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International Rolex Regatta - Living up to an esteemed tradition

by KPMS on 27 Mar 2013
2013 International Rolex Regatta Leighton O'Connor © http://www.leightonphoto.com/
The 40th edition of the International Rolex Regatta, which took place between 21-24 March, lived up to the event’s proud and esteemed tradition. Seventy-two international yachts including crews representing Germany, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom as well as the customary large contingent from the Caribbean and the United States graced the competition held in St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands.

Building breezes of 10-15 knots across the three days of racing guaranteed a tactically engaging competition. The week’s class winners, and recipients of Rolex timepieces, were: Lupa of London (GBR) in IRC, El Ocaso (USA) in CSA Racing 1, Delta (USA) in Melges 32 and Orion (USA) in IC 24.

Jeremy Pilkington’s Baltic 78 Lupa of London made short work of the IRC division, winning all six of the weekend’s races.

'It was a lovely regatta, the conditions were great; we had some close racing and could sail the boat to its potential,' said a delighted Pilkington, paying tribute to the sailing environment. 'In the Caribbean it is perfect sailing, you can guarantee the wind, its nice and warm. We will soon cross back to Europe and get ready for the Rolex Fastnet Race and later the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Sardinia.'

Lupa of London’s ruthless performance was impressive in a small, but quality filled division. The five-boat class included the event’s largest yacht - United States’ Donnybrook, an Andrews 80 owned by Jim Muldoon, and no stranger to the event. She was joined by the German crewed Haspa of Hamburg, sailing at the event for the first time, and like Lupa of London soon returning to Europe to prepare for August’s Rolex Fastnet Race. Husaria from Poland and Island Water World, a Swan 45, from the United States – a recent entrant at the Rolex Swan Cup Caribbean and eventual Class runner-up – completed the roster.

A hard-fought contest in CSA Racing 1 was forecast by Anson Mulder, tactician on United States J/120 El Ocaso. 'Tight finishes are the norm and this year will be no different. Several competitors in our class have a shot at winning and past experience tells us Lazy Dog is one team that will be in the hunt. It will definitely be tooth and nail!' So it proved.

The competition was decided by the very final race. El Ocaso, owned by Richard Wesslund, took the spoils winning four of the six races to finish ahead of Sergio Sagramoso’s persistent J/122 Lazy Dog from Puerto Rico. 'This is the first time we have won this regatta, and we have been trying to do it for four years now,' reflected Wesslund. 'This win is really important because we have already won a lot of other events in the Caribbean. Winning the Rolex (International Rolex Regatta) was our number one goal this year.'

Whilst El Ocaso and Lazy Dog battled for honours, Dianne Masters’ 20.72m/68-foot Ceramco New Zealand, a Bruce Farr design, was the fleet’s most eye-catching and historic entry. Raced by the legendary Sir Peter Blake in the 1981-1982 Whitbread Round The World Race, she has a proud pedigree. The crew paid their own homage to Blake when sporting red socks during a day of competition, a nod to the famous yachtsman’s lucky charm.

'This was the first boat built with a favourable design to surf the big waves in the Southern Ocean,' explained Masters. 'We need at least 20 to 25 knots of wind and then we’re untouchable. In light winds like this, we don’t have a chance of winning, but we’re all having a great time.' Indeed, in the relatively moderate breezes, she had to settle for eighth place. Masters plans to sail Ceramco NZ back to New Zealand competing in December’s Rolex Sydney Hobart on route.

A Melges 32 division featured at the International Rolex Regatta for the first time. The Class’s star touch was provided by American Ed Baird, ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year in 2007, racing onboard the United States entry Volpe. 'At this time of the year the Caribbean is certainly the perfect place to be,' admitted Baird. 'While the snow is falling in the north and winter is giving everyone a hard time it’s very nice to be here where the sun is warm and the weather is good.'

Baird and Volpe had to settle for fourth place in the ten race series as exuberant youth triumphed. 21-year-old Dalton DeVos and the crew on Delta (USA) held their first day lead throughout the competition and in securing three bullets saw off a spirited challenge from Jason Carroll’s Argo (USA). DeVos, whose cousin Ryan was skipper on Volpe, commented: 'I am extremely excited, this event meant a lot to me. You wonder why you would sail anywhere else, the breeze is awesome, weather great and you can’t complain about being in the islands.'

IC 24 one design provided the largest fleet at the event, with 16 boats contesting the most races: thirteen. Defending champion Orion of Puerto Rico, owned by Fraito Lugo, continued its recent domination of the competition winning five of the weekend’s races and accumulating a 16 point margin over second place.

'For our team this is a very special achievement because this is the tenth time we have won at the International Rolex Regatta,' revealed tactician Robbie Ramos. 'It is different now because the older we get the more responsibilities we have and the harder it is to actually make it to St. Thomas. Our team has now raced together for 20 years so it is always important to come back.'

The International Rolex Regatta is the oldest regatta in Rolex’s portfolio of international sailing events and dates back to 1974. All class winners were rewarded for their impressive feats during the final prizegiving held at St. Thomas Yacht Club immediately after the close of competition on Sunday 24 March.

Results:

IRC (IRC - Five Boats)
Position, Yacht, Type, Owner, Country, Total Points

1. Lupa of London, Baltic 78, Jeremy Pilkington, GBR, 6
2. Island Water World, Swan 45, Peter Houtzagers, NED, 13
3. Husaria, Farr 47, Krzysztof Kaminski / Irek Zubko, USA, 17

CSA - Racing 1 (CSA - Nine Boats)
Position, Yacht, Type, Owner, Country, Total Points

1. El Ocaso, J 120, Richard Wesslund, USA, 8
2. Lazy Dog, J 122, Sergio Sagramoso, Puerto Rico, 10
3. White Rhino, Swan 56, Jack Desmond, USA, 20

Melges 32 (One Design - Nine Boats)
Position, Yacht, Type, Owner, Country, Total Points

1. Delta, Melges 32, Dalton DeVos, USA, 27
2. ARGO, Melges 32, Jason Carroll, USA, 31
3. Inga from Sweden, Melges 32, Richard Goransson, SWE, 35

IC 24 (One Design - 16 Boats)
Position, Yacht, Type, Owner, Country, Total Points

1. Orion, IC 24, Fraito Lugo, Puerto Rico, 38
2. Magic Bus, IC 24, Phillip Shannon, USA, 54
3. Cachondo, IC 24, Marco Teixidor, Puerto Rico, Rolex Cup Regatta website

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