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An interview with Julie San Martin about the 26th annual St. Croix International Regatta

by David Schmidt 5 Mar 08:00 PST March 9-10, 2019
Racing action at the St. Croix International Regatta © Image courtesy of the St. Croix International Regatta/Trish Rhodes

In late 2008, I underwent the first of two rather unpleasant surgeries that were aimed at fixing a shoulder that I utterly ruined rock climbing and doing bow on keelboats, so, come the winter of 2009, cabin fever set in hard. Fortunately, my friend Quino Sanchez from Puerto Rico sent me a super nice email asking if I’d be interested in joining him and his crew aboard a Beneteau 36.7 for the St. Croix International Regatta in March.

While I’m guessing that tradewind sailing aboard a fairly sporty keelboat likely wasn’t exactly what the doctor had in mind when he (begrudgingly) signed-off on my trip, I instantly found the necessary tonic to slug through the rest of a long and tough Boston winter and a painful recovery process.

A few weeks later I was with Quino and company, motoring through the channel in the reef that guards the St. Croix Yacht Club on the island’s northeastern flank, preparing for the first of many around-the-buoy races that would define our weekend.

Great breeze, warm water and gorgeous scenery provided the backdrop as our crew rifled though spinnaker sets, gybes and douses, all in rapid-fire Spanish. As with my other experiences sailing with Quino and his crew at other Caribbean regattas, our results were always strong, with more than a few bullets coming our way.

Ashore, the club did a great job of welcoming out-of-town guests and fostering a family-friendly atmosphere for sailors of all ages. Best yet, mere feet of sand separate the YC from the nearby bathtub-warm waters, and guests are treated to a spectacular view of the racing area from the bar. What’s not to like?

But among all of the great and unique aspects of the St. Croix International Regatta, one of the most indelible moments unfurled at the award’s ceremony, when the winning skipper was awarded the weight of one of his crewmembers in rum. Not surprisingly, the skipper elected to send his biggest guy to go and sit on a balance scale as regatta officials stacked cases of rum on the scale’s opposing plate. While I’m sure the skipper and crew were proud of their official regatta silverware, by all outwards appearances, it was the rum that was the real crew- and crowd-pleaser. Not surprisingly, this lucky crew seemed to make plenty of new friends that evening.

So while my first surgery was ultimately a failure, dooming me to a far more “athletic” orthopedic ordeal involving lathe-turned titanium and stainless steel (the TSA loves me!), the 2009 St. Croix International Regatta proved to be the perfect salve for an otherwise rough winter. Moreover, it also left me with a great memory of sailing with some wonderful people on one of the prettiest patches of water imaginable.

I checked in with Julie San Martin, the regatta's co-chair, via email, ahead of the 26th annual St. Croix International Regatta (March 9-10, 2019) to learn more about this great warm-water regatta.

Are most of your competitors from St. Croix, or do they hail from all over the Caribbean? If it’s the later, what islands/nations tend to be best represented on the starting line?

Since 9/11 it has become increasingly difficult and expensive for other Caribbean boats and crews to obtain visas to enter the territory, so most of our competitors are from USVI, BVI, and Puerto Rico.

Our mix is usually about 40% Crucian boats, the rest are visitors. Our biggest and most faithful group of visiting boats is from [the] BVI, they also serve on race committee and lay marks—big shout out to RBVIYC, Bob Phillips, Chris Haycraft, and the crew!

How many boats do you hope to see at this year’s event? Also, will the biggest numbers be in the CSA racing spinnaker or CSA non-spinnaker class?

[We’re] looking for 20 to 30 competitors. Not all visitors can make Friday’s racing, so that is a standalone race (Captain Nick’s Race) with “practical” prizes—watches , radios, etc.

Saturday and Sunday results are for the rum (the winner gets their weight in Cruzan rum)! We have two perpetual Trophies -one for racing spinnaker and one for multihulls (Dick Newick Trophy).

[We’re] working with [the] St Martin[-based] owners [of] Appie and Arthur of Tryst, a 50-year old Newick-[designed] trimaran built in St Croix, they are very successful campaigning this year. It would be terrific for them to win the perpetual.

Biggest keelboat class will most likely be the Rhodes 19 fleet, while the CSA Spin and Non-Spin will probably be roughly the same [numbers].

Weather-depending, of course, how many races do you hope to conduct each day? Also, is there a target number of races for the whole regatta?

Big boats three to four races a day. One Design (Rhodes 19) we will make those kiddies work - five to seven races a day, could have 15 to 20 races over the weekend. Depends on the weather.

Optimists will race in Teague Bay, off the beach at the Yacht Club - they are our daytime entertainment with a professional race committee lead by [International Jurist] Don Makowiecki.

In the perfect world, what will the weather gods deliver on the morning of Friday, March 8? Also, what about in the less-than-perfect world?

Perfect is mid-range wind (10-to-15 knots) ENE and steady. The boats move but we don't get beat up. If [it’s] over 30 knots, [we] will probably call off racing…and be the most unpopular girl in the clubhouse.

What kinds of course shapes can sailors expect? Mostly Windward-Leewards, or will there also be triangles or other shapes?

Our PRO is [International Race Officer] Richard Neville from Annapolis; this will be his third year at our event.

One Design, definitely lots of Windward-Leeward [courses], possibly a triangle, depending on weather an available assets, with one or two distance races. Racing and multihulls, a mixture of courses.

Does the winning skipper still earn the weight of one of their crew members in rum?

Oh yes!!!!

And for the Optimist [sailors] - the winners [earn their] weight in sports drink!

Can you tell us about any steps that you and the other event organizers have taken in the last couple years to help green-up the regatta or otherwise reduce its environmental footprint?

Shameless plug for Sailors for the Sea - 2019 is our first year to register for their Green Regatta Program, our goal is bronze. We will have at least one, perhaps two, of their representatives at our regatta to work with our Green Team Leader.

We will educate sailors on various ways they can be more green. Quite some time ago, we switched to "Turtle Straws," [we] encourage sailors to use refillable water bottles, and St. Croix has banned single-use plastic grocery bags.

Anything else that you’d like to add, for the record?

As St. Croix continues to recover from Hurricane Maria, St. Croix Yacht Club looks for opportunities to expose Crucians young and old to the opportunities and education sailing provides.

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