March 13, 2009 — With just two weeks to go, the St. Thomas Yacht Club is gearing up to host the 36th annual International Rolex Regatta, March 27-29.
This year the regatta has some big changes aimed at pleasing local onlookers. With the race into the harbor slated for Saturday, March 28 and an open party on Saturday night at Yacht Haven Grande, there is something for everyone. There will be nightly entertainment after days of spirited sailing.
Rolex watches will still be presented to four of the regatta's class winners this year, one for each of the two IRC classes, the Caribbean Sailing Association class and the IC-24 class. The watches will be engraved on the back, race director Bill Canfield said.
With just 40 entries so far, the number of competitors are fewer than last year, a situation being felt at many regattas.
The Rolex International Regatta has taken the tough economic times into account by lowering entry fees by $100.
"We are worried about the world economy and yacht racing around the world," Canfield said.
Advance entries are the exception, and on-site entries give racers another opportunity to catch up with old friends at the entry desk, according to Linda Phillips, spokesperson for the BVI Spring Regatta, the next race following Rolex.
On March 27, racing will be round the marks off the east end of St. Thomas, and while the courses are generally short, they demand a lot of quick and precise action by the crew to change sails for the upwind and downwind legs.
March 28 is to be a big day for spectators, with a race right into the harbor downtown and a race mark right off the waterfront, allowing fans to see racers up close rounding the mark. The harbor race used to be held on Friday, but organizers wanted to change it to the weekend, so local people and tourists alike can experience the excitement of racing from the waterfront.
"From about 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., there will be some pretty exciting racing downtown," Canfield said.
After racing, fans and racers can dance the night away starting at 7 p.m. at Yacht Haven Grande.
"We're excited about Saturday night at Yacht Haven Grande," Canfield said. "Yacht Haven Grande is one of the best venues to host a big party."
There is no admission for the party, which will have cash bars and feature the reggae sounds of the Spectrum Band.
Sunday's race action will be back toward the east end of the island and the awards ceremony will start around 6 p.m. on the yacht club's beach.
The regatta has some new sponsors this year including Mount Gay Rum, famous for their highly coveted regatta-embroidered red caps. Yacht Haven Grande has provided free dock space, and other sponsors in addition to principal sponsors Rolex and A.H. Riise include Bellows International and the Virgin Islands Department of Tourism.
The festivities will culminate at the St. Thomas Yacht Club at 7 p.m. on Sunday March 29 with an awards ceremony, entertainment and dancing.
Racers and interested spectators can check out the race website or call 775-6320 for more information or to view a full schedule of events.
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