March 27, 2009 — Constantly shifting winds Friday challenged both competitors and race committee on the first day of the 36th annual International Rolex Regatta, taking place through Sunday.
The wind direction changed throughout the day, starting out of the northeast in the morning and clocking to southeast by the time the last race had started, according to principal race officer Dave Brennan, who oversaw all the starts on Friday.
"We had to reconfigure the starting line about once an hour," Brennan said.
Competitor John Holmberg said the weather that created the winds today is a result of the island heating up in the morning, which creates a cloud above them and a low wind situation near the shore. Holmberg said the problem is compounded when the wind is from the north and piles up clouds over Tortola and St. John, resulting in little wind near land masses.
"You go out about a mile and you've got breeze," Holmberg said. "Some of the courses were one-sided — if you chose the wrong side, you were done."
Holmberg, calling tactics on his IC-24 Stinger, finished in eighth place at the end of the first day and said that races with longer legs would have favored his boat more.
"In race three, we came round the top make and passed four to five boats," John Holmberg said. "The other guys were fighting with each other and we just stayed out of it."
Holmberg said his young crew sailed together yesterday for the first time. At nine years old, Holmberg's son Kai uses all of his 88 lbs to hold the boom out on downwind legs.
Other crew on Stinger are teenagers Chelsea Laing, who trims jib, Nikki Barnes on foredeck, Billy Gibbons on the main sheet, and Scott McKenzie who also helps as a human preventer.
Holmberg was pleased with their starts and happy especially with their fourth race.
"We turned the corner in fourth place and hung on for the rest of the race," Holmberg said.
"Strange. All over the place," is how Fritz Bus described Friday's breezes. Bus brought his Melges 24 Coors Light from St. Maarten. Bus' boat is crewed by his son Jesper Bus, Ian Mobbs and Beach Higby, also from St. Maarten. Arie Jan Bakker is from Holland.
Chris Schreiber from St. Croix agreed with Bus' assessment of the wind.
"The wind was funky," Schreiber, who sails Auto Manic said. "It was up, it was down, and you'd be going along and suddenly there was no breeze."
Schreiber and Eric Cusin sail Auto Manic, one of two Hobie 16s in the regatta. Schreiber said that his boat was in a great duel with the other Hobie 16, Island Sol, owned by St. Thomian Paul Stoeken.
While the competition in the class is serious, there are only six boats this year.
Schreiber says that the low number of entries is due to the class not having a Rolex watch awarded.
"There are probably some boats who would have come from Puerto Rico," Schreiber said. "We are sailing just for the fun of it. Any weekend you can go out and sail is a good weekend."
While some found the conditions challenging, others made the most of the breeze.
Top Gun, a C&C 37, with a crew of Virgin Islanders and Trinidadians, had a near perfect weather day, according to owner and helmsman Lawrence Aqui.
"Top Gun was built for lake sailing," Aqui said. "This was the perfect weather for us."
Wind's Glory, crewed by a student team from Ivanna Eudorra Kean High School, finished their first-ever day of competition elated. (See: "High School Fields Team for Rolex Regatta.")
Provisional results showed Glory's Wind in 10th place in the Non-spinnaker Racing division.
Trimmer Jeremy Ronan was thrilled with the results and particularly pleased with crew's start in the second race.
"The start was good," Ronan said. "The wind was toward the shore and gave us the good start."
While regatta entries are down all around the world, the St. Thomas event's entries are down by only seven percent and have also attracted a number of international boats.
Yeoman XXXII, a Rogers 46, and its crew hail from Great Britain and Germany. The boat is truly the 32nd in one family's long sailing tradition. Tim Aisher is one of 12 on the crew of the boat, which belongs to his brother, David. The first Yeoman was a 52-foot ketch purchased by their grandfather in 1936.
"He built all the boats up to Yeoman XXVIII," Tim Aisher said. "He was still racing a month before he died at the age of 93."
Yeoman XXXII had some trouble on the race course in the first race on Friday, grounding hard enough to damage the keel.
The crew is planning to haul the boat before it competes in next weekend's regatta in the British Virgin Islands.
Provisional Results for the first day of the 2009 International Rolex Regatta are as follows:
IC 24 (One Design – 13 Boats)
1. Lime, Colin Rathbun, BVI
2. Orion, Fraito Lugo, PR
3. Intac, Mark Plaxton, BVI
Spinnaker Racing (CSA – 15 Boats)
1. Jurakan Dave West, BVI
2. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, John Foster, St. Thomas
3. Team Coors Light, Frits Bus, St. Maarten, NA
Spinnaker Racing/Cruising (CSA – 13 Boats)
1. Lost Horizon, James Dobbs, ANT
2. Kick 'Em Jenny, Ian Hope-Ross, ANT
3. Three Harkoms, James Hudleston, BVI
Non-Spinnaker Racing (CSA – 12 Boats)
1. Bonne Chance, Bernardo Gonzalez, PR
2. Shamrock V, Thomas Mullen, USA
3. Odyssey, Kevin Gregory, USA
Large Multi Hulls (CSA – 1 Boats)
1. Piglet, Newick 23 23, Joseph San Martin, St. Croix
IRC (IRC – 6 Boats)
1. Arethusa, Philip Lotz, USA
2. Vincitore, Jim Mitchell, SUI
3. Yeoman XXXII, David Aisher, UK
Beach Cats (Portsmouth – 6 Boats)
1. Discovery Bay, Francisco Figueroa, PR
2. Auto-Manic, Chris Schreiber, St. Croix
3. Island Sol, Paul Stoeken, St. Thomas
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