachondo leads the IC-24 Class after two days of racing. Credit: Dean Barnes

Meanwhile, St. Thomas, USVI, sailors ranked at the top of the scoreboard in the Beach Cats. Flight Risk is first, followed by Island Sol and Whiplash.

The remaining six of the STIR’s eight classes sailed a course that wound around Great St. James to St. John and its offshore islands. This, combined with yesterday’s route to Charlotte Amalie and back, gave racers a chance to see the islands by sea as well as test themselves against the currents and wind patterns provided by rocks they rounded.

This type of course was perfect for entries such as Marcus Cholerton-Brown’s Sunset Child, a J/120 racing in the CSA 2 class that is owned and chartered by his US- and UK-based company, Performance Yacht Charter.

“Today was totally awesome. We have crew from the US, UK, Russia, Italy, Columbia and Portugal. Some have never raced before. Everyone gravitated to the position on the boat they were most comfortable with and it all worked out well,” says Cholerton-Brown, who is on the helm.

Corr’s Light Racing/Southern Child and El Ocaso, two other yachts chartered by Performance Yacht Charter, finished the day first and third, respectively, in CSA 2 followed by Dunder in second.


White Rhino, the USA Todd Stuart’s Swan 56, flies downwind under spinnaker. Credit: Dean Barnes.

In CSA 3, the BVI’s Chris Haycraft, who is on the helm of his Sirena 38, Pipedream, found himself the odd man out in the class.

“All of the courses today favored asymmetrical spinnaker boats and we were the only non-asymmetrical. It’s a tough class, but we had some great racing,” says Haycraft, whose family has sailed in the STIR all 42 years.

Dark Star, which won the CSA 3 in the past, is in first, followed by Boogaloo and Solstice.

The four-member crew aboard Tony Sanpere’s Catalina 30, Nauticayenne, boasted over 150 years of sailing experience. What’s more, this CSA Non-Spinnaker entrant represents the VI Disabled Sailing Team and has both physically- and visually-challenged crew.

“Our goal is Rio 2016,” says Sanpere. “If we get there, and there is an 80 percent chance we’ll make it, we’ll set a record for being the oldest Paralympic team in history.”

Nauticayenne is third in the class, with Hotel California Too first and Avanti second.

A new class to the STIR this year is Non-Rated Cruising.

“This class is an opportunity for non-racing competitive boats with no professional crew to get an introduction and be part of the racing,” says the USVI’s Brian Emerich, who is helming his Beneteau 40, Augura, and is currently in third. “The long race around the islands gave us a chance to get trimmed out and enjoy the sailing too.”

Odyssey leads the Non-Rated Cruising class followed by Dawn Treader.

One of the winningest sailors in the Caribbean, Antigua’s Bernie Evan-Wong, sailed from Antigua to race in the STIR and is in the CSA 2 class.

“We had a good day, but we weren’t able to get the boat sailing up to its handicap,” says Evan-Wong, whose TAZ is a high-performance Reichel-Pugh 37. “Even so, what I liked best was a mix of round-the-buoy and round-the-island racing that this regatta offers. It’s the best of both worlds.”

In the remaining two classes, Spookie leads CSA 1, while Lazy Dog has taken over the frontrunner position in the one-design Melges 32 Class.


Puerto Rico’s Sergio Sagramoso’s Melges 32 leads this one-design class. Credit: Dean Barnes.

Racing continues and concludes on Sunday. Music by Full Circle greets the fleet from 2:30-5:30 p.m. The Regatta Awards Ceremony starts at 6 p.m. on the STYC beach, followed by the Final Fling Party with Spectrum Band playing from 7-11 p.m.