The three-day International Rolex Regatta kicked off today with “town races” that took sailors from the east end of St. Thomas, where host St. Thomas Yacht Club is located, to Charlotte Amalie, the island’s capital city. Once there, the fleet of 68 boats, split into six classes, turned around and headed back, but only after sharing some colorful action with tourists on the downtown waterfront and on two cruise ships in port as well as fans perched at different vantage points along the route. Gray clouds mingled with white all day, giving tacticians as much cause to look upward to anticipate wind shifts as they did downward to read the play of the sapphire blue Caribbean Sea beneath them.
“Both of the races today were very different from each other,” said Tony Rey (Newport, R.I.), tactician aboard Peter Cunningham’s (George Town, CAY) PowerPlay, which finished 1-2 today to edge out Willem Wester’s (Breskens, Zeeland, NED) Antilope, which posted a 3-1. “We owe 11 ½ minutes to Antilope in an hour of racing, so it’s not easy to beat them, but we love planing, and 8-10 minutes into the first leg of the first race, a storm cloud came and we were off and running. That’s how we got ahead — it was 16-18 knots for a while, and Peter did a fantastic job of driving.”
Rey explained that in the second race the wind laid down. It was then that Antilope, the heavier displacement boat, had the advantage. Bill Alcott’s (St. Clair Shores, Mich.) 65-footer Equation took line honors in both races and corrected out to third overall. Equation’s navigator Chris Clark (Detroit) was happy with the outcome, saying that the crew had been sailing together a long time but not on this particular boat, which Alcott only recently bought. “We are gaining confidence,” said Clark, “but the hard thing really is the boat draws 16 ½ feet, which is a lot. Today around one of the islands, we were about 500 feet away from it; even in Charlotte Amalie Harbour we had to be careful — it’s hard to find the sweet spot for us on the course.”
A disappointment to all in this class was the dismasting of Lord Irvine Laidlaw of Rothiemay’s (MON) IRC 52 Highland Fling XII after a port spreader apparently failed. “It happened about five miles into the race after the first turning mark,” said Michael Giles (SA), the boat’s trimmer. “We had made some modifications after racing in Key West, and we were very happy because we knew they were the right changes. We were 100% sure we were winning, so it was unfortunate that it did come down.” With no way to repair the rig before the end of the regatta, the boat is out for the count.
“It’s absolutely a shame for a lot of reasons,” said PowerPlay’s Rey. “We were having a great race with them at the time when we heard a loud bang. She was a benchmark for us, and we were keen to see how we compared.”
CSA racing boats (three classes), one-design IC 24s, and Beach Cats also joined in today’s town races, with the IC 24s adding a third race afterwards.
“We actually had to take our spinnaker down in the first race,” said Latitude 38’s 18-year-old Nikki Barnes, who, with one of her all-girl crewmembers here (Augustina Barbuto, age 16) won a bronze medal for the Virgin Islands at last summer’s ISAF Youth Championships (in international 420s). “There were a lot of boats broaching in our (IC 24) class.” Though currently in 12th, Barnes says her experience in dinghy racing will serve her well over the next two days of racing, when the class will sail up to 14 more races. “We made so many mistakes in the long races; we are well practiced in short-course racing, and we will be so much better at that.” Currently leading the IC 24s is Carlos Sierra’s (Guaynabo, PR) Banana Boat/Fuataka.
Another young team of West Indian high school and sailing students is competing in CSA non-spinnaker class and currently sitting in second overall. They are led by Central High School (St. Croix) teacher Stan Jones aboard Tony Sanpere’s (St. Croix) J/36 Cayennita Grande, which has won this class several times. Jack Desmond’s (Marion, Mass.) Swan 48 Affinity posted a 1-2 today to Cayennita Grande’s 3-1 to take the lead in the seven-boat class.
Jorge Ramos’s Hobie 16 Universal leads the Beach Cats, while Andrea Scarabelli’s (Cole Bay, St. Maarten) Melges 24 Budget Marine/GILL and Jaime Torres’s (San Juan, PR) Beneteau First 40 Smile and Wave are leading CSA 1 and CSA 2, respectively.
Racing continues tomorrow with all classes but the IC 24s racing within viewing distance of St. John’s south shore.
Place, Yacht Name, Type, Owner/Skipper, Hometown, Results, Total Points
IC 24 (One Design – 14 Boats)
1. Banana Boat/Fuataka, IC 24, Carlos R. Sierra , Guaynabo, PR, USA – 3, 1, 5, ; 9
2. Orion, IC 24, Fraito Lugo , Ponce, PR, USA – 1, 4, 4, ; 9
3. Cachondo, IC 24, Marco Teixidor , San Juan, PUR – 5, 2, 2, ; 9
CSA 1 (CSA – 9 Boats)
1. Budget Marine/GILL , Melges 24, Andrea Scarabelli , Cole Bay, St. Maarten, AHO – 1, 1, ; 2
2. Fire Water, Melges 24, Henry Leonnig , Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVI – 2, 3, ; 5
3. Magnitude 400, Farr 400, Doug Baker , Long Beach, CA, USA – 5, 2, ; 7
CSA 2 (CSA – 13 Boats)
1. Smile and Wave, Beneteau First 40, Jaime Torres , San Juan, PR, USA – 2, 1, ; 3
2. Lazy Dog, J 122, Sergio Sagramoso , San Juan, PR, USA – 3, 2, ; 5
3. Dark Star, J 105, Jonathan Lipuscek , San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA – 1, 6, ; 7
CSA Non-Spinnaker (CSA – 7 Boats)
1. Affinity, Swan 48, Jack Desmond , Marion, MA, USA – 1, 2, ; 3
2. Cayennita Grande, J 36, Antonio Sanpere , Christiansted, VI, USA – 3, 1, ; 4
3. Hotel California too, Cruising SC70, Stephen Schmidt , St Thomas, USVI, USA – 2, 5, ; 7
IRC 1 (IRC – 9 Boats)
1. PowerPlay, TP 52, Peter Cunningham , George Town, CAY – 1, 2, ; 3
2. Antilope, Grand Soleil 46, Willem Wester , Breskens, Zeeland, NED – 3, 1, ; 4
3. Equation, STP 65, W.Alcott / E.Palm / T.Anderson , St Clair Shores, MI, USA – 2, 3, ; 5
Beach Cats (Portsmouth – 10 Boats)
1. Universal, Hobie 16, Jorge Ramos , San Juan, PR, USA – 2, 1, ; 3
2. Time Out, Hobie 16, John Holmberg , St. Thomas, VI, USA – 1, 2, ; 3
3. Zhik, Nacra 20, Trey Brown , Taylors, SC, USA – 4, 3, ; 7
U.S. and Caribbean Media Contact
Overcast skies and light showers cooled things down today at St. Thomas Yacht Club in the USVI where hundreds of sailors on 68 teams are preparing for the 39th International Rolex Regatta. The conditions, however, came with plenty of wind for practicing and did nothing to dampen the excitement building for the next three days of racing.
Right out of the box will be Stephen Murray, Jr.’s Carkeek 40 Decision, which has been designed to the newly developed HPR (High Performance Rule) and will headline in one of two CSA classes here that has no less than six other 40-footers “raring to compare.”
“There is no rating rule promoting the light (displacement) grand prix racing boats as a continuum between 30 and 70 feet,” said Sean Carkeek, the South African designer who has been working for a year on the rule as part of a technical committee developed specifically to fill this void. According to Carkeek, the HPR will change all that when regattas eventually adopt dual scoring under the widely used IRC rule and HPR in classes where it needs to apply. At the International Rolex Regatta, the likes of Michael Shlens’ (Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.,) Blade and Doug Baker’s (Long Beach, Calif.) Magnitude 400, both Farr 400s, are sure to spice up the competition among the 40 footers. In addition, two Class 40 boats, which typically are outfitted for short-handed offshore sailing, are competing with accomplished skippers aboard. Andrew Fisher (Greenwich, Conn.) will take the helm of Icarus, while Berry Lewis (Mill Valley, Calif.) will steer 40 Degrees.
In IRC, it will be a trio of 52 footers– Lord Irvine Laidlaw of Rothiemay’s (MON) Highland Fling XII, Ashley Wolfe’s (Calgary, AB, CAN) Mayhem, and Peter Cunningham’s (Georgetown, Cay) PowerPlay — and a Cookson 50, Ron O’Hanley’s (Newport, R.I.) Privateer, that are likely to stand out, while the reborn 65-foot Rosebud, now called Equation, will be out for a first showing since bought by Bill Alcott (St. Clair Shores, Mich.). Among the power names onboard these boats are America’s Cup notables Peter Holmberg, Mike Toppa, Tony Rey, and George Skuodas. As well, Great Britain’s Brian Thompson, who layed to waste previous around-the-world speed records with his recent circumnavigation aboard the 130-foot trimaran Banque Populaire V, will be skippering the Safe Passage company’s Andrews 72 Safara, which is the largest boat competing here.
Willem Wester (Zeeland, The Netherlands), with Volvo Ocean Race veteran Boewe Bekking (NED) calling tactics, will attempt to repeat his IRC class victory from last year, sailing the Grand Soleil 46 Antilope. With tomorrow’s winds expected to be between 15 and 20 knots, Bekking says this may be hard to recreate, however. “When it’s windy the lighter displacement boats in our class this time should be going better,” said Bekking, “but if it’s light we can have a pretty fair race.”
For the USA’s Olympic medalist Charlie McKee (Seattle, Wash.), who is serving as tactician aboard Mayhem, it is mostly about the experience of being here for the first time that has him “expecting crazy, wild, mixed up racing that’s super fun!”
The International Rolex Regatta is a cornerstone of the spring Caribbean racing schedule, and as such attracts top programs from around the world for its mix of buoy and point-to-point races. It also distinguishes itself by having multiple races a day for all classes. “It’s all part of a unique mix of island-style fun and hard-core IRC, CSA and one design racing,” said Regatta Co-chair Bill Canfield, pointing out a massive, specially-constructed stage rising out of the water on the St. Thomas Yacht Club’s own beach. It is where a band will play on Friday and Saturday nights and where the Rolex Awards will wrap up the event on Sunday, when winners in select classes win coveted Rolex watches.
Spectators will get a treat tomorrow when all classes sail to Charlotte Amalie Harbor for their first race, then return to St. Thomas Yacht Club for their second (and some classes may have a third race). On Saturday, spectators can watch IC 24s and Beach Cats sail as many as eight buoy races in Great Bay, while other classes sail longer courses on the south side of St. John. On Sunday, while the IC 24s sail up to six races in Jersey Bay, all other classes will sail two “Pillsbury Sound” races.
Tom Akin had a lot to say about sailing Flash, a TP 52, to Hawaii. His initial comments were, “I found out what is its like to be in a TP52 for seven days. You sit in water, you eat in water, and you sleep in water. It’s wet. The beast is not as luxurious as my Santa Cruz 52. I was looking for a creature comfort and couldn’t find one.”
Akin, his crew and Jeff Thorpe, Criminal Mischief’s navigator, worked non-stop over a very short period of time to get Flash into racing condition. From the time the boat arrived in Long Beach, two weeks before the start, until the evening before they took off, the deck was strewn with rigging materials, sealants and tools. The work that they did paid off. With more than half of the Transpac fleet safely docked in Honolulu, Flash sits second in class and second in fleet.
Flash held the lead on corrected time for much of the race while Samba was “zigzagging all over the place,” said Paul Cayard. “We were pleasantly surprised to be in the lead. During the last two days, they got it sorted out and put on the afterburners and put 40 miles a day on us.”
Allie Cayard, the youngest and the only female on board said, “There was never a dull moment. There was always something to be fixed.” Allie sailed with her brother and father, Paul. She also noted how calm it was dockside compared to out on the Pacific Ocean sailing the world’s most enduring and greatest ocean race
Crichton, who lived in Hawaii for a period of time and sailed his first and only Transpacific Yacht Race prior to this one 30 years ago. Crichton’s sailing program has changed considerably since 1979 when he raced in a 42-footer and finished eighth in a 22-boat fleet. Crichton and his fleet of Alfa Romeo sailboats have taken line honors in 171 races. Crichton’s wins include races considered the Holy Grail of offshore racing – the Fastnet and the Sydney Hobart. Crichton looking forward to the Sydney Hobart Race said, “There will be six 100-footers in the race. Five are certainly are capable of winning the race.”
Following the win when Team Manager, Murray Spence, was asked to elaborate on what it took to prepare the boat and team for the race, Crichton stole the microphone and responded, “Money.” Everybody laughed and no one could argue. Crichton said that he was very happy with the race. “We had no mechanical problems: not one.”
Crichton’s team included Stan Honey, Ben Ainslie, Michael Coxon, David Endean, Ryan Godfrey, Stan Honey, Andrew Hutchinson, Phil Jameson, Lance Jenkins, Gavin McPherson, Peter Merrington, Murray Spence, Craig Sattherwaite, Joao Signorini, David Rolfe, Tony Mutter and Alfa’s shore crew, Ian Goldsworthy.
Honey, who has a 50% batting average when it comes to winning the Transpac. He boosts his Transpac wins to 11 with Transpac 2009. Among the Transpac records that Honey set are the fastest corrected time of any singlehanded sailor in a monohull (set in 1994 on Illusion, a Cal 40 and superseded), the fastest Transpac passage in a monohull of any singlehanded sailor; and the fastest passage in a monohull (set in 1999 on Pyewacket, a Santa Cruz 70, in 1999, also superseded.) Honey has also been aboard fastest passage and fastest 24-hour runs in the Atlantic as a crew on ABNAmro One, a Juan K VOR 70 and Playstation, a Morrelli & Melvin catamaran. Those records have been superseded. Honey is on call with Franck Cammas and Groupama to go for a ’round the world record.
Honey’s comment on his Transpacific crossing aboard Alfa Romeo and the weather conditions that enabled the team to break the previously set 24-hour run record in the Transpac, established in 2005 by Morning Glory , was “We had steady winds. We never had a slow spot.” During Transpac 09, Alfa Romeo had a 399-mile day, a 423-mile day and a 393-mile day.
Transpac 09 was the first distance race in the open ocean that America’s Cup helmsman, Ben Ainslie, has sailed. Ainslie got the team off to a roaring start when he nailed the pin at the start of the race on July 5 off of Point Fermi, the southernmost point in Los Angeles.
After the team received their leis and were chauffeured in vintage Alfa Romeo cars from a dock at Aloha Tower, romantic island gateway for the steamships that delivered travelers to Hawaii in the early 20th century.Tom Garrett, Vice Commodore of the Transpacific Yacht Club welcomed the sailors by saying, “It’s one thing to beat a record, it’s another thing to obliterate it.”
Mark Hazlett, the Chair of the 600-member Honolulu Committee from three clubs gave Crichton and his crew a genuine Hawaiian Aloha welcome when he said,”Welcome back to Waikiki Yacht Club.” Crichton, who lived in Hawaii for a number of years was a member of the club. Garrett introduced Crichton and the crew to the newly deeded Merlin Trophy and invited Crichton to visit Newport Beach for a formal presentation of the Clock Trophy. The several hundred pound trophy permanently resides at the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum.
Following a press conference, the team and the well-wishers kicked off the first Hawaiian Aloha party of Transpac 09. Cades Schutte LLP and Jimmy Buffett’s Restaurant & Bar hosted the party at Waikiki Yacht Club.
Among the many trophies that Crichton’s Alfa Romeo team, also the top foreign entry in Transpac 09, will claim are: The Merlin Trophy for the fastest elapsed time for the Unlimited Class of yachts competing in the Transpac Race. The Unlimited Class yachts are RSS 51 and 52 waiver yachts (exempt from the Racing Rules of Sailing limitations on movable ballast and/or stored power) up to 100 feet with the shortest elapsed time. These boats are ineligible for the Barn Door Trophy. The trophy, built by Ken Gardiner, is a scale model of Merlin, the famed Bill Lee-designed 68-footer.
Crichton will have the honor of setting back the Clock Trophy, or the Transpacific Yacht Club New Course Record trophy. The Clock Trophy was donated by Roy E. Disney and is awarded to any monohull yacht that establishes a new elapsed time course record. Tradition calls for the winner of the trophy to reset the clock to show the new course record. Hasso Plattner’s Morning Glory established the current course record of 6:16:04:11in 2005. Unlimited Class yachts are eligible for the Merlin Trophy and the Clock Trophy, but are not eligible for the Barn Door Trophy.
The remaining 46 boats in the fleet are racing toward Hawaii and hoping to win elapsed time and corrected time honors within their divisions in addition to numerous other awards for completing and competing in the world’s most enduring and greatest ocean race.
Lynx, the heavy tall ship, has only chipped about 220 miles off of the vast 2,225-nautical mile journey.
Gib Black’s thirty-year old Santa Cruz 52, Roy’s Chasch Mer is leading Division V and is just a few miles out in front of Passion. Black and the crew discovered that their shaft strut had cracked wide open hours before our starting gun. They went through our limited parts and tool kits, found dive gear, parts and even machined some others to repair the problem. Says Black, “(We have) a bit more drag at the prop now, but we are moving AND we made our start. Nice start at that.”
Estimated arrivals for the boats are anywhere from 14 days to 30 days.
Tachyon III, Kanzunori Komatu’s Santa Cruz 52, with members of the Japanese Olympic Sailing Team on board, led the parade out of the basin. Like each of the 18 Transpac 09 race boats that followed, Tachyon III was escorted out of Rainbow Harbor’s entrance by paddlers from the Kahakai Canoe Club. Free Range Chicken, Bruce Anderson’s deluxe Perry 59, was the final Transpac race boat to leave the pier. As she streamed away from the dock, the crew showered their escorts with fresh fuschia-colored leis. Long Beach added more pageantry to the send-off by having Navy seals sky dive from a blimp and splash down in between the end of the pier and the Queen Mary.
The 19-boat fleet of 45 to 60-foorters rushed the starting line. They were amped up with anticipation and testosterone and shot out of the blocks on their way to Ala Wai and Transpac Row. The pin was the coveted spot and Criminal Mischief, the grey-hulled boat with a crimson-shirted team roared past the pin. Thinking that they were a bit too early, they bore away and returned to the line to exonerate themselves. Just up off of their starboard hip was Wasabi, one of the Mexican entries, and Bengal 7, one of three Japanese entries. Cipango, Relentless and Passion, all US boats, were just to weather of the pack at the pin. The rest of the fleet was spread out evenly across the starting line all the way up to the committee boat.
In Division 6, Relentless, the One-Design 35 being doublehanded by Tim Fuller and Erik Shampain, has a ten-mile lead over the crew on Narrow Escape.
After sailing through wind ranges of 8 to 15 knots immediately following Monday’s start and making a number of headsail changes, Divisions 6 and 7 Transpac crews went over the top of Catalina Island and settled into steadier conditions. Relentless leads and is 2,100 nautical miles from the finish line off Diamond Head and Lynx, the 114-ton tall ship, is finding difficult to get the momentum going. Lynx has 2,165 nautical miles left to go on the 2,225 nautical mile racecourse.
Alumni from the 2007 Transpac Morning Light crew are sprinkled throughout the 51-boat Transpac 09 fleet. Two of them, Kate Theisen and Graham Brant-Zawadski are up for another once-in-a-lifetime experience during this Transpac. They have joined the Lynx crew. America’s Privateer, Lynx, a 122-foot square topsail schooner, travels 7,000 nautical miles each year to ports along the West Coast and Hawaii, serving as a living history museum and classroom for the study of early maritime history and its role in establishing America’s freedom, as well as earth, life and physical science.
Charisma, one of nine foreign yachts in this year’s Transpacific Yacht Race, is off to an early lead in Division 7. Alejandro Perez Calzada and his crew of 11 are racing this 57-foot Sparkman & Stephens design. Aside from one German, the entire Charisma crew is Spanish. All crew members are sailing their first Transpac. Their goal is to have a good time and have a respectable finish within their division.
Between the Sheets, Ross Peralman’s, Jeanneau 50, which won the Aloha A division in the 2007 Transpac, is approximately 15 miles behind Charisma.
Nineteen boats comprising Divisions 3,4 and 5 start on Thursday, July 2nd at 1300 off of Point Fermin. Five Santa Cruz 50’s, including hull #1, Roy’s Chasch Mer, constitute Division 5. Half of the boats in Division 4 are Santa Cruz 52’s. Reinrag2, the overall winner on corrected time for the 2007 Transpac, is also in Division 4. Division 3’s entries include two Japanese and one Mexican boat and Bruce Anderson’s comfortable and fast, Free Range Chicken.
With 44 races starting in 1906, the Transpacific Yacht Race to Hawaii is well into its second century as the longest of the two oldest ocean races in the world. The first race was the year of the great San Francisco earthquake, which literally altered the course of the event.
The race was inspired by King Kalakaua, the revered Hawaiian leader of the late 19th century who believed that such an event would strengthen the islands’ economic and cultural ties to the mainland. But it didn’t happen until Clarence MacFarlane, a Honolulu racing sailor, invited several contemporaries in San Francisco and Los Angeles to race to the Hawaiian Islands. The race was scheduled to start in the early summer of 1906, but when MacFarlane sailed his 48-foot schooner into San Francisco Bay he realized there would have to be a change of plans. The city lay in ruins following the great earthquake 27 days earlier.
But MacFarlane wasn’t easily discouraged. He simply changed the starting point to Los Angeles, and except for one nostalgic return to San Francisco for the start in 1939, the race has started in Southern California ever since. The starting line is now off the bluffs of Point Fermin in San Pedro at the southern edge of the City of Los Angeles. The finish is off the Diamond Head lighthouse just east of Honolulu, establishing a distance of 2,225 nautical miles.
The 2009 race will be the 45th Transpac. It has been sailed by 1,700 boats from 17 countries, including 124 foreign competitors. The race is run biennially in odd-numbered years, alternating with the Newport-to-Bermuda race that also started in 1906.
Fastest elapsed time (monohull): 6 days 16 hours 4 minutes 11 seconds, Morning Glory (Reichel/Pugh maxZ86 maxi sled), Hasso Plattner, Kiel, Germany,2005.
Fastest elapsed time (multihull): 5 days 9 hours 18 minutes 26 seconds, Explorer (86-foot catamaran), Bruno Peyron, 1997.