Seaplanes, ferries, day sail boats and even a replica of the HMS Bounty from the 1962 version of “Mutiny on the Bounty” didn’t daunt the 13 teams competing in the 4th Carlos Aguilar Match Race (CAMR), as they sailed in busy Charlotte Amalie harbor.
Finland’s Stefan Lindberg, the USA’s Sally Barkow and the USVI’s Taylor Canfield each emerged at the end of the double round robin with 10 wins and two losses.
What did prove challenging for all the teams was the light and shifty winds.
“The shifts and the light breeze got us more today than the match racing tactics,” said the USVI’s Nikole "Nikki" Barnes, who is sailing her second match race as a skipper and finished the day with three wins total. “We were able to put penalties on some of the top sailors such as Dave Perry when we raced against him. At the same time we’ve learned so much – when to be aggressive versus soft, timing, and a lot about planning ahead and strategy.”
Barnes, a senior at Antilles School on St. Thomas, is one of five CAMR skippers that hail from the Caribbean. Like her, the majority of Barnes’ Caribbean counterparts are gaining valuable match racing experience from the participating world-ranked sailors. This has the benefit of growing the global pool of match racing talent.
Jorge Santiago, who is the head sailing coach at the Ponce Yacht & Fishing Club (PYFC), in Puerto Rico, is another Caribbean-based novice match racer who is eager to learn more.
“We’ve learned how to call for water, the flag sequences and which part of the box to enter at the start,” says Santiago, who hosted a match race clinic at the PYFC in July, taught by the USVI’s Peter Holmberg and attended by nearly 30 local sailors. “We plan to enter every match race event in the Caribbean and hopefully host a match race in Puerto Rico in January.”
Match racing in the Caribbean is indeed on the upswing.
“The CAMR put match racing on the scene in the Caribbean and I think we’ll see more events. We already have at least four match races – two in the BVI, this one and St. Maarten,” says the BVI’s Colin Rathbun, another Caribbean sailor who has excelled at match racing and is now ranked 74th in the world.
Rathbun had a particularly good day. His team won six matches and lost only one to the USA’s 4th ranked woman match racer, Sally Barkow.
“We beat (15th world-ranked) Stefan Lindberg today and that was huge for us,” says Rathbun. “We kept it simple. We got a nice shift off the start, and then it was cover, cover, cover. He got ahead of us, but then we closed in at the top mark and extended our lead to the finish.”
This four-day regatta, sailed in Inter-Club (IC)-24s, will continue Saturday with the quarterfinals. Midday, a group of Virgin Islands middle-schoolers from the Gladys Abraham School and Sankofa Saturday’s youth group will have an opportunity to try match racing during the Carlos Aguilar Match Race Youth Regatta, which will take place between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. The CAMR Finals will take place Sunday and will be broadcast live locally on WVWI (AM 1000) between Noon and 2 pm.
Up for grabs is a distinctive Ulysse Nardin precision timepiece for the winner. In addition, the winner also receives an invitation to the prestigious Stena Match Cup Sweden, in Marstrand, Sweden, in the summer of 2012. The CAMR is an Official World Tour Qualifier (WTQ) for the 2012 World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) (www.worldmatchracingtour.com).
Match racing pits one identical boat against another on a short course oftentimes near to shore. On-the-water umpires make instant calls and enforce the rules. The result is very exciting racing up and down the Charlotte Amalie waterfront. Spectators are invited to watch the racing under tented bleacher seating where there will be live narration. Viewers around the world can watch via a live webcast on www.carlosmatchrace.com. Racing starts at 9 a.m. (GMT – 4 hrs) daily.
The St. Thomas Yacht Club (STYC) and the Virgin Islands Sailing Association (VISA) are organizing authorities for the CAMR, namesake for the late Carlos Aguilar, who was an avid sailor and match racer.
Supporting sponsors of the CAMR are the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism; Heineken Beer, distributed in the U.S. Virgin Islands by Bellows International Ltd.; Budget Marine; Hooters; Patron, distributed by Premier Wines & Spirits; Choice Communications; Bolongo Bay Beach Resort; Yacht Haven Grande; and St. Thomas Yacht Club.