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Today's Round the Rocks Race is especially fun for the large class of Offshore Multihulls. © Dean Barnes
Today's Round the Rocks Race is especially fun for the large class of Offshore Multihulls. © Dean Barnes

St. Thomas International Regatta

Nearly 60 sleek sailing yachts from the Caribbean, U.S., Canada and Europe will race in the 44th St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR).

Set for March 24 to 26, this three-day regatta known as the ‘Crown Jewel of Caribbean Yacht Racing’ will be prefaced by the second Round the Rocks Race on March 23, which features a circumnavigation of the 19-square-mile neighbouring U.S. Virgin Island of St. John. This year’s STIR is extra special. First, sailors are invited to take part in a once-in-a-lifetime Centennial Salute during Friday’s race to the Charlotte Amalie Harbor. Secondly, sailors, families, friends and the public will find more fun activities ashore both day and night.

Sampling of Entries

An impressive class of five Offshore Catamarans certainly shows that STIR is where the big cats roam. Back for its third year is Fault Tolerant, a Gunboat 60 sailed by Rye, NY-based couple, Robert and Libby Alexander.

“We love the courses sailing around the islands and the entry list should make for some great competition,” says Alexander, who adds that he’s especially looking forward to competing with former Boston University college sailing teammates as crew along with his wife and some of her former teammates from Tulane.

Flow, another Gunboat 60, owned by Stephen Cucchiaro from Boston MA, beat Fault Tolerant to win this class in the 2016 STIR and Flow will be back to defend its title.

Fujin, a Bieker 53 built by St. Croix, US Virgin Islands-based Gold Coast Yachts, will certainly be an entry to watch. The catamaran, owned by Greg Slyngstad from Sammamish, Washington, won the Offshore Multihull class at the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta earlier this month.

The CSA Spinnaker Class looks spectacularly competitive this year with several past winners back with even hotter boats and teams. For example, Doug Baker of Huntington Beach, CA, who topped this class last year aboard the chartered J/122 El Ocaso will be back on his Andrews 70, Runaway, with several America’s Cup experienced crew aboard. Last year’s second place finisher, St. Thomas’ Peter Corr, is also back aboard his King 40, Blitz, with the same professional Aussie, New Zealand, UK and US crew who are raring to race.

“We all enjoyed the boat last year and did quite well with podium finishes in all four regattas we raced in. The boat is light and fast with a carbon fiber rig. It takes 10 to race her. We’re looking forward to very competitive racing with great wind and sea, beautiful weather,” says Corr.

Another class entry poised for the podium is Touch2Play Racing, a J/88 Canada’s Rob Butler brought down after enjoying racing in STIR last year aboard his same-named VXOne. Butler invited Jeff Johnstone, president of Newport, RI-headquartered J-Boats, to crew with him for STIR and if there is anyone who knows how to make a J-boat go fast it’s Johnstone.

In the CSA Non-Spinnaker class, Martin van Breems, president of the Sound Sailing Center in Norwalk, CT, will be back for his 16th STIR with a charter of Center members and students as crew aboard the VAr 37, Varuna.

Two Danish Navy Sail Training Yachts, the THYRA and SVANEN, will sail in the regatta. Here, Lt. Commander Christian Anderson of the THYRA gives local school children a tour and shows them how to tie nautical knots. © Dean Barnes

Two Danish Navy Sail Training Yachts, the THYRA and SVANEN, will sail in the regatta. Here, Lt. Commander Christian Anderson of the THYRA gives local school children a tour and shows them how to tie nautical knots. © Dean Barnes

“We outfitted the VAr 37 for the Newport-Bermuda Race last year and managed a podium finish despite blowing out our only asymmetrical sail. With a self-tacking headsail, we are pretty fast upwind if it’s over 15 knots, a reasonable bet! I’m an inventor of marine hardware, and our boat always has some interesting stuff on it I am testing, including an innovative batten system for the headsail,” says van Breems.

One-design classes are certainly growing in regatta participation and this year STIR welcomes the C&C 30s.

“I have never raced a boat in the Caribbean and wanted to cross this off my bucket list,” says Sandra Askew, from Cottonwood Heights, UT, who will be sailing her C&C 30, Flying Jenny. “We are still working out the kinks to get faster. For me the boat is special because it is easy to sail and really gets going fast for a 30-footer, especially downwind. Hopefully by us, Themis, Nemis and possibly Don’t Panic sailing, we can generate interest in the class.”

The St. Thomas Yacht Club’s home-grown fleet of IC24s, a modification of a J/24, will be out in force.

“I think the IC24 class will see a lot more boats this year since the Club has started their new sailing school and have Dave Franzel in charge of the class now,” says St. Thomas’ Mike Findlay, who races his Huron Girl.

Centennial Salute and the Danish Connection

The Virgin Islands commemorates this year its Transfer Centennial, or the 100th year anniversary of the U.S. purchasing the island from Denmark on March 31, 2017. On Friday, for the race to the Charlotte Amalie harbor, all STIR race boats will fly the U.S. Virgin Islands flag and will individually sail along the waterfront in an ongoing Centennial Salute after finishing the day’s first race.

In addition, STIR organizers welcome two Danish Royal Navy sailing ships, the THYRA and SVANEN, which will be participating in both the Round the Rocks and STIR. The ships are 60-foot Bermuda rigged international open-ocean racers which are used as cadet training ships for future Danish Royal Naval officers.

On Tuesday, over a dozen students from the Marine Vocational Program, who have taken learn to swim, sail and powerboat classes and who are also members of the Boys and Girls Club of St. Thomas, enjoyed a hands-on tour of both the THYRA and SVANEN. The students also had the opportunity to talk with the Danish cadets and officers about their nautical experiences.

More Fun Onshore

New this year, STIR introduces its daily Beach Party, with beach games, water toys and DJ music, between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Thursday through Sunday.

Nightly themed parties at the St. Thomas Yacht Club culminates into a big Saturday night bash with the Party Like a Sailor event at IGY’s Yacht Haven Grande marina. Spectrum Band plays from 7-11 p.m., and the first 300 partygoers to arrive dressed in blue and white get a free sailor hat. Before the party starts, Family Fun starts at 4 p.m. when there are games, vendors and a real boat from the St. Thomas Sailing Center to see on the east lawn of the marina property. The festive shoreside vibe continues right to the beachfront awards ceremony on Sunday, starting at 6:30 p.m. Afterwards, there’s a VI Cultural Celebration.

The St. Thomas International Regatta, now in its forty-fourth year, is a world-class event renowned for its fantastic round the buoys and round the islands racing, first-class race committee, superb shoreside festivities and friendly can-do attitude towards its competitors. Register online at www.stthomasinternationalregatta.com. Both events promise challenging courses, professional race management and island-style hospitality. Register in CSA (Racing or Cruising); IRC; ORC; Multihull; Beach Cat or One Design classes with a minimum length of 20 feet.

The NOR is available online – Click here. For more information, contact Regatta Director Chuck Pessler at (340) 642-3204 or Email: cpessler@hotmail.com. Check STIR out on Facebook, Twitter @stirvi and Instagram #STIRVI.

by Carol Bareuther

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