Game time in the US Virgin Islands

Published on March 24th, 2021

While most of the prominent Caribbean events have been cancelled due to COVID-19 health restrictions, the starting horn for the 2021 St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR) remains ready to blow for the competition on March 26 to 28. With the warm-up distance-style Round the Rocks Race on March 25, its game time in the US Virgin Islands.

Stellar race management assures competitive racing, with STIR led by Race Officers (PRO) Dave Brennan and Dick Neville, both from the USA. New this year, and for the first time in STIR history, race officers will set virtual marks for the CSA Spinnaker and Non-Spinnaker racing classes.

Virtual marks are GPS (global positioning system) waypoints on the course that competitors need to sail around, but these are not physical marks like buoys. The coordinates of these virtual marks are included in the sailing instructions that all entrants receive.

“The main advantage is course management. I can make a racecourse longer or shorter depending on time requirements for a given race,” says Brennan, who is the PRO on the CSA courses. “I think going forward this will help in race management capabilities especially in setting deep water marks.”

Seven boats in two classes – CSA Spinnaker and CSA Non-Spinnaker – will take their start at 11 a.m. on March 25 for the Round the Rocks Race. This warm-up for STIR features a circumnavigation of the 19-square-mile island of neighboring St. John, home of the Virgin Islands National Park.

“Many of the people who sail with me are not serious racers or necessarily even sailors,” says Steve Schmidt, who lives in St. Thomas, is a member of the Santa Barbara Yacht Club and owner of the Santa Cruz 70, Hotel California Too, which will race in the CSA Non-Spinnaker Class.

“For this type of crew, sailing around reefs, rocks and islands is more naturally beautiful and enjoyable than doing windward/leeward between race marks. The Round the Rocks Race is a perfect course for that. It also provides the opportunity to experience all points of sail – reaching, running and beating.”

Thirty-four yachts are registered for STIR 2021, which starts March 26 and runs through March 28. Classes are CSA (Caribbean Sailing Association) Racing and Non-Spinnaker and One-Design IC24 and Hobie Wave.

Sound COVID-19 protocols implemented by the Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands have kept infection rates low. 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.

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