Winter relief on offer at STIR 2021

Published on February 11th, 2021

With the 2021 Caribbean sailing season under threat by COVID-19 restrictions, the starting horn for the 2021 St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR) remains ready to blow for the competition on March 26 to 28.

Board members of the host St. Thomas Yacht Club (STYC) and STIR organizers have worked diligently, and with strong support from the United States Virgin Islands Departments of Tourism and Health, to delivery both yacht racing with COVID-19 protocols in place on land and sea to protect the health and safety of sailors and island residents alike.

“I commend the St. Thomas Yacht Club for ensuring that COVID-19 protocols are in place so competitors and spectators can safely enjoy the action both on and off our waters,” said Joseph Boschulte, USVI Commissioner of Tourism. “We encourage everyone to comply with the Territory’s safety measures as they navigate our islands, experience our beautiful waters, rich history and culture, and the warmth of our people.”

The COVID-19 protocols implemented by the Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands have kept infection rates low. Key among these is that every traveler, age 5 and older, entering the territory by air or sea, is required to use the USVI Travel Screening Portal and submit a COVID-19 test result before travel. On arrival, social distancing is the rule and, in most businesses, ‘No Mask, No Service’ is in force.

At STIR, social distancing, mask-wearing, and hand sanitization stations are among COVID-19 protocols. On the water, crews in boats such as the one-design IC24 are limited to three this year, and bigger boat classes will remain in social bubbles throughout the regatta. Onshore, there will be staggered class finishes especially on the final day with two awards ceremonies planned.

Beverage stations will be set up in different locations on the STYC property to prevent exceeding the currently mandated COVID capacity. Plus, sailors will be encouraged to spread out and sample the many St. Thomas restaurants rather than crowding at the Club in the evenings. The local business community has long supported STIR and organizers want to again reciprocate in these challenging times.

Racing divisions for 2021 include CSA (Caribbean Sailing Association) Racing, CSA Non-Spinnaker, One-Design IC24, One-Design Hobie Wave, and PHRF. The PHRF class, which does not require a CSA handicap to enter, is ideal for the many cruising boats now in Virgin Islands waters.

The big boat CSA Racing Class entries include Fox, a Botin 52 owned by the USA’s Victor Wild, a member of the New York Yacht Club; Liquid, the perpetually podium placing J/122 raced by Antigua’s Pamala Baldwin; and Blitz, St. Thomas’ Peter Corr’s highly competitive King 40.

“Sailing in the Virgin Islands is magical,” said Corr. “Having no Caribbean racing last year, we were all looking forward to a great season in 2021.”

Likely the largest class in STIR 2021 will be the One-Design IC24s with near 20 entries. Chicago, Illinois’ Joe Hummel, his wife and friends will charter an IC from the St. Thomas Sailing Center (STSC) to race.

“My wife and I are avid sailors and sail our C&C 115 on Lake Michigan,” said Hummel. “In the off-season, we try to get out sailing and typically visit St. Pete in February and the Caribbean in March. Four of us will be racing, and since the crew is limited to three this year, we’ll be rotating one off each day. Given the 2 feet of snow and freezing temperatures at home, you can imagine how much we’re looking forward to sailing and enjoying USVI and in particular STYC.”

The single-handed Hobie Wave class offers fun for weekend and family sailors. St. Thomas’ father and son, Mark and Julian van den Driessche are both sailing Waves.

“I’m looking forward to sailing in St. Thomas’ usual 12 to 15 knots of breeze. My 19-year-old son will be in the fleet and I am hoping that there will be a little intra-family competition on the course,” said Mark, the senior van den Driessche.

“What I love about Hobies is that they’re the gateway to sailing,” said Julian. “People who have no experience in sailing can learn easily. It was one of the only boats I had sailed in 2020 and 2021 so far. I don’t think I could’ve got through 2020 If it wasn’t for Hobie racing, the Thursday night race series and the people who participated in it.”

The warm-up distance-style Round the Rocks Race on March 25 gets 2021 STIR underway.

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