Hundreds of sailors head to the Caribbean each year to compete in the St. Thomas Yacht Club’s International Rolex Regatta, and this year, from March 25-27, the three-day event will prove once again–for the 38th time, in fact–that its unique blend of island-style hospitality, competition and camaraderie is the perfect formula for attracting new talent as well as die-hards devoted to returning year after year. The event offers IRC and CSA handicap and one-design racing in a strikingly beautiful setting, with courses that thread through and around the cuts and cays of St. Thomas and St. John. Featured distance races stretch from Cowpet Bay to Charlotte Amalie Harbour and back, showcasing the coastline and harbor capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“This will be our first time ever to race in the Caribbean and the International Rolex Regatta,” said John Bowden, project manager for Pat Eudy’s Big Booty, a Grand Prix 42 out of Charleston, S.C. “Everyone is looking forward to getting down there.” “Everyone” is a crew of 12 that includes Eudy’s regular crew aboard his J/105 sailed in South Carolina and two additional crew, Landon Wyatt and his 20-year-old son, also named Landon, who secured their berths when Eudy auctioned them off to benefit the charity First Tee of Charlotte.
« I grew up sailing, and my son is a life-long sailor,” said the elder Wyatt. “Crewing on a boat like Big Booty has been one of his dreams, so my wife and I jumped at the chance when Pat offered these spots. »
Eudy bought Big Booty—a fast, planing sport boat–less than a year ago and is modifying its keel to improve upwind and downwind performance. “The International Rolex Regatta is the perfect place to see what we can do with it,” said Bowden, who added that the boat will be tested at Key West Race Week before sailing down to St. Thomas. “That said, the overall goal is to get out on the water, go fast, and have fun.”
IRC class competition for Big Booty will include the Swan 42 Arethusa, sailed by Phil and Wendy Lotz (New Canaan, Conn./Newport, R.I.); the Grand Soleil 43 Antilope, sailed by Willem Wester (New Zealand); the Swan 601 Aquarius sailed by Bill Alcott (St. Clair Shores, Mich.); and the TP52 Interlodge, sailed by Austin and Gwen Fragomen (Newport, R.I.)
“Big Booty is a mini TP52, and we may end up in the same class as her,” said Interlodge’s captain Kris Matthews. Interlodge competed in the International Rolex Regatta for the first time last year and lost on the final day to Richard Oland’s (New Brunswick, Canada) IRC 52 Vela Veloce. While the Fragomens’ crew are looking for redemption this year, Matthews says timing of the regatta is also important. “The owners like to ski, so the late-March date works to give them more time back home to do that.”
This year, Bill Alcott, who has been sailing in the event since the 1980s, is replacing his Andrews 70 Equation with the chartered Aquarius, which will be sailed by his regular crew from the Midwest. He is known for exemplifying how winning is important but not everything. “It’s not necessary in order to have a good time at the Rolex,” he contends, making it clear that fun is something no one leaves the International Rolex Regatta without having experienced whether it’s by reconnecting with old friends, making new ones, or simply participating in a variety of social gatherings, including the reggae music concert at Yacht Haven Grande or the traditional beach parties at St. Thomas Yacht Club.
For some, owning a boat or being a long-time member of an existing racing campaign is not a requirement for participating in the International Rolex Regatta. Through Safe Passage Sailing, individual or team competitors can plug in as crew to one of two programs: one with Brian Thompson (UK) and Rich Stearns (USA) mentoring on the Frers 80’ Kialoa V and another with Suzette Smith (Hawaii) leading an all-woman crew aboard the Swan 51 Northern Child.
“We’re simply offering a service that’s turn-key and engages racing pros as mentors,” said Safe Passage Sailing’s Randee Fowler, who added that registrations thus far have come from as far away as Russia and Australia. “It’s an opportunity not only to participate without owning a boat but also to have these world class sailors onboard with you.” Thompson is widely recognized as one of the world’s most talented multihull sailors, holding 25 sailing records; Stearns is a veteran of U.S. Olympic and America’s Cup campaigns; and Smith is a charter captain and an award winning instructor who was also a member of the first and only all-woman America’s Cup Team America3.
St. Thomas Yacht Club assures all competing yachts are provided appropriate facilities. Once again, free dockage and container storage is available during the regatta at American Yacht Harbor and Yacht Haven Grande for boats that prefer to be at a full-service marina rather than anchored off the Club.
The Notice of Race for the 2011 International Rolex Regatta is available for download www.rolexcupregatta.com, where online registration, current entries and competitor updates are available. During the event, race fans enjoy daily video highlights and real-time race information, including blog updates and live results, via the internet and on large screens at the yacht club.
More about the International Rolex Regatta
The international Rolex Regatta typically hosts classes for IRC, CSA (Spinnaker Racing, Spinnaker Racing/Cruising and Non-Spinnaker Racing), One-Design and Beach Cats. It has been hosted by St. Thomas Yacht Club since 1974, making it the oldest regatta in Rolex’s portfolio of international sailing events. Rolex is known for sponsoring famous offshore and grand-prix events such as the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, Rolex Fastnet Race, Giraglia Rolex Cup, Rolex Middle Sea Race, Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship.
A.H. Riise, Official Retailer of Rolex watches in the U.S. Virgin Islands, takes an active role in sponsorship of the International Rolex Regatta. The St. Thomas shop is one of the largest in the Caribbean and is located on the historic waterfront of downtown Charlotte Amalie.