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An interview with Pat Bailey on the 2022 St. Thomas International Regatta

by David Schmidt 22 Mar 08:00 PDT March 25-27, 2022
IC24 racing at STIR © Dean Barnes

When it comes to hammers-down competitive sailboat racing in the Caribbean, the annual St. Thomas International Regatta is tough to beat. The event has long boasted a great spirit of competition and often attracts some of the fastest boats and crews around. The 2022 edition of the St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR; March 25-27)) has attracted quick company ranging from a Botin 52 to a Swan 601 to a Farr 65 to a handful of Fast 40s and J/121s, not to mention a concentration of IC24s (modified J/24s), the latter of which comprise the regatta's single biggest class.

Impressively, while the St. Thomas Yacht Club suffered some setbacks in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2018, STIR was the only major Caribbean event to take place in 2021.

Sail-World checked in with Pat Bailey, co-director of the 2022 St. Thomas International Regatta, to learn more about of this early spring Caribbean classic.

What kinds of numbers and interest levels are you seeing ahead of the 2022 edition of STIR, compared to 2021?

We saw a faster uptick in entries when registration opened last fall than we did a year ago, and I attribute that to pent-up demand and sailors wanting to get out racing again after the lockdowns of the pandemic.

We're working with sailors in our neighboring islands, and as Covid protocols loosen up, we may see more boats or even entire one-design classes. I think we might entice last-minute race boats from the RORC Caribbean 600 and St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, who had a positive experience and look for other events in which to race.

We've also had some good snowy weather up north and that always creates an appeal to come race in the Caribbean.

In terms of the kinds of boats that will be populating the starting line(s) once the guns begin sounding, are you anticipating mostly smaller boats, or do you think you will see the same kinds of boats represented that one might have encountered at, say, the 2018 edition of STIR?

We have a very diversified fleet—everything from a 65-footer to a dozen or more IC24s.

What's nice is that although the fleet is diversified, we can provide classes such that similar boats will compete against each other. That always makes for tight racing.

Again, this year looks like our groupings provide some good classes and excellent racing.

What represents a bigger slice of your fleet—bareboats from the different charter fleets, or race-charter boats that people rent from private owners? Can you give me an idea as to what percentage of the overall fleet these categories represent? Also, are race-charter boats gaining in popularity over bareboats if you look at recent trends?

Race-charter boats. Nearly the entire IC24 class is race charter from our St. Thomas Sailing Center, and we have Ondeck's Spirit of Juno coming up from Antigua.

The IC24 program is definitely unique to the Caribbean in that it offers the ability to fly in, charter a competitive boat, and race with world-class competition.

In terms of bareboats, the US Virgin Islands is not a monohull charter boat destination. The British Virgin Islands is. The Moorings and Sunsail actively pursue charter boats in the BVI as well as in St. Maarten and Antigua.

Our bareboat fleets, including The Moorings, a long-time supporter of our regatta, as well as Dream Yacht and Waypoints (the former CYOA), primarily have charter catamarans. Charter catamarans are not ideally sailed nor intended for racing.

The St. Thomas International Regatta's DNA has long been about competitive racing and fun, with the accent on competitive racing. That said, we have had people in the past charter a boat and sail in the Jib & Main Class.

We don't offer PHRF, but there is a CSA (Caribbean Sailing Association) class called the Club Class where competitors don't need to be measured with a handicap rating to sail.

What kinds of on-the-water racing can attending skippers and crews look forward to? Are we talking about mostly W-L racing, or will you also run races that use the islands as turning marks?

Our regatta has two facets. We intend to have a mix of windward-leewards. However, we wouldn't want to miss the fun, excitement, and beauty of sailing around all our gorgeous islands.

All the classes except the Hobie Waves will have some round-the-island racing. Even the IC24s. It's the last race of the day for them and we'll send them around nearby islands like the James or Cow and Calf.

Are there any new additions or important changes to the 2022 regatta, compared to previous editions?

There is a long-standing history of excellence in all facets of our regatta. That's what the St. Thomas International Regatta is known for and that's what sailors can expect. We intend to provide the best and most interesting racing, taking advantage of winds, waves, and weather, and we will maintain our excellence in race committee work.

We'll again have David Brennan as PRO on the CSA fleet and Dick Neville as PRO on the IC24 course.

The facets that might change this year are shoreside.

STIR was the only major Caribbean regatta to take place in 2021—what were the biggest lessons that the club/regatta learned last year about safety running an event amidst a pandemic? Also, how does the club/regatta plan to implement these lessons for the 2022 regatta?

Lessons learned were that it was important to follow the Covid protocols in place and to instill in competitors that fun was important, but safety and awareness of our fellow competitors are key.

In other words, by following the guidelines, is still possible to go out and race, do it safely, and still have fun.

Building on that last question, do you think the lessons learned in 2021 can be exported to other clubs and regattas? If so, can you please give a couple of examples?

Again, following the (Covid) rules can still allow great racing and good times.

Can you please tell us about any efforts that the club has made over the last year or two to further green up the regatta and make it an even more sustainable event?

We at the St. Thomas Yacht Club have always been conscious and caring for the culture of our islands, including taking care of the environment. That will continue.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add, for the record?

Our islands provide the best backdrop for racing and sailing and can be enjoyed by everyone. Don't take just my word. Caribbean Journal in November named St. Thomas the 'Hottest Yachting Destination in the Caribbean'. We have an excellent airlift from the mainland U.S. The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism, a thriving marine sector, and all of our government leaders have done a good job of managing the pandemic while still welcoming visitors by land and sea.

We invite all sailors to come to paradise, have the time of their life and enjoy the beauty, hospitality, fun, and exceptional sailing conditions of our U.S. Virgin Islands.

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