Wind was the Word on the First Day of Racing in the St. Thomas International Regatta

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 at the 44th St. Thomas International Regatta. 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 certainly tricky sailing,” says Martin van Breems, president of the Sound Sailing Center in Norwalk, CT, whose race-chartered VAr 37, Varuna, crewed by Center members finished the two-race day first in the CSA Non-Spinnaker Class. “We had 10 crew onboard. So, on the downwind leg when it was so light, I had them all up on the bow to keep the stern out and the boat moving. Then, upwind, when the wind picked up, they all rode the rail all the way back.

Competitors in the Large Offshore Multihull Class especially reveled in the afternoon 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 fact, we were able to fly a hull to the finish and that’s what Gunboats like to do,” says Amy Drinker, of Marblehead, MA, who worked the pit with pit boss, Cam Lewis, on the Gunboat 60, Flow, last year’s class winner. Lewis is a well-respected multihull sailor who back in the 80’s broke the mythical Jules Verne 80-day world navigation by less than a day on an 86-foot catamaran and as a result earned the coveted Rolex Sailor of the Year award.

This year’s first-ever one-design C&C 30 class really appreciated both the conditions and the courses.

“I used to cruise down here and am pretty familiar with the islands,” says Walt Thirion, of Annapolis, MD, who owns two boats racing: Nemesis and Themis. “That helped us today as we were able to cut a big chunk of time off the upwind leg by knowing we could cut in closer to certain islands than some other boats in the class without this local knowledge.”

Thirion’s co-owner of the boats, Geoff Ewenson, a former Olympic Finn sailor from Annapolis, MD, vows to grow the C&C class at STIR.

“We plan to have at least 8 boats down here next year,” says Ewenson.

Touch2Play, Canada’s Rob Butler’s J/88, topped the CSA Spinnaker 2 Class.

“It was almost like two separate races today with the wind conditions,” says crew Jeff Johnstone, whose father founded well-known J-boat builder, J Boats USA, headquartered in Newport, RI. “Rig setting are really important in light wind. Trim and drive is everything in big breeze.”

The one-design IC24 is the largest class of the regatta. It’s a design that starts with an old unused J/24 hull.

“We had talked with the original designers of the IC24 here in St. Thomas about doing something like this in our factory, but we have such a loyal J/24 following. However, I’m all for repurposing a boat with a cockpit that is age friendly. The missing in junior sailing programs is keelboat experience,” says Johnstone.

Dave Franzel, head of the new St. Thomas Sailing Center, took an early lead in the IC24 class aboard Bill T. Meanwhile, Team Island Water World with St. Maarten’s Frits Bus at the helm, landed fourth on the classes’ scoreboard.

“It was very competitive and very difficult. We did reasonably well in light air and dropped back in heavy air. While we stayed in contention the whole time, I personally think we still have to find our groove. After all, I haven’t sailed IC24s for two years,” says Bus.

Perhaps the best sailing story of the day was of how Chris Hutton’s bucket list trip to St. Thomas for his 40th birthday proved to be extra special. The Canadians resident’s wife arranged the trip and Hutton was thrilled to get out on the water as a volunteer on one of the mark boats. Little did he know he’d get to go sailing himself when he jumped in the water to help right a Hobie 16 that got slammed by the headwinds and rollers right outside the harbor.

“I’ve always wanted to be a part of the regatta and little did I know I’d have the opportunity to literally jump right in,” says Hutton.

STIR sailors also enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity today when the fleet proudly flew the U.S. Virgin Islands flag and paraded past the waterfront between races in commemoration of the territory’s Transfer Centennial. The U.S. purchased the Virgin Islands from Denmark on March 31, 1917.

New this year, STIR introduces its daily Beach Party, with beach games, water toys and DJ music, between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m on Thursday through Sunday.

Blitz, Hotel California Too & Fujin Class Winners in Round the Rocks Race St. Thomas International Regatta Kicks-off Friday

Twenty-three boats took their start this morning on a 21-nautical mile course that circumnavigated the U.S. Virgin Island of St. John counter clockwise in the Round the Rocks Race. This one-day warm-up for the main event St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR), March 24-26, 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 course.

“I enjoy any time we’re racing and to win is all the better,” says St. Thomas’ Peter Corr, whose team aboard his King 40, Blitz, finished first in the CSA Spinnaker Racing Class. “We started off across Pillsbury Sound, 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 we got to Coral Bay. After that, we 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. We have a lot of experience on the team and it works in our favor.”

El Ocaso, a J/122, which race charters under Caribbean Yacht Racing based in the British Virgin Islands, finished second class, while TAZ, Antigua’s Bernie Evan-Wong’s RP 37, ended third.

“It was a really good race for us today. There were good conditions and we were able to get in the right place at the right time with the currents,” says Evan-Wong, who has finished 9th out of 41 boats in February’s RORC Caribbean 600 and a third place podium finish earlier this month at the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta.

The team aboard the C&C 30, Don’t Panic, didn’t panic at all about not besting the class today.

“We really looked at this as a tune-up for us,” says navigator, John Bonds, Jr., from San Francisco, CA. “The C&C class is growing quickly and very fun. It’s something that we’ve tried to figure out is a big little boat or a little big boat and I think it’s the former. It handles like a bigger keel boat than a larger dinghy, with a nice smooth transition to a plane and then keeps on accelerating.”

Newport, RI’s Charlie Enright served as Don’t Panic’s tactician.

“We usually race windward-leewards so it was nice to have the reaches today,” says Enright, who on Wednesday was announced as a member of the U.S. team for the 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race.

in CSA Non-Spinnaker Racing, it was St. Thomas’ Steve Schmidt driving his Santa Cruz 70, Hotel California Too, that topped the scoreboard. Schmidt, who had planned to spend the day working on his boat in preparation for STIR, decided to sail the Round the Rocks Race at the encouragement of crew member, Tony Sanpere of St. Croix.

“For a last-minute pick-up crew, with experience that ranged from first time on a boat to very experienced, they all did a wonderful job. Because of that, it was very fun for me,” says Schmidt.

Five large offshore multihulls reveled in the breeze and long reaches that the Round the Rocks Race presented. In the end, it was Fujin, a Bieker 53 owned and helmed by Greg Slyngstad of Sammamish, WA, that won based on the new Multi Rule handicap the class is working to perfect.

“Our first race after launching the boat last year was the Heineken Regatta in St. Maarten. Then, we raced the boat up in Newport and along the East Coast last summer. This year, we raced St. Maarten again and won the class. I’ve never sailed off St. Thomas before and we were glad to do well again today,” says Slyngstad.

Fujin was built by Gold Coast Yachts on St. Croix.

“One of the advantages is that the boat is really light – 13,000 pounds for a boat that big is pretty incredible. That’s just one reason is goes so fast,” says Gold Coast’s Roger Hatfield, who sailed with the Fujin team today.

St. Thomas International Regatta’s Tradition of Time continues with Cardow Jewelers Sponsorship

St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. Timing means everything in yacht racing. Therefore, organizers of the Round the Rocks Race, set for March 23, and the St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR), March 24 to 26, are proud to welcome Cardow Jewelers aboard as sponsor of the precision timepieces that will be awarded to class winners. 

“The time-honored history of the world’s great regattas has long been associated with the world of luxury, particularly timepieces. As one of the original watchmakers of the Caribbean, we at Cardow Jewelers find it a natural fit to sponsor the St. Thomas International Regatta with Cardow Island Watches as prizes. These unique timepieces and the long sailing tradition in St. Thomas embody both the Virgin Islands’ unique creativity, diversity and craftsmanship,” says Cardow’s Carolina de Lyrot. 

The limited-edition timepieces to be awarded as highly-coveted class-winner prizes are from Cardow’s Executive Collection. Three are versions from the Swiss Optima Series: Automatics. These feature the main Virgin Islands – St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, with a Swiss engineered tungsten metal body where the 21 jewel automatic movement sparkles with rubies and sapphires. An additional three styles hail from the Swiss Turbo Series, also feature the trio of Virgin Islands and are highlighted by a tungsten metal with ceramic bracelet and Swiss-crafted movement. 

Cardow Jewelers, which is located on Main Street in Charlotte Amalie, is the longest singly owned family jewelery business in the Caribbean and best known as the Flagship Jeweler of the Virgin Islands. Cardow Jewelers is uniquely qualified as being a local retailer, jewelery creator and watchmaker—bringing the exclusive world of luxury to St. Thomas since 1954.  

“The St. Thomas International Regatta has long been known as the ‘Crown Jewel of Caribbean Yacht Racing’ and defined by its tradition of time. We are very pleased to continue this custom with acclaimed Cardow Jewelers as our sponsor and hope that the Virgin Islands theme to these timepieces will remind our winners to come back to race next year and bring their friends,” says regatta director, Chuck Pessler. 

The St. Thomas International Regatta, now in its forty-fourth year, is a world-class event renowned for its fantastic round the buoys and round the islands racing, first-class race committee, superb shoreside festivities and friendly can-do attitude towards its competitors. Over 60 entries, including a sleek fleet of offshore catamarans, plus one-design C&C 30’s and home-grown IC24s are expected in 2017. Additionally, the second annual Round the Rocks Race, a circumnavigation of the neighboring island of St. John will take place March 23.

Yacht Haven Grande Hosts Party for 2017 St. Thomas International Regatta, Ideal Dockage Location for Grand Prix Race Yachts

St. Thomas, USVI. Yacht Haven Grande, named the Superyacht Marina of the Year in 2016, will provide sponsorship support to the 2017 St. Thomas International Regatta, organizers are delighted to announce. The St. Thomas International Regatta, set forMarch 24 to 26, will host its annual much-anticipated ‘Party Like a Sailor’ celebration on March 25 at Yacht Haven Grande, an ideal base for Grand Prix race programs.


Photo: Yacht Haven Grande, St. Thomas, from the water. Credit: Courtesy YHG.


“Yacht Haven Grade endeavours to promote all marine recreation and conservation activities in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” explains general manager, Mike Revier. “The St. Thomas Yacht Club is among the many local organizations who continually exhibit dedication to both the natural and community resources of St. Thomas, and so we support them however possible. Additionally, we believe sailing regattas are under-discovered spectator sports and we want to help expose the local and international community to these exiting marine events.”


Yacht Haven Grande is one of a network of 13 marinas operating in seven countries that are managed by the Fort Lauderdale, Florida-headquartered IGY Marinas. The marina complex is unique in the region for its ability to support vessels with drafts more than 16-feet (5 meters) and beams in excess of 65-feet (20 meters), while also providing ample space for rigging and other logistical activities, all within minutes of a major shipping terminal. Additionally, Yacht Haven Grande partners with several high caliber vendors and service providers and offers fantastic social opportunities only steps from the docks.


“All social and dinning events at Yacht Haven Grande are special because we have the most beautiful and luxurious public access property in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The St. Thomas International Regatta party is especially exciting because of the energy buzzing through the crowd as the regatta culminates in this beautiful setting after days of hard racing and competition,” says Revier.


There are several superb social opportunities only steps from the Yacht Haven Grande docks. Marina guests have exclusive access to all the property’s hospitality facilities, including a private gym, pool and sports courts. There is also free Wi-Fi and lounge areas for vessel crew, as well as multiple dinning and shopping options on property. Furthermore, Yacht Haven Grande’s staff of marine professionals can understand and facilitate any special requests typical of grand prix yachts, drawling upon local and on-site resources as needed.


Photo: St. Thomas International Regatta ‘Party Like a Sailor’ party at Yacht Haven Grande. Credit: Dean Barnes


We are delighted to once again welcome Yacht Haven Grande aboard as a sponsor of the St. Thomas International Regatta. This much-appreciated backing provides us with a trio of excellent opportunities. First, the chance to show our visiting sailors more of our beautiful island. Secondly, a central spot to easily host our local residents to share in the fun, and thirdly, an opportunity for sailors to see the marina’s facilities to support Grand Prix race programs.”


The St. Thomas International Regatta, now in its forty-fourth year, is a world-class event renowned for its fantastic round the buoys and round the islands racing, first-class race committee and friendly can-do attitude towards its competitors. Over 80 entries, including a sleek fleet of offshore catamarans, plus one-design C&C 30’s and home-grown IC24s are expected in 2017. Additionally, the second annual Round the Rocks Race, a circumnavigation of the neighboring island of St. John will take placeMarch 23.

The K3 Company Signs on as Sponsor of 2017 St. Thomas International Regatta

St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. High-quality outdoor marine gear is essential to all sailors, from weekend warriors to professional race teams. Therefore, organizers of the St. Thomas International Regatta are delighted to announce that The K3 Company, a global manufacturer and distributor of premium outdoor gear and accessories, will provide major sponsorship in support of the 2017 regatta.  

“Sponsorship allows us to give back to those who have supported us while at the same time embracing the sport, competitiveness and a love for what we do,” says managing partner, Lisa Keogh, who grew up sailing and racing catamarans. Keogh launched the K3 Company in 2009 after a successful career in the Consumer Electronics Industry and now distributes K3 branded products in over 43 countries encompassing the sailing, marine, surf, dive, resort and boutique industries. “We have quickly become a global leader within the outdoor/waterproof gear arena and continue to work feverishly to meet customer demand for premium product and leading edge designs.” 

The K3 Company will support the 2017 St. Thomas International Regatta by supplying three products, which will be offered and awarded to registered sailors. These are:


            ● PRO-TECH 10 and 20 Liter Dry Bag Backpack. A hybrid between a dry bag and backpack unlike anything else on the market today. It floats! Ventilated harness, O-rings, mesh pockets and shock cords are just a few of the key components.


            ● K3 Tango Sport In-Ear Headphones. Designed and developed by the same factory that manufacturers brands such as JBL, Jaybird, Monster and more. IPX4 sweat-proof and moisture proof. Allows wearers to stay connected for up to 5 hours and conquer the elements at the same time.


            ● Excursion Duffle Backpack Bags. The ultimate in travel. Contains internal wet/dry pack, interior mesh pockets, heavy duty base, ID Card, lockable zippers, quick release alpine backpack straps, twin haul handles, optional shoulder strap and more.  Four carry options to meet all needs for work and/or play. 

PRO-Tech 20-liter Dry Bag Backpacks will be provided in skipper’s bags at registration. K3 Tango Sport In-Ear Headphones will be awarded to class winners as prizes in both the Round the Rocks Race as well as main-event St. Thomas International Regatta, while the duffle backpack will be presented exclusively as prizes to regatta class winners. 

“We are proud and pleased to have the K3 Company onboard as a major sponsor for the St. Thomas International Regatta. There is already quite a buzz growing among sailors who look forward to these premium watersports products as part of their participation in STIR. We encourage sailors who have not yet registered for our regatta to do so now and not miss a chance to win these incredible products. After all, they can be used throughout the year as well as serve as a reminder of our event and to come back to race again next year.” 

The St. Thomas International Regatta, now in its forty-fourth year, is a world-class event renowned for its fantastic round the buoys and round the islands racing, first-class race committee and friendly can-do attitude towards its competitors. Over 80 entries, including a sleek fleet of offshore catamarans, plus one-design C&C 30’s and home-grown IC24s are expected in 2017. Additionally, the second annual Round the Rocks Race, a circumnavigation of the neighboring island of St. John will take place March 23.

Cruzan Rum and Miller Lite Sponsor 2017 St. Thomas International Regatta

St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. Organizers of the St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR) are proud to announce that Cruzan Rum and Miller Lite beer, distributed by Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits, LLC, will provide major sponsorship in support of the 2017 regatta.

southern-glazers“Referred to as the ‘Crown Jewel of the Caribbean Regattas’, Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits (formally Glazer’s Premier Distributors, LLC) is honored to, once again, be a part of the St. Thomas International Regatta,” says John Sopsic, vice president. “Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits has chosen to feature Cruzan Rum and Miller Lite as the official sponsors of the 2017 STIR. These global brands, along with our other select premium products, will be exclusively at all Regatta bars for the duration of the event and will surely enhance the overall atmosphere of the Regatta including the nightly parties at the St. Thomas Yacht Club and the ‘big party’ at Yacht Haven Grande. We look forward to providing the refreshing beverages of choice on shore to all sailors, landlubbers, visitors and residents alike.”

cruzanCruzan 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 meticulously crafts some 50 award-winning rum products in different flavors and ages. A signature feature of STIR is that the skipper winning the regatta’s most competitive class as judged by a trio of race officials receives his or her weight in Cruzan Rum.

miller-liteMiller Lite, the Original Light Beer produced by the Miller Brewing Co., in Milwaukee, WI, is produced using a special 21-day triple hops recipe. The recipe uses a unique blend of choice Saaz and Pacific Northwest hops, caramel malt and strain of the original brewer’s yeast that Frederick Miller brought from Germany in the 1850’s. Thus, Miller Lite delivers more golden color, hops, aroma and satisfying taste than expected in a 96-calorie per serving lite beer.

“We are excited to welcome Cruzan Rum and Miller Lite beer onboard as sponsors for the 2017 St. Thomas International Regatta,” says regatta director, Chuck Pessler. “It’s important to bring the right products to our regatta to enhance the overall atmosphere and enjoyment for our sailors, their families and friends, and I believe we have accomplished this in our partnership with Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits. We look forward to welcoming everyone to the St. Thomas Yacht Club in March for a great regatta, a rum drink and a cold beer all can really enjoy,” says regatta director, Chuck Pessler.

The St. Thomas International Regatta, now in its forty-fourth year, is a world-class event renowned for its fantastic round the buoys and round the islands racing, first-class race committee and friendly can-do attitude towards its competitors. Over 80 entries, including a sleek fleet of offshore catamarans, plus one-design Melges 20s, C&C 30’s and home-grown IC24s are expected in 2017. Additionally, the second annual Round the Rocks Race, a circumnavigation of the neighboring island of St. John will take place March 23.

Take advantage of a discount for Early Registration for STIR! Entries received and paid for in full by 5 p.m. AST January 31, 2017 pay only US $250. The registration fee between February 1 and March 21, 2017 increases to US $400 for all boats, except US $250 for beach cats and US $300 for IC24s and Non-Rated Cruising Class boats.

Offshore Multihull & One-Design Classes Star in St. Thomas International Regatta

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. A large offshore multihull fleet and entries for at least two one-design classes are already registered for the St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR), set for March 24 to 28, 2017 and hosted by the St. Thomas Yacht Club. What’s more, there is an opportunity to participate in CSA (Caribbean Sailing Association); IRC; Multihull; CSA Bareboat; Beach Cat; and One Design classes with a minimum length of 20 feet, making STIR the most user-friendly sailing competition in the Caribbean. That’s not all! The great STIR tune-up, the Round the Rocks Race, will take place again on March 23 and features a circumnavigation of neighboring St. John, home of the Virgin Islands National Park. This exceptional program of world-class yacht racing continues to earn STIR the status of ‘Crown Jewel of Caribbean Yacht Racing’.

“Our inter-island race venue here in the U.S. Virgin Islands is the perfect platform to launch a large number of diverse classes,” says regatta director, Chuck Pessler. “This is the invitation we’d like to offer to sailors around the world for 2017, whether you prefer one hull or two, racing or cruising or just watching and enjoying our lively shoreside beach party scene.”

New for 2017 – Multihulls & Melges

Last year’s regatta welcomed its first Gunboat Class. Building on STIR’s reputation as ‘where the big cats roam’, the 2017 event welcomes a larger and more diverse fleet of offshore multihulls. Returning will be Fault Tolerant, a Gunboat 60 owned by Robert and Libby Alexander of Rye, New York, USA. New Canaan, Connecticut, USA’s Jim Vos, has entered his new HH 66, Bambi, while Greg Slyngstad, from Sammamish, Washington, USA, is set to sail his Bieker 53, Fujin.

“Fujin is a relatively new boat. She was built in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, by Gold Coast Yachts and completed in August of last year. We’ve raced St. Maarten (3rd place), Les Voiles (3rd place), Newport Race Week (2nd place) and the Vineyard Race (1st to finish, 2nd corrected). We are moving the boat back to the Caribbean this fall/winter and were drawn to the St. Thomas race due to the other multihulls that are entered. It will be my first time racing in this regatta,” says Slyngstad, who has sailed competitively for 20-plus years and previously owned Hamachi, a J/125 in which he raced to Hawaii twice, finishing first in class in both the 2014 Pac Cup and 2015 Transpac, as well as won his class in the 2015 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta.

Fujin’s crew for STIR 2017 hails mostly from Seattle, Washington, USA, and will include Jonathan McKee, who won gold and bronze medals in the Flying Dutchman and 49er classes, respectively, in the 1984 and 2000 Summer Olympics. Fritz Lanzinger, named Sailor of the Year at Seattle’s Corinthian Yacht Club in 2014 and accomplished Canadian sailor, Andrew McCorquodale, will also crew aboard Fujin.

On the heels of hosting nine Melges 32s in a one-design class in 2013, STIR will welcome nearly a dozen Melges 20’s in 2017. One of these owners is Jim Wilson, of Rye, New York, USA, who will be sailing his Melges 20, Oleander.

“A good friend encouraged me to race this regatta for a couple of years and others have spoken well of the event too,” says Wilson, who favors one-design sailing and has competed in the Melges 20, primarily the winter series in South Florida, for the past four years. “For the last year or so I have been sailing with Jeremy Wilmot from Australia as tactician and others forward, most recently, Luke Lawrence or my two daughters. Probably our best result is 5th place in the 2015 Melges 20 Worlds in San Francisco, but Oleander has also placed top 5 in the winter series a couple of times.”

The U.S. Virgin Islands’ home-grown, highly-competitive one-design IC24 class is shaping up well with three entries to date: Puerto Rico’s Ramon Gonzalez’ Sembrador and Jaime Torres Smile and Wave and St. Maarten’s Fritz Bus aboard Island Water World.

Logistics Made Easy

All routes lead to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

By air, American Airlines (New York, Boston, Miami, San Juan), Delta Air Lines (Atlanta), jetBlue (Boston connecting through San Juan) Spirit (Fort Lauderdale), United (Chicago, Washington DC/Dulles, Newark) and US Airways (Charlotte, Philadelphia) offer direct flights from major U.S. cities. There are also direct flights from Europe once weekly, on Fridays, between Copenhagen and St. Croix, on Norwegian Air. Local airlines, Cape Air and Seaborne, offer several daily flights between St. Croix and St. Thomas. Danes may especially be interested in visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2017 as the territory commemorates its centennial or 100-year anniversary of the U.S.’s purchase of the islands from Denmark on March 31, 1917.

By sea, no cruising permit is needed to sail in U.S. Virgin Islands’ waters. Visas may be required depending on citizenship. Plus, the port in St. Thomas is served by regularly scheduled visits by yacht transport carriers such as DYT Yacht Transport. St. Thomas has a full-service logistics operation for Grand Prix race boats in Caribbean Racing Logistics, run by yacht club member Ben Beer, who has the ability to handle even the hall out and storage of large deep draft race boats ( or 340-998-6203).

On shore, Island Way Services ( or 340-244-8457), can assist with everything from accommodations to rental vehicles and more. In addition, the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism website offers a wealth of information:

Register Now!

Register online now for the Round the Rocks Race and STIR Both events promise challenging courses, professional race management and island-style hospitality.

Take advantage of a discount for Early Registration for STIR! Entries received and paid for in full by 5 p.m. AST January 31, 2017 pay only US $250. The registration fee between February 1 and March 21, 2017 increases to US $400 for all boats, except US $250 for beach cats and US $300 for IC24s and Non-Rated Cruising Class boats.

The NOR is available at For more information, contact Regatta Director Chuck Pessler at (340) 642-3204 or Email: Check STIR out on Facebook (, Twitter @stycvi and Instagram #STIRVI

Time for Winners at the 43rd St. Thomas International Regatta

Wind was the word at the 43rd St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR). Lots of it, in fact. Gusts blustered over 30 knots all three days with 6 to 8 foot seas. Combine these conditions with courses that offered a mix of round-the-buoy and round-the-island racing and it was a recipe that many racers on the 67 entered yachts relished. 

Chief among these happy sailors was 2015 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, Steve Benjamin. Benjamin’s TP 52, Spookie, not only won the tune-up Round the Rocks Race on Thursday, but didn’t break from his bullet-only streak in the CSA (Caribbean Sailing Association) Spinnaker Racing 1 Class during the three days of STIR. 

“The second race today in north Pillsbury Sound was extraordinary,” says Benjamin, from Norwalk, CT. “It was a challenge for the crew in the strong winds, shifts, waves and currents that thoroughly tested us all. Overall, we had a marvelous experience and highly recommend this regatta to everyone.” 

In CSA Spinnaker Racing 2, it was Long Beach, CA’s Doug Baker’s team on the chartered J/122, Team Magnitude-El Ocaso, that bested the class with flawless first place finishes. 

“The big breeze was definitely challenging. It made boat handling and crew work really important,” says helmsman, Chadwick ‘Chad’ Hough, who sailed with Baker and his all-California crew. “What we really liked was that every race was on a new course. That meant it didn’t get boring because we constantly had to figure out the currents and the wind shifts.” 

Two boats were tied on points going into the final day of racing in the CSA Spinnaker Racing 3 Class. In the end, Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Lipuscek and his crew on the J/105, Dark Star took first by five points over St. Thomas’ Lawrence Aqui aboard the Dufour 40, Wild T’ing. 

“This is two class wins in a row for us and a fourth time total,” says Rafael ‘Rafi’ Martinez, Dark Star’s tactician. “We had a tacking duel with Wild T’ing at the start on the last race. We knew we had to keep them behind us and we did by good boat handling. It was a blast to go 14 to 15 knots. Definitely a wild wet ride.” 

In the CSA Non-Spinnaker Class, Jack Desmond’s affinity for winning clearly showed. Desmond, based in Marion, MA, won the class aboard his Swan 48, Affinity, after close racing with Puerto Rico’s Claudia Nicolow on the Swan 53, Bella Vela. 

“We’ve finished second 7 or 8 times in this regatta. This morning, we had a team meeting and decided we were really going to put the skill and knowledge of our eclectic crew from all over the Caribbean and world to good use. That’s how we won,” says Desmond. 

The home-grown one-design IC24 class was the largest of the regatta. The craft’s creator, St. Thomas’ Chris Rosenberg’s aboard his Bill T drove a highly competitive route to the top of the scoreboard. 

“It took a lot of effect to win with the high-caliber of sailors in this class,” says Rosenberg, who revealed his most incredible STIR moment was surfing the first day downwind to the Charlotte Amalie harbor on an all-out plane aboard this modified J/24. 

Two of eight beach cats braved the regatta’s big winds. In the end, it was California’s Olympic and America’s Cup sailor, Annie Gardner, and husband Eric Witte who won onboard the Nacra 17, Flight Risk.

This year marked the first STIR welcomed two new classes. Gunboats and VX Ones. 

Stephen Cucchiaro’s Flow, a Gunboat 60, started out slow on the scoreboard when a breakdown caused the team not to finish the first race to the Charlotte Amalie harbor nor start the second back to the host St. Thomas Yacht Club in Cowpet Bay on the first day. The Flow team came back to win every race thereafter as well as the Gunboat Class. 

“The last beat to windward today on the north side of St. John we were flying over the flat water in 22 knots of breeze. It was pretty incredible. Other than that, we were pushing it pretty hard in the big winds this weekend and punching through the waves. Definitely fun,” says veteran international multihull sailor, Cam Lewis, a member of the San Diego Yacht Club who crewed for the Boston, MA-based Cucchiaro. 

It was a test of the class rules in the VX One Class. Class rules for regattas call for no starts when the median wind speed exceeds 22 knots. Class vice-president, St. Croix native and owner of the first place Cruzan Rhode, Tim Pitts, called for an increase in that limit to 27 knots. As a result, the class raced all three days. 

“We’re maturing as a class and although anything over 25 knots is challenging, the skill level is there to handle it,” says Pitts, who now lives in Newport, RI, and his responsible bringing the VX One Class to the Virgin Islands. “On the other hand, it’s kind of ironic to invite your friends down and beat them in your own backyard. Still, although I’ve been on several STIR winning boats, this is the first time it was my boat that won. That’s pretty sweet.” 

Trevor Davis, a 13-year-old junior sailor from Annapolis, MD, was one person who didn’t mind the baptism by fire that saw many in the VX One class experience broches and capsizes. 

“The first race we shot off the start line like a rocket and clocked 19.4 knots,” says the eighth-grader, who sails Optimist and 420 dinghies as well as bigger boats in regattas he visits with his well-known father, Dobbs Davis, the U.S. Correspondent for Seahorse Magazine. “I wouldn’t say it was scary in the high winds, except in the last race where a competitors’ sprit ripped off two of our shrouds, but it was definitely a really fun boat.” 

Class winners received limited edition Island timepieces from Cardow Jewelers. In addition, Spookie achieved the fastest elapsed time and with it a skipper’s member’s weight in Cruzan Rum.

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.