Patience and Henderson take overnight Endeavour Trophy lead – Olympian leads Merlin Rocket champs by one point

Olympian Luke Patience, and Mary Henderson (470) stole the show on the opening day of the Investec-sponsored Endeavour Trophy, with three wins in the bag writes Sue Pelling

Light winds and a strong tidal stream resulted in challenging conditions for the 30-strong fleet of champion sailors but Luke Patience – Tokyo 2020 Team GBR sailor, and Olympic silver medallist – and Mary Henderson took control of the event, managing to hold off closest rivals Christian Birrell and Sam Brearey (Merlin Rocket) in the first two races. They won the second race of the day by one minute 49 seconds. 

Olympic sailor Luke Patience, and Mary Henderson take overnight lead – photo Sue Pelling

Olympic sailor Luke Patience, and Mary Henderson take overnight lead – photo Sue Pelling

Another impressive performance was noted in race three, in arguably the most challenging conditions of the day, when Sam and Ben Whaley (Laser) led the race and managed to hold off James Peters and Maddy Anderson (RS200) in a close race to the finish line. 

Patience and Henderson were back on form again in race 4, in what turned out to be the final race of the day in slightly more favourable conditions on a course set on the River Roach. However, they certainly didn’t have it all their own way. 

Serial Endeavour Trophy winner Nick Craig, sailing with Emma Clarke (B14) executed one of the best starts of the day at the committee boat end of the line and managed to sneak inshore out the tide. Patience and Henderson, Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis (Returning Endeavour champions), and Cliff and Bec Milliner (Supernova) enjoyed a fantastic short-tacking battle up the first beat.

At the close of play after an exciting finale it was Patience and Henderson who used their light wind expertise once again to snatch victory from Craig and Clark as they crossed the line. Saxton and Lewis took third and the Milliners followed closely in fourth.

As they sailed ashore this afternoon, Patience and Henderson were clearly delighted with their performance and said they particularly enjoyed the final race. Patience said: “We had a fantastic race with Nick [Craig] in that one. I have to say we are lighter so we are at an advantage. Tomorrow with a bit of breeze, he’ll be back for sure.

“In this sort of competition you take what you get at the time. The key thing is to win when it is your conditions; it’s a crime if you don’t. We knew we had to win races today because it is likely it will be full-on with more wind tomorrow. And I am sure the bigger guys will be rapid, so we are just pleased to have done well when we had the opportunity.”

Talking about their game plan tomorrow, Patience added: “We aim to sail smooth and steady and, if there is wind, we aim to keep the ‘stick in the sky’.”

Craig commenting on his performance today said: “Light winds are not our conditions really so we were pleased we did so well in the final race. Not so good in the others because we just made some wrong decisions.”

Talking about the level of competition, Craig added: “It is unbelievable this year. Having three or four Olympians here is amazing. I wish we could do this every weekend, it is fantastic.”

3At the halfway stage of the series just three points separate the top three boats, which means there is everything to play for in the final four races. Patience and Henderson with three wins clearly have the advantage but with more wind expected tomorrow and a host of premier league, adrenalin-fuelled sailors ready to do battle to secure victory at the 59th Endeavour Trophy, there’ll be no shortage of exciting competition.

In the meantime this evening, competitors are enjoying the full Endeavour experience at the annual dinner at the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club where the solid silver Endeavour Trophy is on display.

Results (after four races with discard yet to come into effect)

1st Luke Patience  and Mary Henderson (Olympian) 17pts

2nd Christian Birrell and Sam Brearey (Merlin Rocket) 18pts

3rd Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis (2018 Champion) 19pts

4th James Peters and Maddy Anderson (RS200) 22pts

5th Sam and Ben Whaley (Laser) 23pts

6th Ian Dobson and Matt Mee (Fireball) 23pts

 

Endeavour Trophy count down – Champions prepare for annual showdown at Burnham-on-Crouch

4_SP

Photo Sue Pelling

With just one month to go until the Investec-sponsored Endeavour Trophy (11-13 October), entry has almost reached its 30-place limit writes Sue Pelling.

For the first time in many years response to the annual Endeavour Trophy invitation dinghy champion of champions’ event has been overwhelming, with organisers at the Royal Corinthian YC, and new sponsors Investec, looking forward welcoming the 30 dinghy class national champions to the home of the Endeavour Trophy.

Edwin Buckley – event director and race officer commenting on the event and the support of its new sponsor said: “We are very proud to announce Investec Wealth & Investment becoming a sponsor this year, we are all looking forward to working with them alongside our long term sponsors for this prestigious event.”  

Among those already signed up to do battle at this annual event are Ben Saxton/Toby Lewis who are not only keen to defend the title they won last year, but who are also looking forward to trying to make it a record five Endeavour wins in a row. Another win would also put Saxton in a position of matching the record number of Endeavour Trophy wins currently held by Nick Craig who has six wins to his name.

Offering a bit of advice to fellow competitors Saxton says although winning the Endeavour is all about tactics it pays to keep things simple. “The key to success at the Endeavour is to work hard but keep the tactics simple. We don’t do anything special but we just try to keep the right side of the tide and wind, and pick a few boats off here and there.”

Having secured his Endeavour Trophy ‘ticket’ this year with a win at the 2019 B14 national championship, Nick Craig, together with Emma Clarke (former Endeavour winning crew), will also be preparing for some serious competition. Last year they were neck and neck with Saxton/Lewis so it will be interesting to see what approach they have lined up this year in an effort to break Saxton/Lewis’ recent domination of the event.

To ensure a relatively level ‘playing field’ for the diverse entry that includes youth, singlehanded and doublehanded sailors, the popular one-design RS200 dinghy is the chosen Endeavour dinghy for the fifth year in succession. For continuity competitors will also have the use of brand-new sails courtesy of RS Sailing and Hyde Sails.

The Endeavour Trophy eight-race/one discard series takes place on Saturday and Sunday on windward/leeward courses, and is preceded on the Friday by the Investec Training Day. Presented by Steve Irish – former champion/Endeavour competitor and coach – the training day offers competitors, particularly first-timers to the event, and those unfamiliar with the RS200 class, a chance to acquaint themselves with the boat before racing begins on the Saturday.

Those keen to support the event and join the champions after racing on the Saturday evening (12 October) are welcome to attend the grand Endeavour dinner in the Trophies Room at the Royal Corinthian YC. Tickets are available to purchase at £22.50 in advance from kate.knights@royalcorinthian.co.uk.

 

 

Cowes Week 2019 in fine fettle – Round up by Sue Pelling

Although probably one of the most challenging on record in terms of weather, Cowes Week 2019 turned out to be one of most successful in the history of the event with 100s of teams enjoying super-fast, exciting racing all week.

Thankfully for the inaugural charity King’s Cup event on the Thursday before the start of Cowes Week the weather was ideal allowing the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to take part in the event while Prince George and Princess Charlotte watched on.

Will and David Heritage   powered up on Freddie Flintoff, Flying 15 – photo Paul Wyeth

Will and David Heritage
powered up on Freddie Flintoff, Flying 15 – photo Paul Wyeth

Winds of up to 50 knots on the opening Saturday – Sustainability Day –forced the cancellation of all racing but this was the only whole day lost due to the weather. Although the race committee also took the sensible decision to cancel the smaller White Group keelboats on the Sunday too (Family Day), with winds gusting up to 30 knots, the rest of the week was glorious, albeit a bit wet at times.

Families celebrating Family Day, and thousands of extra visitors to the Island on Sunday afternoon were treated to an amazing demonstration of ultra-fast racing with 50ft foiling SailGP catamarans contesting their inaugural European event.

Tom Slingsby and his Australian team were the heroes of the event winning all three races, and crossing the finish line at a mind-boggling 50kts in the first race.

Sir Peter Ogden and team on the Judel Vrolijk Mini Maxi Jethou stole the show from Johannes Schwarz on E1 the Volvo Open 70 (ex Green Dragon) in the Triple Crown, three-day series for IRC 0, winning the coveted Duke of Edinburgh Triple Crown Trophy, kindly loaned from the Royal Collection.

One of the highlights of the week was the competition for the Under 25 Trophy, which had one of the best prizes on offer – a chance for the skipper of the winning crew and guest to race in Antigua Sailing Week 2020, with flights and accommodation provided, as part of the ASW Youth to Keel Programme.

Not surprisingly this trophy was extremely closely contested but the overall winner was Ollie Hill and his H2 Sailing Team on an SB20 who walked away with the prestigious prize.

Chatting about his win, a delighted Hill commented: “The Antigua Sailing Week prize has got to be the best prize here and we certainly weren’t expecting to win. It is absolutely amazing and we are really happy. I have no idea who I’m taking yet. That’s a little bit of a difficult question, because it is still under negotiation.”

On his preparations for the event, Hill added: “We got the crew together about four months ago and we did three days training in Lymington and this is our first event so we are just really pleased to have come away with such a good result. Our win was just about focusing on the processes and trying not to look at the results too much to keep myself calm. I think we managed to do that reasonably well and come out with an amazing result, we’re really happy.”

Slingsby Ladies Day at Cowes Week, which celebrates women in sailing, is always popular and this year was no exception. In fact it turned out to be one of the best yet with Slingsby, the sponsor, once again embracing the day, which culminated with an exclusive Slingsby Ladies Day Reception at Northwood House.

The overall winner of the trophy that recognises the outstanding contribution, commitment, or achievement of women in sailing, was Lucy Macgregor, Olympian and four-time World Champion in Women’s Match Racing. She and here crew were also recognised for finishing fourth at the Argo Group Gold Cup in Bermuda – a Grade 1 (open) matching event earlier in the year.

Out on the water at Cowes Week, however, it was Dawn Bee racing on Haggis 2 who won the new Slingsby Best Female Helm Trophy for the best overall result female helm that day.

With racing for the overall wins in both Black Group (large yachts) and White Group (small open dayboat classes) going down to the wire on the final day, competition was as intense as it was on the first day.

With a consistent scoreline of first places in IRC Class 6, Giovanni Belgrano and his team aboard the 1939-built Laurent Giles designed classic – Whooper – took the overall Black Group title for the second time. Although he won Black Group two years ago, he was naturally delighted to take the coveted title again: “It was a tough one this time, but there is no doubt that our win was 100 per cent down to rock solid navigation, preparation, and importantly, fantastic crew work.”

Rounding up a truly successful week on the water, it was James Wilson and Ed Peel and team in their 1989-built Redwing – Quail – who not only won the Redwing class, and White Group overall with a clear scoreline of five first places but they took the overall win of Cowes Week.

The jam-packed Cowes Week prize giving at Shepards Marina followed by a spectacular Red Funnel Fireworks extravaganza over the Solent on the Friday night marked the end of Cowes Week points series. However, a good turnout enjoyed the last day of Cowes Week racing for the Cowes Town Regatta on the final Saturday.

Special thanks were expressed to the event sponsors including Slingsby, Musto, aql, Sunsail, Land Rover UK, Westerhall Rum, Chatham, Fever-Tree, and Isle of Wight Council.

One of the most popular family attractions in the Yacht Haven this year was the Land Rover Activation Area that saw constant crowds of visitors joining in the fun. The Land Rover Sailing Experience for youngsters was particularly well subscribed, with young sailors, many who have never sailed before, fortunate enough to experience a coaching session with Sarah Ayton – double Olympic sailing gold medallist.

Plans are already in place for Cowes Week 2020, which takes place between 8-15 August.

The 50ft foiling SailGP catamarans competed at Cowes in the class's inaugural European event

The 50ft foiling SailGP catamarans competed at Cowes in the class’s inaugural European event

 

Keelboat Endeavour Trophy postponed –Big winds force the postponement of inaugural keelboat champion of champions’ event at Burnham-on-Crouch

Photo – Roger Mant

Photo – Roger Mant

With the wind projected to gust more than 40 kts on Sunday, the race committee at the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, Burnham-on-Crouch, has made the sensible decision to postpone the Keelboat Endeavour Trophy writes Sue Pelling.

This inaugural event to determine the UK keelboat champions of champions was scheduled to take place this weekend (22-23 September) but with a series of low-pressure systems sweeping across the UK and forecast to continue until the weekend, the chances of completing a full two-day race series looked slim. Edwin Buckley – the Event Director – said he and his committee felt it was prudent to make an early call.

“It was a difficult decision but regrettably the Keelboat Endeavour is to be postponed. The wind on Sunday is expected to be gusting more than 40 kts so this will make the event un-sailable because we do need two days of good racing to have a successful event.

“We are naturally disappointed because we were all looking forward to some good racing at this first event with eight teams from all around the country, signed up to race the club’s fleet of 707s.”

Although the new date for the inaugural Keelboat Endeavour has yet to be confirmed there are two dates the committee has in mind, either 23-24 March or 6-7 April 2019. Buckley continued: “As soon as we have a firm date we will let everyone know. Those who missed this wonderful opportunity can request an application form from info@royalcorinthian.co.uk.”

The spring Keelboat Endeavour using up to six of the RCYC’s fleet of 707s will be run in a British Keelboat League-style knock-out format with 25 plus races over two days with RYA on-the-water umpires keeping an eye on proceedings.

The event is open to all keelboat champions including J/109, J/111, Fast40s as well as a large contingent of champions from classes like the Squib, Flying 15 and local one-designs that run a national championship and have exceptionally high quality competition.

In the meantime the annual and long-running Endeavour Trophy for dinghy champions is scheduled to take place this autumn on 12-14 October 2018. With 30 entries already signed up, this end-of-season dinghy Champion of Champions’ event is as popular now than it has ever been with many dinghy sailors regarding it as the ultimate prize on the UK dinghy racing circuit.

Photo – Roger Mant

Photo – Roger Mant

Golden Globe start

Emotions ran high with barely a ‘dry eye in the house’ at the start of the Golden Globe Race in Les Sables d’Olonne, France on 1 July, writes Sue Pelling.

Fond farewells on race day – photo Julio Graham

Fond farewells on race day – photo Julio Graham

After three years of preparation for this 30,000nm, non-stop round the world race, 17 of the 18 contestants from 13 different countries bid their final farewells to their loved ones in an emotional send off under the watchful eye of 35,000 visitors.

As the skippers cast off and motored down the famous Vendée Globe, spectator-lined Canal in scorching hot sun, and a flicker of wind that struggled to reach 6kts, hoards of spectator vessels joined the exodus out to the start area including a group of historic solo yachts – Bernard Moitessier’s Joshua and Sir Francis Chichester’s Gipsy Moth IV, together with Eric Tabarly’s Pen Duick III and Pen Duick VI.

The warm welcome in Les Sables d’Olonne always attracts huge crowds – photo Julio Graham

The warm welcome in Les Sables d’Olonne always attracts huge crowds – photo Julio Graham

 Having enjoyed all the razzmatazz of the final few weeks in the run up to the start, including the feeder race from Falmouth to the host start port of Port Olona, it was, as Susie Goodall told Classic Boat, “time to go.” Goodall (28) aboard her 1995-built Rustler 36 DHL Starlight was clearly sad, yet relieved to be finally underway and was looking forward to settling into a rhythm on the first night at sea.

The midday start, signaled by a cannon fired from Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s Suhaili, saw the seasoned racers take advantage of the fickle wind. Frenchman Philippe Péché aboard his Rustler 36 PRB sporting a huge lightweight genoa, was first to emerge from the pack followed by 73-year-old Jean-Luc Van Den Heede – the oldest skipper in the race – aboard Matmut.

Susie Goodall (centre) with her mum and brother, just before setting sail – photo Julio Graham

Susie Goodall (centre) with her mum and brother, just before setting sail – photo Julio Graham

Others in the top rank were Finnish sailor Tapio Lehtinen, Dutch sailor Mark Slats and Russia’s Igor Zaretskiy, although with a race that is expected to take between 9-10 months – estimate 240-250 days for the leaders – it is far too early to make worthy form predictions.

In his summing up of this unique event just before the fleet set sail, Don McIntyre, Chairman of the Golden Globe Race, commented: “My passion is to support adventure and my aim to make the race affordable to anyone, keep it simple, and always put the wishes of the entrants first.” With six skippers having already lodged interest in the 2022 Golden Globe, including McIntyre himself, who will race a new Joshua class boat, the future looks exceptionally bright for the Golden Globe’s new era.

Keelboat Endeavour Trophy – New UK keelboat champion of champions event at Burnham-on-Crouch

The highly contested 707 national championship – photo Roger Mant

 photo Roger Mant

The Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, Burnham-on-Crouch (RCYC), and the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) announce the launch of the Keelboat Endeavour Trophy writes Sue Pelling.

The aim of this new event, scheduled to take place on 22-23 September 2018, is to establish the UK keelboat champions of champions’, in a similar format to the long-running and successful annual Endeavour Trophy for dinghies.

Using up to six of the RCYC’s fleet of 707s, the Keelboat Endeavour Trophy will be run in a British Keelboat League-style knock-out format with 25 plus races over the weekend, and with RYA on-the-water umpires keeping an eye on proceedings.

The team behind the RCYC and RYA joint venture, including Edwin Buckley (RCYC Event Director), Bas Edmonds (RYA Racing Services Manager) and Jack Fenwick (RYA Keelboat Development Manager) say after three years in the planning they are thrilled to finally be able to launch the event.

Edmonds commented: “It has been a long time coming but we are now in a position to run an event that we [RYA and Royal Corinthian YC, Burnham-on-Crouch] believe will become as significant as the dinghy Champion of Champions’ Endeavour Trophy.

“As far as entries go, we are trying to be as inclusive as possible, particularly in the first year so classes like the J/109, J/111, Fast40s, and potentially the IRC national champion have the opportunity to come along. We also expect to see a large contingent of champions from classes like the Squibs, Flying 15s and local one-designs that run a national championship and have exceptionally high quality competition.

“The launch of this event couldn’t have come at a better time because we are really noticing a bit of ascendancy in keelboat racing at the moment. Certainly the smaller dayboats are seeing a resurgence.

“Overall, I think it is a really good time for keelboat sailing and I can confirm the Royal Corinthian at Burnham, and the RYA are pretty excited about having an opportunity to showcase keelboat sailing at its best.”

Buckley, who is delighted to be able to build on the success of the Endeavour, added: “This is also another step in history of the Endeavour and I know that the original founders of the dinghy event that celebrates 58 years this year, would be delighted to see the Endeavour Trophy evolve by expanding the event from dinghies to keelboats.”

A total of 24 keelboat teams are expected to contest the title, which will take place over short, windward/leeward courses on the tactical, tidal waters of the River Crouch and Roach.

The organisers of the event are keen to encourage keelboat classes to lodge an interest in putting forward class representatives from the 2018 national championships that take place throughout the summer.

To ensure your keelboat class is represented at the inaugural Keelboat Endeavour Trophy, email Edwin Buckley: endeavour.trophy@royalcorinthian.co.uk.

US Virgin Islands defy hurricane wrath

St Croix, St Thomas and St John open for business as Caribbean regatta season gets underway

 

The beautiful white beaches and turquoise water off Buck Island, St Croix – photo Sue Pelling

The beautiful white beaches and turquoise water off Buck Island, St Croix – photo Sue Pelling

Just six months after the devastation caused by Irma and Maria, two category 5 hurricanes that swept through Caribbean last year, life in some areas, including on the US Virgin Island of St Thomas, St Croix and St John, is beginning to return to some sort of normality writes Sue Pelling.

I use the word normality fairly loosely because following a visit to the US Virgin Islands during the three-day 45th St Thomas International Regatta (STIR) the week before last I had the opportunity see the extent of the damage the hurricanes caused.

Although it is difficult to imagine things ever being ‘back to normal’ given the fact that thousands of residents of the US Virgin Islands lost their homes and all possessions, and in some more remote areas there is still no electricity, there is a real positive spirit on all three islands, which is quite remarkable.

Perfect conditions for close racing in CSA Class 1 at St Thomas International Regatta – photo Dean Barnes/STIR

Perfect conditions for close racing in CSA Class 1 at St Thomas International Regatta – photo Dean Barnes/STIR

Fundraising to help rebuild the Virgin Islands has been overwhelming including Sailors for Hope (a non-profit and all-volunteer project currently supporting the British Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands and St Maarten), and the marine industry-specific Marine Rebuild Fund – US Virgin Islands (MRF). These have not only provided the opportunity to speed up the process for essential repairs and rebuilds in the marine sector, but have also allowed essential work to be carried out on beaches and cruising grounds in an effort to help re-build tourism.

St Thomas YC did suffer structural damage to its roof, and it lost its dock but in an effort not to lose its slot on the Caribbean Race Calendar in the future, speedy repairs to have it ready for business on opening day of the 46th St Thomas International annual regatta were built into the plan of the huge hurricane recovery effort.

The extent of the work carried out by locals, other Caribbean islands, support from the US Virgin Island Department of Tourism, and those from further afield, is humbling and it is thanks to them, events like the St Thomas International Regatta and also St Croix regatta on its neighboring island, were able to run without hitch. 

A hub of activity at St Thomas YC during the regatta – photo Dean Barnes/STIR

A hub of activity at St Thomas YC during the regatta – photo Dean Barnes/STIR

Pat Bailey, local, Race Officer at St Thomas International Regatta, and the man behind a lot of work that went into the rebuild, commented: “This community on St Thomas has been extraordinary and phenomenal to enable us to run this regatta. The regatta has been fantastic but we have done an awful lot to get here. For many of us, being here at the regatta is the first time [since the hurricanes] we have stopped to take a breath to have fun.”

The 50 race teams who made the effort to attend the regatta including locals and entries from Puerto Rico, Antigua, the USA, Canada, Europe, was exceptional and proof of just how those in the sailing world are passionate about being able to offer support in a crisis.

The STIR is also a prime example of how huge obstacles – in STYC’s case, hurricane damage and the loss of a headline sponsor (formerly known as the Rolex St Thomas International Regatta) – can actually have a positive effect by giving the event a chance to return to its roots. While there is no doubt that, in time, grand prix pro race teams will return the beautiful waters of the US Virgin Islands, the force of nature has, in some ways, provided a golden opportunity to promote more grass-root, club level sailors from all around the world.

Donald Makowiecki, Founder of Sailors For Hope and International Sailing Judge at the STIR said he is amazed at how the sailors have really mucked in: “In some ways a crisis like this brings a lot of the small boats back to the regatta from neighbouring islands as well as international entries. Getting back to a smaller, island based regatta more like it used to be – back to the grass roots – is, in my opinion, positive. The conditions here in St Thomas act as a magnet to the grand prix racers and we are looking forward to welcoming them back next year.” 

While tourism, not surprisingly, took a big hit following Irma and Maria, six months on there are definite signs of recovery on the USVIs with hotels like The Buccaneer on St Croix and restaurants including the Zion Modern Kitchen operating as usual. Although they are not officially open for business following hurricane damage, St Thomas’ Margaritaville Vacation Club supported the regatta by opening the doors to competitors and race officials.

St Thomas charter sector in full flow – photo VI Professional charter Association

St Thomas charter sector in full flow – photo VI Professional charter Association

The charter business is starting to show signs of life once again with the VI Professional Charter Association reporting good activity particularly within the smaller boutique-style charter sector. Yachts like the St Thomas-based 50ft St Francis Catamaran Paradigm Shift, run by Steven and Bonnie Carroll, are one of the many high-end charter boats on offer for day or week-long charters. Oriel Blake VIPCA Executive Director said: “Because most of the smaller companies sent their vessels to Grenada for protection during the hurricanes they managed to get through without damage. We have over 250 vessels for charter and privately owned boats like Paradigm Shift are proving very popular with events such as weddings.

“I think also, by viewing their charter as a form of hurricane relief, charter guests can enjoy our beaches, bars and restaurants while contributing to the economy getting back on its feet – chartering for a cause.”

St Thomas offers an abundance of beautiful anchorages for cruising – photo VI Professional charter Association

St Thomas offers an abundance of beautiful anchorages for cruising – photo VI Professional charter Association

Dick Neville, STIR Race Officer, said it is remarkable how everybody down here just pulled it together: “We were told the best way for anyone to help is to just come here and spend money, so that is what is happening. “We saw lots of places to donate money to help out but as professional race officers we decided to help out by donating our time, and paying our own way this year. 

Sharon Rosario from the US Virgin Islands Department of Tourism in one of the closing speeches at the event prizegiving commented on the importance of the regatta and the role it played in reigniting the tourism industry in the US Virgin Islands: “The fair winds that now blow will hopefully help encourage people of all abilities to get on the water and help strengthen St Thomas YC’s reputation as a world class regatta and training venue. This is an important event in terms of tourism, and we are honoured to be a supporting partner, which gives us a chance to welcome visitors to our beautiful islands.”

Competition in all classes throughout the three-day regatta was intense with international sailors taking a large chunk of the ‘silverware’ including Philippe Moortgat and team from Belgium on the 16-year-old Swan 45, Samantage in CSA Spinnaker Class 1. Rob Butler from Canada on his new Reflex 38, Touch2Play Racing won CSA Spinnaker Class 2. Moortgat commented: “We wanted to spend as much time here as possible so we shipped the boat. Shipping was less expensive than doing the ARC, particularly time wise, so it was the best option for us. We did the RORC 600 and this is our second event. Basically we are doing most of the Caribbean race season and enjoying every minute.”

IC24 fleet ‘firing on all cylinders’

Close racing in the IC24 fleet at St Thomas International Regatta – photo Dean Barnes/STIR

Close racing in the IC24 fleet at St Thomas International Regatta – photo Dean Barnes/STIR

When last year’s hurricanes devastated six of the club’s nine IC24s the future of the class racing at the club looked fairly bleak. But thanks to the gallant efforts of Dave Franzell – Director of St Thomas Sailing Centre – who put a plan together, there were 14 racing at the Regatta including four from Puerto Rico.

Given the fact the IC24 (J/24 with a re-designed open deck/cockpit) is one of the most popular one-design raceboats of the Caribbean, and boats in the fleet had been offered for charter, the club knew it was crucial to have the boats in action again as soon as possible.

Franzell, who masterminded the re-build job commented: “To St Thomas YC’s complete credit they agreed to pay for the job regardless of when and whether they received the insurance settlement. Given the fact that all the local glassfibre specialists were in great demand I had to look elsewhere. There was only one person I had in mind to get the job completed in the time – Chris Small. I have been in the sailing industry for about 50 years and I have met a lot of guys specialising in glassfibre work but there is no one to beat Chris Small in terms and quality and speed.

“I asked Chris to put a pallet of material together, and all his tools, and come down and spend a month to carry out the rebuild. He arrived 1 November last year and by 30 November, the agreed time, the boats were not only fixed but looked brand-new, and structurally they were more sound than ever before.”

Chatting about the IC24 and its origin (Inter Club 24) Franzell added: “The J/24 was one of the most successful one-designs in the world but to improve crew comfort St Thomas-based Chris Rosenberg and Morgan Avery had the idea to take a boat that sails well and make it comfortable. They literally took a chainsaw and ripped one apart by sawing it across the deck, cabin and taking the entire cockpit out of the boat. They then took a really comfortable cockpit from a Melges 24, popped it in place, trimmed it to fit and glassed it in. That is essentially an IC24.”

 

Hobie Wave – a popular addition

The new Hobie Wave fleet at St Thomas International Regatta – photo Dean Barnes/STIR

The new Hobie Wave fleet at St Thomas International Regatta – photo Dean Barnes/STIR

Although beach cats have always been represented at St Thomas International Regatta, the addition of the one-design Hobie Wave class this year was popular with 12 boats racing – six boats owned by St Thomas YC and another six from Cruz Bay Watersports, St John. Racing was so close that going into the final day Bill Bacon and Pierre-James Zani were tied for first. However, Kyree Culver, the super-smart St Thomas YC sailor, sailed well on the final day and took the overall win at her first major regatta.

John Holmberg, who was also racing a Hobie Wave said the class is a great idea as a club boat. “It is the pipeline, the beginning of sailing to get people of all ages into the sport. The racing is kind of secondary. They are easy to sail and a lot of fun and they have encouraged a lot of family teams to participate.”

 

Commenting on the effects of the hurricane, Holmberg said it is a big pivot point in a lot of people’s lives: “A lot of people have never experienced a hurricane before because the last big one was about 20 years ago. Probably about a quarter of the population was born since then, so it kind of makes you re-access what’s important in your life.”

St Croix

Like St Thomas, the stunning and historic island of St Croix is starting to get back on track after the violent storm season. Thanks to the unwavering support of volunteers, sponsorship from government and local businesses St Croix International Regatta took place in early March. Although numbers were, not surprisingly, down the 25th anniversary event, was a success. Karen Stanton – commodore of St Croix YC – said: “We had a about 20 boats mainly the smaller boats because many were damaged in the hurricanes. However, it was our 25th year and a really good start to our recovery process. Plans are now in place for next year’s regatta, which we hope will attract more entries.”

St Croix YC up and running for the St Croix Regatta – Sue Pelling

St Croix YC up and running for the St Croix Regatta – Sue Pelling

As well as its stunning white beaches, and top class diving, snorkeling in places like Buck Island, the Danish architectural influence of St Croix makes it one of the most interesting, stylish and unspoilt Caribbean islands. Together with it historic towns and monuments, rain forests, rum distilleries and botanical gardens, it has the added attraction of its close proximity to St Thomas and St John (15-minute flight away).

For the cruising sailor, at the right time of year, this is a real gem of a place to add to the bucket list. Spend a bit of time in Salt River Bay National Historic Park, and Ecological Preserve, Christiansted. This is however, a place for careful navigation through the small gap in the reef and keeping a careful eye on the newly positioned navigation pole. Once inside the bay, it is possible to explore this important mangrove forest area that support threatened and endangered species. Although it was severely hit by the hurricanes and still shows signs of devastation with plenty of sunk vessels along the river banks there is plenty of historic interest, not least because it is arguably the only official documented site where Christopher Columbus landed (1pm on 14 November, 1493).

Salt River – photo Sue Pelling

Salt River – photo Sue Pelling

While the sheer tenacity and ‘get-up-and-go’ spirit of the people in the US Virgin Islands has managed to set them on the way to recovery, there is much to be done to bring back the tourists. If you want to help, look at any of the websites below and plan a trip the USVIs whether you sail or fly there, they need us to spend dollars, and it is worth every penny.

 

https://www.visitusvi.com/

http://www.usviupdate.com/

https://www.usvirecovery.org/

http://cfvi.net/

https://sailorsforhope.com/

 

The stunning island of St John post hurricane – photo USVI Department of Tourism

The stunning island of St John post hurricane – photo USVI Department of Tourism