Navigators Bring it On

March 27, 2009

Bruce MacNeil's (Lincoln, Mass.) BARRA finished second in Spinnaker Racing/Cruising class.

The strength of the wind was typical but the direction atypical when it blew 12-18 knots out of the east-northeast on opening day of the International Rolex Regatta in St. Thomas, USVI. The Race Committee switched out today's schedule for Sunday's, knowing that courses set on the south side of St. Thomas would better favor the breeze, which typically blows from due east. The Committee was spot-on with their decision, but that was no surprise since this regatta prides itself on offering professional race management as well as a Caribbean experience bursting with scenic beauty and island-style fun. The three-day event runs through Sunday, March 29, and -- in its 36th edition -- is the longest running regatta in Rolex's impressive global portfolio of sailing events.

"Wandering through the islands was spectacularly beautiful," said Ron O'Hanley (Boston, Mass.), the owner and skipper of Privateer, a Cookson 50 that sits in fourth in IRC class after two races today. "It was also very tricky," added his navigator Skipper Helm (Middletown, R.I.). "You don't want to give the islands too much of a berth because then you're going a longer distance, but you also don't want to hit the rocks." He referenced, in particular, the day's first "Dog Island Race" that took all classes-IRC, CSA (Spinnaker Racing, Spinnaker Racing/Cruising and Non-Spinnaker), IC 24 and Beach Cats-over a 9.5 nm course around the namesake island twice and tested them with strong currents meeting opposing winds and sometimes, ironically, no wind at all. Privateer finished third in that race, while Phil and Wendy Lotz's (New Canaan, Conn./Newport, R.I.) Swan 42 Arethusa won.

"The last time I raced in the Caribbean was 25 years ago," said Wendy Lotz, "but this time I was the navigator so it was way more interesting. There aren't a lot of marks of the course, but you have to make your own way points so that you keep clear of the natural obstacles above and below the water." After sailing a second 23 nm course that included two long windward-leeward laps in Pillsbury Sound between St. Thomas and St. John, Arethusa rose to the top of the leaderboard on the merit of a second-place finish. Behind by only one point in overall scoring is Jim Mitchell's (SUI) Reichel Pugh 52 Vincitore, followed by David Aisher's (UK) Rogers 46 Yeoman XXXII.

CSA Spinnaker Racing class sported equally intriguing racing, with Dave West (Tortola, BVI) and his Melges 32 Jurakan now leading and some of the regatta's perennial favorites hot on his trail. West has three points on the strength of a 2-1 today, and John Foster (St. Thomas), the spry octogenarian who has not missed a Rolex Regatta yet, follows on his renowned Kirby 25 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, with six points, after winning today's first race and finishing fifth in the second. In close third is Frits Bus (St. Maarten, N.A.) on the Melges 24 Team Coors Light with seven points.

James Dobbs' (ANT) J/122 Lost Horizon lived up to its winning reputation in Spinnaker Racing/Cruising class when it posted a 6-1 today for seven points. The chore in store for Dobbs tomorrow is to extend his lead over second-place Kick 'Em Jenny, a Beneteau First 36.7 owned by Ian Hope-Ross ( ANT), and third-place Three Harkoms, a Farr 44 owned by James Hudleston (Tortola, BVI). All three boats are tied on points and it is only by the mathematics of sailing's tie-breaking rules that they have sorted out today.

While CSA Non-Spinnaker and Beach Cats sailed a shortened version of the Pillsbury Course, for theirLIME, skippered by Colin Rathbun (Tortola), was first overall in the One Design IC24 Class after Day 1 second race, the IC 24s continued their day with three windward-leeward races. Showing extraordinary talent was Colin Rathbun (Tortola, BVI), skippering Lime to an overall lead today after posting finishes of 9-1-2-1. In the last race, Rathbun, who is the president of this class, won even after jumping the starting gun prematurely and having to restart. According to Suki Rosenberg (Atlanta, Georgia), who skippers fourth place Bambooshay, starts are everything in the class. "You have to be out in front early in this fleet," he said, "and everyone today was making their big moves downwind. Everyone is together at the marks, so it is close racing."

The IC 24s are hybrid boats: basically J/24s with the back end cut off and refitted with a bigger cockpit and a Melges 24 deck. There are about 30 IC 24s in the islands and Puerto Rico, and the boat was the brain child of two locals here sailing in the class: Chris Rosenberg and Morgan Avery. Avery, who in the late '90s sailed with the Virgin Islands' own Olympic medalist and America's Cup personality Peter Holmberg on the world match racing circuit, is trimming the jib and spinnaker on Chris Curreri's Brand New Second Hand and is representative of the caliber of racers in the class. He says the cockpit, and the rule that everyone sits with their legs inboard, makes the boat perfect for kids and older sailors as well. "We wanted a boat that would be perfect for families," said Avery. "On other keelboats, when you tack you have to wait for the one agile guy to go across first and then everyone else follows. By the time everyone has their legs over the side, the moment is gone."

Video Highlights
Exciting video footage of today's racing is available for free on-demand viewing at or by clicking on the TV icon on the regatta web site where live results by are posted nightly.

Rolex is title sponsor of the event, with active involvement from A.H. Riise, its Official Retailer of Rolex watches in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The St. Thomas shop is one of the largest in the Caribbean and is located on Charlotte Amalie's historic waterfront. Other sponsors of this event are Island Global Yachting, USVI Tourism, Mount Gay Rum, Bellows International and Marriott Frenchman's Reef.

Day 1 - Top-Five Results FINAL

Place, Yacht Name, Type, Owner/Skipper, Hometown, Results, Total Points

IC 24 (One Design - 13 Boats)

  • Lime, IC 24 24, Colin Rathbun, Tortola, BVI - 9, 1, 2, 1, ; 13
  • Orion, IC 24 24, Fraito Lugo, PONCE, PR, USA - 5, 3, 3, 3, ; 14
  • Intac, IC 24 24, Mark Plaxton, Road Town, VG - 3, 5, 1, 8, ; 17
  • Bambooshay, IC 24 24, Suki Rosenberg, Atlanta, GA, USA - 2, 7, 5, 6, ; 20
  • Brand-New Second Hand, IC 24 24, Christopher Curreri, St. Thomas, VI, USVI - 10, 2, 8, 4, ; 24

Spinnaker Racing (CSA - 15 Boats)

  • Jurakan, Melges 32 32, Dave West, Road Town, Tortola, BVI - 2, 1, ; 3
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Kirby 25 Modified 25, John Foster, St. Thomas, VI, USVI - 1, 5, ; 6
  • Team Coors Light, Melges 24 24, Frits Bus, St. Maarten, N.A. - 5, 2, ; 7
  • Urayo, J 24 24, Gilberto E. Rivera, Guayanabo, PR, USA - 6, 4, ; 10
  • J. Doe, J 30 30, Cynthia & Eduardo Ross Luaces, Miami, FL, USA - 9, 3, ; 12

Spinnaker Racing/Cruising (CSA - 13 Boats)

  • Lost Horizon, J 122 40, James Dobbs, ANT - 6, 1, ; 7
  • Kick 'Em Jenny, Beneteau First 36.7 36, Ian Hope-Ross, Philipsburg, ANT - 1, 6, ; 7
  • Three Harkoms, Farr 44 44, James Hudleston, Tortola, BVI - 4, 3, ; 7
  • Barra, Morris 48 48, Bruce MacNeil, Lincoln, MA, USA - 8, 2, ; 10
  • Pipe Dream 38, Peter Haycraft, BVI - 2, 9, ; 11

Non-Spinnaker Racing (CSA - 12 Boats)

  • Bonne Chance, Beneteau First 35S5 35, Bernardo Gonzalez, Dorado, PR, USA - 2, 3, ; 5
  • Shamrock V, J 120 40, Thomas Mullen, Campton, NH, USA - 5, 1, ; 6
  • Odyssey, Ben First 44.7 45, Kevin Gregory, Buffalo, NY, USA - 4, 2, ; 6
  • Dragon Fly Plus, Swan 53 53, Ulrich Rohde, Marco Island, FL, USA - 7, 4, ; 11
  • Mary-Ellen 54, Howard Silverman, US - 6, 7, ; 13

IRC (IRC - 6 Boats)

  • Arethusa, Swan 42 42, Philip Lotz, New Canaan, CT, USA - 1, 2, ; 3
  • Vincitore, RP 52 52, Jim Mitchell, SUI - 3, 1, ; 4
  • Yeoman XXXII, Rogers 46 46, David Aisher, Tonbridge, UK - 2, 4, ; 6
  • Privateer, Farr/Cookson 50 50, Ron O'Hanley, Boston, MA, USA - 4, 3, ; 7
  • Donnybrook, Custom SC73 73, James P. Muldoon, Washington, DC, USA - 5, 7/DNS, ; 12

Large Multi Hulls (CSA - 1 Boats)

  • Piglet, Newick 23 23, Joseph San Martin, Christiansted, VI, USVI - 1, 1, ; 2

Beach Cats (Portsmouth - 6 Boats)

  • Discovery Bay, Hobie Tiger 18 18, Francisco Figueroa, San Juan, PR - 2, 1, ; 3
  • Auto-Manic, Hobie 16 16, Chris Schreiber, Christiansted, VI, USVI - 1, 2, ; 3
  • Island Sol, Hobie 16 16, Paul Stoeken, St. Thomas, VI, USVI - 5, 3, ; 8
  • Caribbean Auto Mart, Nacra Inter 20 20, Thomas Ainger, Christiansted, VI, USVI - 3, 5, ; 8
  • Blame it on Rhea, Nacra Inter 20 20, Mark Chong, St. Thomas, VI

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