The St. Thomas International Regatta weekend in the U.S. Virgin Islands is a high point for many yachtsmen and yachtswoman from around the world. Known as the “Crown Jewel of the Caribbean” it represents an opportunity to shake off the winter dust in preparation for a hard summer’s racing.

For others, it is a chance to mix sailing and racing with a family vacation in one of the Caribbean’s favorite locations. Whatever the reason, once experienced, the St. Thomas International Regatta becomes an annual mark on the calendar. The warm clear waters, beautiful surroundings and excellent competition draw you back year after year.

A Historical Perspective

stycThe first St. Thomas International Regatta, in 1974, was the fulfillment of a vision of Lee Kelbert of Little Switzerland, Joel Byerly, Walter Fischer and Dick Avery. Lee had successfully raced Reve (ex-Caviar) in the Caribbean and felt that St. Thomas was the place to compete with top sailors in the world’s finest racing conditions. However, first he had to prove himself against the racing sailors of the STYC, the Virgin Islands YC, and in the British Virgin Islands, which he did with the expert help of Dick Johnson and Walter Fischer (who eventually became CEO of Rolex Watch U.S.A. and now is Chairman of the Board). On trips to Geneva, Kelbert quietly teased the people at Rolex that their sailing sponsorships in Sardinia, Italy and other exotic venues were only the beginning. Rolex truly belonged in the Caribbean, he argued, particularly in St. Thomas where sailors would always be in sight of beautiful island vistas and enjoy a steady breeze. From those aspirations the St. Thomas International Regatta was born.

St. Thomas Yacht Club

The St. Thomas Yacht Club (STYC) was organized in 1964 by racing sailors and it has a rich history of promoting quality racing for both big- and small-boat sailors. In its early years the Yacht Club sponsored the Caribbean Midwinter Regatta, the first-ever Sunfish World Championship.

In 1964, yachtsman Rudy Thompson applied for admission into Olympic competition; the U.S. Virgin Islands was subsequently accepted as an Olympic nation. Two years later, Thompson and John Hamber won a Silver medal in the Flying Dutchman class at the Caribbean and Central American Games. The next year, the Virgin Islands entered its first Olympic Sailing Team in the Olympics in Mexico. Rudy and John raced in the Flying Dutchman, Per Dohm in the Finn.

In 1988, Peter Holmberg added to the history books by bringing glory home to the Virgin Islands with a Silver medal in the Finn Class. In 2000 he entered the America’s Cup domain, leading his own America’s Cup campaign for the Virgin Islands, and for the 2003 America’s Cup, he was helmsman for Larry Ellison’s Oracle BMW Racing campaign. Holmberg is currently a member of Team Alinghi, the America’s Cup defender for the 2007 America’s Cup in Valencia, Spain.

Since 2000 our junior sailing program has developed into one of the best in the US. Our young sailors have won 6 high school national championships and have contributed to numerous college programs. This year alone 12 of our members are sailing on ranked college teams. A few years ago Ian Barrows won a gold medal at the first IOC Youth Olympics. This past year, Taylor Canfield was ranked as the #1 match racer in the world by ISAF and also was the youngest to win the World Championship in match racing.