St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Sixty-two yachts from the Caribbean, U.S. and Europe cast off Friday in the 42nd St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR), presented by TAG Heuer. Hosted out of the St. Thomas Yacht Club March 27 to 29, this ‘Crown Jewel of Caribbean Yacht Racing’ boasts an impressive fleet ranging from 50- to 60-foot super hi-tech sport boats to lightening quick 16-foot beach cats. Up for grabs is the prestigious prize of a TAG Heuer Aquaracer Caribbean Limited Edition watch awarded to the skippers of the yachts that win each of the regatta’s eight classes.
“Sailors love our regatta and come from all over the world to sail here because we offer truly excellent racing,” says regatta director, Bill Canfield. “Our race committee are pros. They don’t make mistakes, so time is spent out racing rather than in redress.”
Two of the STIR’s eight classes, the one-design Melges 32s and IC-24s, are forecast to be among the most competitive and most exciting.
“The same four Melges 32s that raced last weekend in the Puerto del Rey Sailing Challenge will be racing this weekend, and last weekend it came down to the last leg in the last of six races to determine the winner. It was that close!” says Puerto Rico’s Jaime Torres, who helms his Smile and Wave. “The long windy downwind race to Charlotte Amalie on Friday is ideal for the Melges 32s and it’s a great way for us to start this regatta.”
A record 20 IC-24s are racing, with teams from the U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The IC-24 is a locally-modified version of a J/24.
“We are really excited about this being a record class for the ICs,” says Puerto Rico’s Marco Teixidor, who will be driving Cachondo. “There will be tough competition and that will make it a lot of fun. If we win, that will make it even better.”
In other classes, CSA 1 will be a two-horse race between two speed machines: Spookie, a Carkeek HP 40 sailed by Heidi and Steve Benjamin of Norwalk, Connecticut, and Conviction, a TP 52 owned and driven by Clint Brooks and his team from Barbados.
The CSA 2 class features everything from a pair of J/122s to New York Gosia Rojek’s Swan 42, Better Than…and Antigua’s Bernie Evan-Wong’s Reichel-Pugh 37, TAZ. Evan-Wong is definitely one to watch as he has enjoyed numerous podium finishes including at the RORC Caribbean 600 and Antigua Sailing Week.
Caribbean and visiting rock stars make up the CSA 3 class. Among these is St. Thomas’ Paul Davis on his J/27, Mag 7.
“We’ve raced this regatta for 15 years,” says Davis. “If it’s blowing 15-plus knots like its forecast, look for us to be at the front of the pack.”
The CSA Non-Spinnaker Class hosts a couple of teams that come with fun stories. One is a group of students from St. Croix’s Central High School sailing with teacher, Stan Joines, aboard Joines’ J/36 Paladin. The STIR is an annual tradition for this team that often finishes in the top of its class. Fellow Crucian sailor, Tony Sanpere, will helm his Catalina 30, Nauticayenne, with a team that makes up the Virgin Islands’ entry to the Paralympic Olympic Games.
Finally, there’s a first-time unrated class of cruising boats and for the first-time in several years a strong nine boat beach cat class.
The racing starts at 11 a.m. on Friday with the course set to Charlotte Amalie harbor. In the afternoon, the Jump-Up Party kicks off from 5-11 p.m. at STYC. The John Gazi Band plays from 3:30-5:30 p.m., with the rhythms of the Ah We Bank taking over from 7-11 p.m.
On Saturday, racing is off the southeast side of St. Thomas. Music by Flip Switch plays at STYC from 3-6 p.m. Then, from 6 p.m.-Midnight, party like at sailor at the STIR’s Yacht Haven Grande Party. Listen to Spectrum Band on stage, while dining and imbibing at nearby restaurants and bars.
Sailors launch off on the last day of regatta competition on Sunday March 29. Music by Full Circle greets the fleet from 2:30-5:30 p.m. The Regatta Awards Ceremony starts at 6:30 p.m. on the STYC beach, followed by the Final Fling party with Spectrum Band playing from 7 to 11 p.m.
Weather Routing Inc. (WRI) is the Official Weather Provider for the STIR and will provide forecasts by 6 a.m. daily during the regatta. These forecasts are available at: www.wriwx.com/clientproduct.php?id=4759. Weather maps and products specifically created for this event are also available at this link.
For more information about the STIR and real-time results, visit www.stthomasinternationalregatta.com or www.yachtscoring.com/emenu.cfm?eID=1219. Or, follow for the latest information on Facebook www.facebook.com/stirvi, and Twitter @stycvi