Monday, April 1, 2019

Another Epic St Thomas International Regatta

Sailing off St Thomas, USVI
(Cowpet Bay, St Thomas, US Virgin Islands)- For three days, the 50-plus boat fleet enjoyed near postcard-perfect sailing conditions in the Caribbean off the east end of St. Thomas.  Not surprisingly, the St. Thomas YC’s idyllic location on the beach of Cowpet Bay served as the base of operations for everyone, with plenty of shoreside apr├Ęs ‘sailing festivities. J/Crews garnered their fair share of silverware in the performance CSA racing fleets.  Here is how it all took place.
J/122 LIQUID from Antigua
Day 1- Picture Perfect
The conditions could not have been better for the first day of the 46th St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR). Warm trade winds blew an average of 12 to 15 knots with occasional gusts to 20 knots, seas were relatively calm at 2 to 4 feet, and the bright sun made for a balmy 80’s Fahrenheit. What really stood out as a signature feature of STIR was the race committees carefully planned round-the-island-, rocks- and cays-style courses that offered highly competitive racing in an extraordinarily scenic setting. Definitely the best of both worlds.

“The courses were awesome,” says St. John’s Mike Feierabend, who with his all St. John crew helmed his J/24 BRAVISSIMO to first after two races in the CSA Spinnaker 2 class. “We really love going around the islands. The wind angles on the courses set by the race committee were especially nice.”

The four-boat CSA Spinnaker 2’s races were each nearly 10-nautical miles and wove around Dog Rock, Little St. James and Packet Rock off St. Thomas’ east end.

Meanwhile, the eight boats in CSA Spinnaker 1 raced in the same vicinity, but these larger vessels were able to stretch their legs to a greater extent on a duo of longer courses that extended to Buck and Capella island’s off St. Thomas southern Caribbean Sea shore.

“We sailed well today,” said Antigua’s Pamala Baldwin, who raced aboard her J/122 LIQUID. Crewed by several aspiring professional race boat crew, LIQUID was second in class, yet tied at 5 points with class leader. “We had a one-hour debrief yesterday after the Round the Rocks race and worked out the tweaks. Four of our sailors are new to the boat and we really came together as a team today.”

Round-the-island courses are something that USA-based PRO (Principal Race Officer) Dave Brennan has been setting for the past several years at STIR.  “Sailing here is special and even more so when racing around the islands rather than marker buoys. These types of courses make it more fun for the average sailor, who wants to sail with friends, especially those who don’t have a lot of expertise with windward-leeward courses. We really work hard to set different types of courses each day. It’s more fun this way and truly something special,” says Brennan.
J/100 sailing St Thomas Regatta
Day 2- More Perfect Weather?
Some of the 50-plus boats racing on the second day stretched their class leads. Others overtook fellow class competitors to jump into the lead. Either way, blue skies, warm seas and winds blowing steadily at 12 to 15 knots over the round-the-island and round-the-buoy courses proved fun for everyone in this St. Thomas Yacht Club-hosted event.

In the CSA Spinnaker Racing 2 class, it was a case of overtaking rather than lead stretching for the St. Croix-based team aboard the J/100 BAD GIR. With Mackenzie Bryan at the helm, BAD GIRL had a tough time on the regatta’s first race on Friday and needed to retire. The young Crucians, almost all 20-somethings that grew up sailing together in dinghies, came back strong with nothing less than all first place finishes. As a result, BAD GIRL pushed St. John’s Mike Felerabend’s J/24 BRAVISSIMO to second. Both boats were tied at 8-points each.

Day 3- Windy, squally, sunny finale
Clouds and a couple of squalls sent windy curve balls across the courses set for the fleet. The big story of the final day of racing was all about the wind.

“We had light air and heavier air, a little big of everything,” said one sailor. “Today, when the squall blew through in the second race of the day, winds hit over 30 knots. We broached and briefly had a man overboard situation. But, there was no damage, no one was hurt and the team recovered quickly. Overall, it was a really amazing regatta.”

Tied on points for the lead in CSA Spinnaker Racing 1 Class was Antigua’s Pamala Baldwin’s J/122 LIQUID. However, she lost the count back in the tie-breaker based on number of firsts, settling for the silver.

In the CSA Spinnaker Racing 2 class, St. Croix’s Mackenzie Bryan drove the J/100 BAD GIRIL to a first place finish. “That squall today was as windy as I’d seen it the entire regatta. So much so that we decided not to hoist the spinnaker on the first run and we were still flying,” says Bryan, who served as a junior crew several years ago when Bad Girl also won her class. “Our strategy was to have good boat handling, minimize mistakes and stay out of the current. The effect of the current was huge.”  St. John’s Mike Felerabend’s J/24 BRAVISSIMO ended second, just four points back. Thanks for contribution- Carol Bareuther.  Sailing photo credits- Ingrid Abery/ Dean Barnes  For more St Thomas International Regatta sailing information Add to Flipboard Magazine.