ST. THOMAS — Smart starts. Minimal mistakes. Fast finishes.
Those were among the successful strategies of class winners at the 49th St. Thomas International Regatta, which concluded Sunday.
Nearly 50 yachts, racing in CSA handicap and one-design classes, spanning from 24- to 70-foot vessels, and with skippers and crews hailing from the Caribbean, the United States, Europe and Australia, raced around the natural markers of islands, cays, and rocks in 12-15 knots of east-southeast breezes.
“Privateer,” Ron O’Hanley’s Cookson 50, finished first over Jim Madden’s Carkeek 47 “Stark Raving Mad IX” by a mere two points in the Caribbean Sailing Association’s (CSA) Spinnaker Racing 0 class.
“We raced this event last year and knew there were great conditions,” said O’Hanley, from Boston, Mass. “What I’m happy about most is that when we made mistakes, we recovered quickly. The team has sailed together for a long time and communicated well. That was important since we had a fleet start with two other of the CSA classes, but once off the start line it turned into a match race between us and Stark Raving Max IX.”
In Spinnaker Racing 1, St. Thomas resident Peter Corr’s Summit 40 “Blitz” maintained its lead from day one to the end with a six-point spread over Jon Desmond’s Mills 41 “Final Final.”
“Our strong points were practicing before the event, a mindset on what we have to do, and then making it happen as a team,” Corr said. “Each of the boats in our class sailed well and they both caught us a couple of times. Our strength was consistency.”
Sandra Askew and her team on the Cape 31 “Flying Jenny” scored six first-place finishes to win the highly-competitive Spinnaker Racing 2 class. Marc McMorris maintained second on his Cape 31 “M2.”
“A great crew,” said Askew when questioned about the team’s secret to success. “We have U.S., U.K. and Australian crew and the boat responds well when its sailed well. The Cape 31 does especially well in the Caribbean’s breezy conditions, and the coastal racing was fun and scenic. We hope more members of the class will come next year.”
In Racer Cruiser 3, the Dominican Republic’s Joan Rodriguez’s Beneteau First 40.7 “Lady M” stretched its lead with a third and final day of first-place finishes. Puerto Rico’s Jerome O’Neill’s J/39 “Crystal” came in second.
“We raced here twenty years ago on Celtic V and have a fair knowledge of the race courses,” Rodriguez said. “This year, we practiced beforehand to be competitive. We aimed to have clean starts and play the course as well as we could. During these last three wonderful days, the windy conditions were tough so taking care of boat handling was a key point and then we focused on boat speed and safe maneuvers.”
In likely a first in the two-decade-plus history of the One-Design IC-24 Class at the St. Thomas International Regatta, St. Thomas’ two-time Olympic Laser sailor, Cy Thompson on “Bill T,” posted an 18-point lead to win class honors. St. Croix’ Scott Stanton’s “Big Island” held and soundly ended second.
“Everyone looks at the helmsman, but it takes a good crew and that’s what he had,” Thompson said. “We never wrapped the spinnaker nor shrimped the kite. Mistakes were minimal and minimized. I think an advantage I bring from Olympic campaigns is fleet management and that works well in the IC-24 class.”
In the eight-boat Hobie Wave class, St. Thomas’ Niall Bartlett on “FiDeLa” soundly won.
“Age and wisdom, that’s all I can say,” Bartlett said. “The kids in the class got stronger with each race and I think in coming years we’ll be watching them on the horizon.
In other awards, David McDonough and his crew aboard the J/42 “Trinity IV” earned the inaugural perpetual Arthur J. Wullschleger Happy Days and Never Better Award. Wullschleger, nicknamed Tuna, was a veteran international sailing judge with events from the America’s Cup to STIR under his belt. As the trophy is inscribed, it will be “presented to the yacht the demonstrates the highest level of positive attitude, enthusiasm, and comradery on both the race course and ashore.”