Crown Jewel of Caribbean Yacht Racing
Published on March 22nd, 2017
Over 60 teams from the Caribbean, U.S., Canada and Europe will race in the 44th St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR) on March 24 to 26 at St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands.
This three-day regatta known as the ‘Crown Jewel of Caribbean Yacht Racing’ will be prefaced by the 2nd Round the Rocks Race on March 23, which features a circumnavigation of the 19-square-mile neighboring U.S. Virgin Island of St. John.
Back for its third year is Robert and Libby Alexander’s Gunboat 60 Fault Tolerant, joining an impressive class of five offshore catamarans. “We love the courses sailing around the islands and the entry list should make for some great competition,” notes Robert, 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 has attracted several past winners with even hotter boats and teams. 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 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 4 regattas we raced in,” notes Corr. “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.”
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 has enlisted Jeff Johnstone, president of Newport, RI-headquartered J-Boats, to crew with him for STIR.
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.
“We outfitted the VAr 37 for the Newport-Bermuda Race last year and managed a podium finish despite blowing out our only asymmetrical sail,” says van Breems. “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.”
One-design classes are highighted this year with 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 homegrown 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.
The Virgin Islands commemorates this year its Transfer Centennial, or the 100th year anniversary of the U.S. purchasing the island from Denmark. On Friday (Mar. 31), 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.
Source: Carol Bareuther