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An interview with Pat Bailey on the 2023 St. Thomas International Regatta

by David Schmidt 21 Mar 08:00 PDT March 24-26, 2023
Racecourse action at the St. Thomas Yacht Club's annual St. Thomas International Regatta © STIR/Dean Barnes

There's a lot to love about the annual St. Thomas International Regatta. The event, which bills itself as the "Crown Jewel of Caribbean racing" is hosted each year by the St. Thomas Yacht Club, and it gives racers of all stripes the chance to chase away their winter blues under a gorgeous Caribbean sky. The 2023 edition of STIR is set to take place from March 24-26, and will take place on the waters off St. Thomas' eastern shores.

Having personally been fortunate enough to have experienced this crown-jewel regatta myself, I can assure you that the water is as warm—and the racing as much fun—as the photos suggest.

A glance at this year's registration list reveals yachts both modest and mighty. These range from Hobie Waves and IC24s to a 70-foot keelboat, with enough of 30-, 40-, and 50-footers in the mix to keep things lively for racers and the race committee alike.

I checked in with Pat Bailey, regatta co-director of the 2023 St. Thomas International Regatta, via email, to learn more about this exciting Caribbean regatta.

The St. Thomas International Regatta is one of the biggest Caribbean regattas. Can you please give us a bit of STIR's backstory, culture, and its competition levels?

STIR is one of the most recognized regattas in the Caribbean. It was founded by the St. Thomas Yacht Club 49 years ago, and the first sponsor was Rolex. At the time, this was the first regatta sponsored by Rolex before Rolex became more involved in sailing events.

Then, as of now, the intent has been to keep the level of the regatta to the same high standards as Rolex.

The spirit of STIR and its heartbeat is an atmosphere of friendly competition at the highest level of yacht racing. As such, STIR has long been known as an event to come test racing skills with some of the best sailors in the Caribbean and the world.

Our beautiful U.S. Virgin Islands waters and sailing conditions combined with the highest caliber of race management are what attract sailors from around the globe. Our St. Thomas Yacht Club motto is 'we love it here' and for STIR we also add, 'everyone is welcome, from high-performance racers to family racer cruisers.'

What kinds of numbers and interest levels are you seeing ahead of the 2023 edition of STIR compared with the past few editions?

We've experienced an upturn in the numbers of competitors in now our third year following a one-year pause in 2020 for the pandemic. We are happy to see as people have come out of Covid, that they remember the great times they had racing in St. Thomas and are returning. We are anticipating over 50 entries.

Are there any new additions or important changes to the 2023 regatta, compared with recent previous editions?

What's new is that we look forward to welcoming three Cape 31s to STIR 2023. Also, we are actively working on a rally for large catamarans.

Beyond this, we continue to follow the highly successful formula of great conditions, a friendly atmosphere, and the highest quality race management that keeps sailors coming back and entices newcomers as well.

What kinds of courses can sailors look forward to sailing? Are we mostly talking W-Ls, or will there also be opportunities to stretch out and maybe enjoy some reaching angles?

For all classes, there will be a mix of windward-leeward and around the island's courses. This is to test the skills of competitors and to allow the competitors to enjoy the beauty of our islands.

Of note is that our Round the Rocks (RTR) race on March 23 is a great opportunity to warm up for STIR and sail around the rocks. Depending on the weather, the course will either be around neighboring St. John or around the smaller islands off St. Thomas' east end.

We will be using the full scope of the yachtscoring platform, meaning scoring, protests, and notices, for both RTR and STIR.

The NOR for STIR and registration is here:

With 15 boats, the IC24 class is the single biggest One Design class racing. Will these boats sail the same courses as the rest of the fleet, or will they effectively function as a fleet within a fleet?

The IC24 class has its own format, its own separate race course [that's] completely separate from the other big boat sailing areas, and its own race management. Racing is strictly One Design.

The strength of the class lies in the local Virgin Islands and Puerto Rican fleets. But competitors from around the world can charter an IC24 from the St. Thomas Sailing Center and compete. In fact, half a dozen of the entries this year are teams from the USA, including New England, Chicago, and California.

What kind of onshore entertainment can sailors look forward to, once the finishing guns have gone quiet each day?

When sailors come ashore to the St. Thomas Yacht Club after racing, they will be greeted with music. They can go for a refreshing swim off our beach, try out their dance moves on the Club's patio, or enjoy the finest libations from our beverage sponsors and the camaraderie of fellow sailors.

Close to the St. Thomas Yacht Club, in Red Hook, there is a variety of entertainment and cuisine.

Can you please tell us about any other 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?

Within the St. Thomas Yacht Club's mission statement is to protect and preserve the sailing area, beaches, and club environs. This is a core concept at the soul of the Club and STIR, and one which we follow by using environmentally friendly alternates.

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

This year we are introducing a new trophy, the Arthur J. Wullschleger Happy Days and Never Better Award. As the inscription reads, this will be 'presented to the yacht the demonstrates the highest level of positive attitude, enthusiasm, and comradery on both the race course and ashore.'

Arthur loved sailing and was a long-time strong supporter of the St. Thomas Yacht Club and STIR.

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