Saturday, 6 March 2010

International Rolex Regatta - St Thomas, US Virgin Islands

Ambience at St Thomas Yacht Club. Image copyright St. Thomas Yacht Club/Ingrid Abery.

by Barby MacGowan

It just arrived on a yacht carrier in St. Thomas: Austin and Gwen Fragomen's Judel/Vrolik 52' Interlodge, a newcomer to the International Rolex Regatta, which this year is scheduled for Friday, March 26 through Sunday, March 28. The three-day event, hosted by St. Thomas Yacht Club, has a track record - spanning 37 years - for delivering the goods when it comes to racing and island-style hospitality.

"We thought it would be fun to try something different this year," said Austin Fragomen, who is from New York, N.Y., and plans to use the Caribbean event to shake off the winter dust in preparation for a hard summer and fall of racing in Europe. He will be joined by hundreds of other sailors and their families migrating from the States and overseas in search of quality "vacation racing" time in the islands.

"The thing I like is that there is more of a center point of activity at this regatta," he added, noting that St. Thomas Yacht Club is not only headquarters for the regatta but also "home" to which the sailors return each afternoon after racing, with many of the competitors happy to dock at or moor off the club, where it's mere minutes to and from the race courses. Berthing for boats expands to Yacht Haven Grande and American Yacht Harbor (compliments of Island Global Yachting) for those teams wanting full marina facilities.

Sailing in IRC class will give the Fragomens a chance to show that their class third and top TP52 finish at this year's Key West Race Week was no fluke. Interlodge, built in 2006 and formerly sailed on the Audi Med Cup Circuit as Cristabella, got an IRC makeover - a new keel and a modified transom - shortly after the Fragomens bought it and before they re-launched it last October. Though sailing under the CSA (Caribbean Sailing Association) measurement rule is popular in the islands, this will be the third year that the International Rolex Regatta has offered dedicated IRC racing under the more international IRC rule, making it the only regatta in the Caribbean where it is not required that IRC boats also hold a CSA certificate for dual scoring.

"Our take on IRC is that we tend to race bigger boats because of our high rating," continued Fragomen. "Those boats that will be tougher for us are the ones most dissimilar-they are the wild cards as far as how well we'll do."

Currently registered are a dozen IRC boats, which will most likely be split into two groups. Among the larger of them are Bill Alcott's (Detroit, Mich.) Andrews 68 Equation, Richard Matthews' (UK) Humphreys 42 Oystercatcher XXVI, Jim Muldoon's (Wash., D.C.) Custom 72 Donnybrook, Freddie Mills' Frers 80 Kialoa V, and two Farr 65s entered by OnDeck Racing.

Another 52 competing will be Richard Oland's (CAN) Vela Veloce, while Richard Alan Fougere's (Pocasset, Mass.) J/160 Avatar (at 53 feet) and William Coates' (Bellaire, Texas) J/122 Otra Vez (at 40 feet) are sure to add compelling IRC racing variables from the States.

The international Rolex Regatta typically hosts up to 100 boats sailing in classes for IRC, CSA (Spinnaker Racing, Spinnaker Racing/Cruising and Non-Spinnaker Racing), One-Design IC 24s and Beach Cats. It is wholly operated by the St. Thomas Yacht Club and competitors can be certain that the organizers know a thing or two about what world class sailors look for in an international regatta. In fact, exceptional racing is virtually guaranteed with the venue's dependable trade winds and professional race management team, headed up once again by Dave Brennan, with Dick Neville assisting and Tuna Wullschleger serving as Chief Judge. Luiz Kahl will also be on-site to fully integrate the event website with for real-time race information, including blog updates and live results, which will be scrolled on large screens at the yacht club, making for lively post-ra cing discussions.

The event is part of the hotly contested 2010 US-IRC Gulf Stream Series and directly precedes the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival, which is held next door and links the two to make Virgin Islands Race Week.

A.H. Riise, Official Retailer of Rolex watches in the U.S. Virgin Islands, takes an active role in sponsorship of the event. The St. Thomas shop is one of the largest in the Caribbean and is located on the historic waterfront of downtown Charlotte Amalie. Island Global Yachting and USVI Tourism are also sponsors of the event. Marriott Frenchman's Reef Hotel, Mount Gay Rum and Heineken are supporters.

Rolex Cup Regatta

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