St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. A dozen boats are registered for the third annual Round the Rocks (RTR) race on Thursday. This one-day event, whose course is a 19 mile circumnavigation of the neighboring island of St. John, is a great way for teams to tune up for the main event, the 45th St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR), which takes place from Friday through Sunday.
“By popular demand, we brought back the Round the Rocks race this year. This sprint around St John is both scenic and tactical. It’s a great way to kick-off STIR, especially with Rock City Brewing Company sponsoring the race and after-racing Happy Hour,” says regatta director, Bill Canfield.
The twelve-boat race fleet is split into two groups: CSA (Caribbean Sailing Association) Spinnaker and CSA Non-Spinnaker classes. Ten boats are competing in the Spinnaker class including Ontario Canada’s Rob Butler’s Reflex 38, Touch2Play Racing.
“The Round the Rock is a highlight event for two reasons: the spectacular scenery and tactical challenges due to the navigation of surrounding waters with currents and shifting winds,” says crew member, Larry Huibers.
Huibers adds, “This year will be special because we want to be part of the rebuilding process after the storms. The community has been so kind and excited to have us all down, we only hope we can return the hospitality and assist as the tourism gets back solidly in its feet. We are bringing some new crew and really look forward to seeing their joy in experiencing the Caribbean. The competition looks to be deep this year so that adds a lot of fun.”
One of Touch2Play’s competitors is Apollo, Donald Nicholson’s brand-new J/121. Built as hull #2, this will be only the second time the Weston, MA-based sailor and his team have raced the boat. The first was the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta three weeks ago, when the team enjoyed a podium placement, finishing third in its class.
“This is the third ‘big boat’ in our program; Apollo replaced my custom Farr 42, Convictus Maximus. We have been racing as a core crew for about 15 years; the core crew being myself, Denise Bienvenu, Paul White and David Malkin, including two Newport-Bermuda races, a Chicago-Mackinac race, and numerous other regattas on both coasts of the USA. But we have never raced as a team in the Caribbean. So, we are extremely excited to be honing our skills with this exciting new boat in such a wonderful venue. We also have Jeff Johnstone from J-boats on board for the RTR and STIR,” says Nicholson.
Boats sailing in the Round the Rocks race will start off St. Thomas’ east end, sail counterclockwise around St. John and finish off St. Thomas.
Onshore, Rock City Brewing Company will sponsor Happy Hour at the St. Thomas Yacht Club from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Featured products include the company’s Hull Bay Beach Lager and Dumpster Cock VIPA kegs. The Sun Kings will play live music, also starting at 4 p.m. The RTR Awards Ceremony takes place on the beach at 6:30 p.m., when prizes, including heavy-duty 40-liter Excursion Duffles from the K3 Company, are awarded for first, second and third boats in class. There will also be a perpetual trophy awarded for the boat with yacht with the best elapsed time.
Meanwhile, registration for the St. Thomas International Regatta will take place on Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the St. Thomas Yacht Club.
Nearly 50 boats, with sailors from the U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, Antigua, the U.S.A., Canada and Europe, will take to the start at 11 a.m. on Friday off St. Thomas’ east end.