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An interview with Mike McCarty and Julie San Martin on the 2024 St Croix International Regatta

by David Schmidt 16 Apr 08:00 PDT April 19-21, 2024
St Croix YC up and running for the St Croix Regatta © Sue Pelling

In 2009, I had the good fortune of attending the St Croix International Regatta as a journalist. Better still, friends of mine from nearby Puerto Rico, whom I had previously sailed with at a different Caribbean regatta, were racing and invited me to join them. Given that I was living in Boston at the time, sorting out my answer took about as long as it takes to type the word “yes” into an email.

I wasn’t disappointed.

The regatta was in February back then, and while 15 years is a reasonable pile of hourglass sand, I have fantastic memories of racing on the waters of Teague Bay and Buck Island Channel. The races were well-run, the yacht club was beyond accommodating, and the conditions were a perfect antidote to what was otherwise a hard New England winter.

While the regatta’s dates have shifted into April, I was happy to learn that the event’s winning skipper still receives their weight in rum.

I checked in with Mike McCarty and Julie San Martin, who serve as the regatta’s sailing chair and continuity coordinator (respectively), via email, to learn more.

Can you please tell us a bit about the St Croix International Regatta, its history, and its culture?

In 1992, Commodore Nick Castruccio orchestrated the inaugural St. Croix Yacht Club International Regatta. Through his efforts, Mumm's Champagne became the event sponsor, and he rallied sailing enthusiasts from across the Caribbean to partake in the competition.

The three-day spectacle, held in October on the weekend of Columbus Day/Puerto Rico Friendship Day, marked its inception with an impressive turnout of 96 boats.

Notably, the victor in the racing spinnaker class received the skipper's weight in Mumm's Champagne, thus initiating a cherished tradition.

Following a series of hurricanes in the 1990s that repeatedly damaged the main yacht club dock, the event's timing was strategically shifted to February. This adjustment allowed for the replacement of the dock after the hurricane season, contributing to its successful retention ever since.

In 1999, Mumms stepped back as the sponsor, making way for the local Innovative Companies, which continued its sponsorship until 2007. The winning skipper's reward then transitioned to their weight in Cruzan Rum, courtesy of our local distillery.

In 2010, the organizers collaborated with the National Hospice Regatta organization for several years. However, in January 2012, the organizing committee regretfully announced the cancellation of the annual event scheduled for March. Subsequently, a new slate emerged the following month, replacing the incumbents at the annual meeting. This dedicated group successfully raised the necessary funds, ensuring the continuation of the 20th annual St. Croix International Regatta, with Captain Nick Castruccio honored as the special guest.

Since 2012, steadfast support from the Virgin Islands Department of Tourism and St. Croix Yacht Club members has ensured the event's ongoing success, marking a collaborative effort to celebrate the spirit of sailing in this captivating locale.

What kinds of sailors does it tend to attract? Also, what percentage of sailors are juniors and what percentage are adults?

This is primarily an adult event, keelboats and multihulls.

Weather-wise, what kind of conditions can sailors expect to encounter on Teague Bay in April? What are the best case and worst-case weather scenario?

Mid-April in Teague Bay generally offers sailors favorable conditions, with winds typically in the mid-teens—a perfect range for sailing. The prevailing wind direction is usually east-northeast, contributing to a conducive and enjoyable sailing experience.

Over the years, the St. Croix Yacht Club International Regatta has been fortunate to witness excellent weather during this period.

The best-case scenario involves steady winds, moderate in intensity, providing an ideal setting for competitive and enjoyable racing.

While the regatta has been blessed with favorable conditions, it's worth noting that there have been instances in the past where the organizers had to consider the worst-case weather scenario. Specifically, on one occasion, racing had to be canceled for a day due to winds consistently in the low-twenties, with gusts reaching up to 30 knots. The decision to cancel racing was made to ensure the safety of participants and equipment, given the challenging conditions.

It's noteworthy that, in the event's 31-year history, there hasn't been a need to cancel racing due to light winds—a testament to the consistent and reliable breeze that the Caribbean climate often provides. The region's natural benefits contribute to a generally reliable and favorable weather environment for sailing, making Teague Bay an excellent venue for the St. Croix Yacht Club International Regatta.

What kind of a role, if any, do you see local knowledge playing in the regatta’s outcome?

Local knowledge is always helpful but not a big factor.

What are the logistics like for sailors coming from other nearby islands (BVI, USVI) in terms of chartering boats or bringing their own? Also, what about for sailors from Europe or North America?

Since 9/11 it has become increasingly difficult to enter USVI on a foreign-flagged sailboat with foreign crew. This reduced our down-island competitors. BVI boats find it more convenient to clear through St John or St Thomas.

The St Croix Yacht Club has a limited number of Rhodes 19 for charter. Charter of keelboats and IC24s can be arranged through third parties. On arrival, there may be space at the dock, otherwise [there’s] plenty of room in the mooring field. Launch service [is] available.

Are there any notable changes or new additions to this year’s regatta that returning veterans should know about?

Returning veterans of the St. Croix Yacht Club International Regatta will be pleased to learn about a notable addition to this year's event. For [this year’s] regatta, organizers are introducing a new feature: a commitment to include at least one distance race each day.

This exciting development aims to enhance the regatta experience, offering participants a diverse and challenging set of racing opportunities throughout the event.

The introduction of daily distance races is a strategic move to provide sailors with a varied and engaging competition, adding a dynamic element to the regatta's traditional format. Organizers believe that this enhancement will not only contribute to the overall excitement of the event but also showcase the versatility of the St. Croix Yacht Club's sailing courses.

This change reflects the regatta's ongoing commitment to innovation and responsiveness to the preferences and expectations of participants. Returning veterans can look forward to a fresh and exhilarating dimension to their racing experience at the St. Croix Yacht Club International Regatta this year.

If you could offer one piece of racecourse advice to visiting (and local) sailors, what would it be?

Read the sailing instructions.

Can you tell us about any efforts that you and the other regatta organizers have made to try to lower the regatta’s environmental footprint or otherwise green-up the regatta?

The St. Croix Yacht Club International Regatta organizers are committed to minimizing the event's environmental footprint and implementing sustainable practices. Several initiatives have been put in place to contribute to a greener regatta:

Online Entry and Documentation: The regatta has transitioned to online entry processes, including Notice of Race (NOR), sailing instructions, and course details. This move reduces the need for paper documentation and promotes a more streamlined and environmentally friendly registration process.

Reduced Paper Usage: The regatta no longer provides paper sailing instructions with courses. Instead, all essential information is available online, reducing the demand for printed materials and contributing to paper conservation.

Elimination of Single-Use Plastics: A conscious effort has been made to reduce single-use plastics during the regatta. Water fill stations are available at all clubs to encourage participants to refill reusable water bottles, thus decreasing the reliance on disposable plastic bottles.

Eco-Friendly Food Concessions: Food concessions at the regatta have adopted eco-friendly practices, such as using paper plates and minimizing or eliminating plastic containers. This initiative supports waste reduction and aligns with the organizers's commitment to sustainability.

These efforts collectively demonstrate a commitment to environmental responsibility and a proactive approach to addressing the ecological impact of the regatta. By embracing online solutions, reducing paper usage, and making conscientious choices in food concessions, the St. Croix Yacht Club International Regatta organizers are contributing to a greener and more sustainable event.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add about this year’s St. Croix Yacht Club International Regatta, for the record?

Certainly, there's much more to highlight about this year's St. Croix Yacht Club International Regatta:

Exciting Onshore Entertainment: Beyond the exhilarating races on the water, the regatta promises a vibrant onshore experience. Attendees can look forward to delightful entertainment on the sandy beach, featuring dancing and live music [under the tent]. The atmosphere will be further enhanced by the presence of captivating Moko Jumbie performers, a big tent for leisurely lounging, and the thrilling spectacle of fire dancers.

Culinary Delights: Food enthusiasts will be pleased to know that the galley will offer a variety of food a la carte including a satellite hot dog and hamburger station. [This helps to contribute to the] festive ambiance of the event, providing a delightful complement to the competitive sailing activities.

Community Engagement: The regatta extends beyond the racecourse, fostering a sense of community engagement. Attendees can participate in the rubber-duck race—an entertaining and lighthearted event that adds a touch of whimsy to the regatta weekend.

Historical Significance: As the Caribbean's friendliest and oldest yacht club, with a rich history dating back to 1952, the St. Croix Yacht Club International Regatta holds a special place in the sailing community. The regatta weekend serves as a celebration of tradition, camaraderie, and the enduring spirit of sailing in the Caribbean.

Grand Finale: The regatta concludes on a high note with a grand finale on Sunday. The winning skipper will be honored with their weight in rum, a cherished tradition that adds a unique and memorable element to the event.

The St. Croix Yacht Club International Regatta promises an unforgettable weekend blending thrilling races with lively onshore festivities, delicious food, and a sense of community spirit. It's an event that encapsulates the essence of Caribbean sailing and the warmth of the region's oldest yacht club.

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