St. Thomas Int'l Regatta - New faces and race favorites registered

Rick Wesslund’’s J/120 El Ocaso won its class in the 2013 regatta. Wesslund will be back this year on a new J/122.
Dean Barnes
Say goodbye to the snow and hello to superb sailing and a warm welcome at the St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR). Set for March 28 to 30 and hosted out of the St. Thomas Yacht Club, this year’s fleet features several newcomers as well as a return of Caribbean rock stars. Plus, it’s not too late to register! Bring your own boat or charter.

Location and level of competition is what attracted Switzerland’s Franck Noel to enter his Near Miss, a TP 52 built in New Zealand and originally named Artemis, in the STIR for the first time. Noel bought the boat in 2011 to race the Rolex Fastnet Race where he finished third. In 2012, says project manager, Benoit Briand, 'We finished as the overall winner of the Giraglia Rolex Cup.' Crew for the STIR will include New Zealand’s Rod Dawson as tactician, Poland’s Karol Jablowski at the helm, and the Netherland’s Marcel Van Triest on navigation, with the remainder of the team from France.

Tonnerre de Breskens 3, owned by the Netherland’s Peter Vroon, is another new entry. The 2009 New Zealand-built Ker 46 has campaigned mainly in Europe. In 2013, Tonnerre won the RORC Points Championship in 2013, something the team also accomplished in 2010 and 2011, plus their IRC class in Cowes Week. 'We have an international crew principally amateurs from the Netherlands, Belgium, South-Africa, Britain and Ireland', says Vroom, who started the year off competing in Key West Race Week and the RORC Caribbean 600 before taking to the STIR start line.

Great racing and fun is why the USA’s David Southwell entered his Morris 48, Kismet, in the STIR. Southwell, who hails from Boston, Massachusetts, has cruised Kismet in the Caribbean since last November. However, Southwell is an accomplished racer who finished second in class in the 2012 Newport Bermuda Race aboard the then-named Barra, and third in the IRC-2 class as Kismet in the 2013 Marblehead Halifax Race. 'This is my first St. Thomas International Regatta,' says Southwell. 'It’s by far the most popular regatta for my crew, many of which would have deserted if I hadn’t entered.'

Highland Fling XII, Monaco’s Irvine Laidlaw’s 2011-launched TP 52, is back after losing its rig at mark one of race one two years ago. 'The owner has built a replacement rig, and is keen to return to St. Thomas and test this boat,' says St. Thomas’ Olympic Silver Medalist, Peter Holmberg, who will be tactician onboard. 'It's a coastal course oriented TP52, as opposed to a windward/leeward TP52, so it will be interesting to see how it stacks up against the other TP52's.'

Back for his fifth year after winning his class last year is the USA’s Rick Wesslund, from Miami, Florida. Wesslund traded in his J/120 for a new J/122, also named El Ocaso, which he raced for the first time at this year’s Key West Race Week. Crew members include skipper/navigator Mike Caldwell, Bob Hillier trimming main and tactician Anson Mulder. 'We enjoy the variety of race courses, especially St. James and St. John courses, the quality of the competition and race management,' says Wesslund. 'We also like that the St. Thomas and BVI regattas are a back-to-back combo as it allows our team a lot of racing in one trip.'

The BVI’s Jon Charlton will return after a nearly three decade hiatus to race his C&C 41, Reba, in Jib and Main. 'We have won the Gosling's Rum Series in 2012 and 2013, which is made up of the six biggest regattas in BVI not including the Spring Regatta, and are leading the series again this year. We also won our class in the 2013 BVI Spring Regatta,' Charlton says. 'We figured it was time to race in St. Thomas again.'

Finally, it’s the combination of quality race direction, great competition and affordability that will bring Puerto Rico’s Jaime Torres back once again on his Melges 32, Smile and Wave. 'The race management has never disappointed. Race directors are experienced and well equipped to provide challenging courses to all different classes. The three day format and the fact that all activities are on the beach at the St. Thomas Yacht Club works well for visitors like us,' says Torres.

There are several opportunities to charter. www.performanceyachtcharter.comPerformance_Yacht_Charter!new offers its Swan 51 Northern Child, First 40 Southern Child (formerly called Smile and Wave) and J/120 Sunset Child (formerly El Ocaso) to charter by the whole boat or by individual crew spots. Yachts are race ready. The whole yacht or individual places, bareboat or skippered, are available on OneDesck Sailing Beneteau 40.7, Spirit of Venus. Bermuda High, a Hanse 400, can be chartered through Sound Sailing Center. There are two IC24s in St. Thomas available for charter in the Jib and Main Class from Paul Stoeken (paul@islandsol.vi).

Northern Child races in the 2013 regatta. - St. Thomas International Regatta
Dean Barnes

Register online for the St. Thomas International Regatta at wwwyachtscoring.com. For more information about the regatta, visit St Thomas International Rgatta or, follow for the latest information on Facebook www.facebook.com/rolexregatta, Instagram #IRRSTYC and Twitter @IRRSTYC
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