It was make or break time on the third and final day of racing at the 40th International Rolex Regatta, with many of the classes coming down to the final race – some to the final leg of the final race.
“After three days and six races total, it came down to the last race on the last day to determine the winner in our class,” said Rick Wesslund, the Miami sailor who pocketed a precision Rolex timepiece for his class win in CSA Racing 1 aboard his J/120, El Ocaso. “In the last race, we were in a dead heat with Lazy Dog. Sometimes we were in the lead, and other times they were. It was a real emotional roller coaster, but we just hung in there. We stayed on it and we won.”
The 72-boat fleet, with crews hailing from the Caribbean, U.S. and Europe, reveled in the 12 to 15 knots of breeze under clear, sunny skies on the final day of the competition.
The one-design Melges 32 class and the one-design IC-24 class, along with the beach cats, competed on their own one-design courses, while the rest of the fleet raced around the islands in Pillsbury Sound.
Youth triumphed in the Melges 32 class, where 21-year-old Dalton DeVos of Grand Rapids, Mich., held his first-day lead straight through to the finish aboard Delta.
“Getting into clear lanes and around the top of the fleet first was the formula we used all three days. It worked,” says DeVos, who developed his love of sailing from his father, Doug DeVos, who took his son sailing from aboard one-design 35s and 48s.
In CSA Racing 2. St. Croix’s Jack Bishop, with a crew of 14- to 17-year-old sailors aboard the J/100 Bad Girl, took home the prize.
“The boat was out of the water for a few years. The owner, Rob Armstrong, wanted to get it back in primarily so the kids could sail,” said Bishop, the lone adult, who drove. “We finished the first and second days with a one point lead. Today, it was good crew work and staying out of the currents that paid off.”
In the CSA Non-Spinnaker class, the J/39, Crystal, skippered by Puerto Rico’s Jerome O’Neill, too the prize.
“The first day we were in a three-way tie for first with Three Harkoms and Paladin,” O’Neill said. "The second day, we won the only race of the day … Our mission today was to cover Three Harkoms. We got another two firsts and that put the nail in their coffin.”
In the sleek-sailing IRC class, it was the UK’s Jeremy Pilkington’s Baltic 78, Lupa of London, which finished with a flawless series of six wins.
“We’ve always cruised, but this season we decided to race,” says Pilkington. “We came to the Rolex because of its reputation, the prominence of the event, and good boats that put us through our paces. For example, even though Donnybrook had to give us time, we ended up match racing them on the course in real time. It’s something you can’t always expect. It keeps the crew focused and the racing exciting.”
Puerto Rico’s Efrain ‘Fraito’ Lugo picked up his tenth Rolex timepiece, this year for capturing the IC-24 class.
“The boats from Puerto Rico, and all the kids here, make this class really competitive,” says Lugo, who drives Orion. “The first two races today we didn’t do too well and we lost our advantage. The last race we concentrated on doing all the right things like good starts, good crew work and boat speed.”
It was the father-and-son team of St. Thomas’ John and 14-year-old Kai Holmberg that championed the Beach Cat class aboard their Hobie 16, Humbug. The duo has been sailing together since 2010, including representing the U.S. Virgin Islands at the Central American and Caribbean Games in 2010.
“In the early 70’s, when Rolex started, I was his (Kai) age doing the exact same thing,” John Holmberg said. “We have a lot of fun. Fast is fun. Plus, multihulls allow you to learn a whole other type of sailing.”
Peter Haycraft of the British Virgin Islands was awarded the Commodore’s Trophy. Haycraft’s boats, including his current Sirena 38, Pipedream, have raced in all 40 International Rolex Regattas in the waters of St. Thomas.
“I have only raced 39,” says Haycraft, 80, who will retire from racing after next weekend’s BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival. “My son, Chris, sailed the boat the year I didn’t and he won a Rolex. This regatta is always great fun.”
The St. Thomas Yacht Club-hosted IRR is the oldest regatta in Rolex’s portfolio of international sailing events, dating back to 1974.
More information, results and video highlights produced by T2P TV are online at www.rolexcupregatta.com. Those interested can also visit the IRR on Facebook.
Top finishers, by class:
Melges 32 (One Design – 9 Boats)
1. Delta, Melges 32, Dalton DeVos , Macatawa, MI, USA, 27
2. ARGO, Melges 32, Jason Carroll , New York, NY, USA, 31
3. Inga from Sweden, Melges 32, Richard Goransson, Stockholm, SWE, 35
CSA – Racing 1 (CSA – 9 Boats)
1. El Ocaso, J 120, Richard Wesslund , Miami, FL, USA, 8
2. Lazy Dog, J 122, Sergio Sagramoso, San Juan, PR, USA, 10
3. White Rhino, Swan 56, Jack Desmond , Marion, MA, USA, 20
CSA – Racing 2 (CSA – 11 Boats)
1. Bad Girl, J 100, Robert W Armstrong, Christiansted, VI, USA, 14
2. Rushin Rowlette, Olson 30, Kevin Rowlette , Road Town, Tortola, BVI, 20
3. Dark Star, J 105, Jonathan Lipuscek , San Juan, PR, USA, 23
CSA – Non-Spinnaker (CSA – 10 Boats)
1. Crystal, J 39, Jerome O’Neill , Juana Diaz, PR, USA, 8
2. Three Harkoms, Oceanis 440 Mod, Tim Snow , St. Thomas, USA, 20
3. Paladin, J 36, Stanford Joines, Kingshill, USVI, USA, 21
IRC (IRC – 5 Boats)
1. Lupa of London, Baltic 78, Jeremy Pilkington , Cowes, Isle of Wight, UK, 6
2. Island Water World, Swan 45, Peter Houtzagers, Enkhuizen, NED, 13
3. Husaria, Farr 47, Krzysztof Kaminski / Irek Zubko , Lake Bluff, IL, USA, 17
Beach Cats (Portsmouth – 8 Boats)
1. Humbug, Hobie 16, John Holmberg, St. Thomas, VI, USA, 25
2. Island Sol, Hobie 16, Paul Stoeken, St. Thomas, VI, USA, 28
3. Blame it on Rhea, Nacra 20, Mark Chong, St. Thomas, VI, USA, 31
IC 24 (One Design – 16 Boats)
1. Orion, IC 24, Fraito Lugo , Ponce, PR, USA, 38
2. Magic Bus, IC 24, Phillip Shannon , St. Thomas, VI, USA, 54
3. Cachondo, IC 24, Marco Teixidor, San Juan, PR, USA, 55