Author: Peta Stuart-Hunt
Photos by Barry James Wilson
The 81st J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race set off from the Royal Yacht Squadron line, started by Olympic 470 sailor Hannah Mills, with over 1,600 boats heading in a westerly direction round the Isle of Wight.
The wind conditions are as forecast with most of the fleets starting in a moderate south-westerly breeze. However, the forecast is for the wind to increase, with the predicted conditions having already put paid to racing for some of the smaller classes including sportsboats, J80s, 707s, SB20s (formerly known as SB3s) and the small MOCRA multihull fleet (LOA less than 9.15m).
There was also a safety call made for all competitors to wear lifejackets.
The likes of Mike Slade’s 100ft Farr-designed superyacht – ICAP Leopard – revelled in the conditions and soon slotted in to her natural position at the head of the fleet. She led the fleet round the Needles but was soon challenged by last year’s line honours winner, Lionel Lemonchois and team on the Multi 50 Prince de Bretagne. However, first across the line at 10.19.57, just over one minute outside the overall record, finishing in 3hrs.09mins and 57secs, was former Mini Transat winner Yves Le Blevec on the Multi 50 trimaran – Actual.
Elsewhere the fleet are battling the strong winds round the south of the island and as the day progresses there are a number of retirements. However, it is great to see the likes of Dame Ellen MacArthur on the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust’s boat Dark Star, which is a 90ft sloop loaned to the Trust for the day. She is currently the leading yacht in the Trust’s four-boat fleet.
Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie at the helm of the 162ft schooner, Eleonora, is now round St Catherine’s Point and enjoying a final blast home to the finish.
The overall winners of the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race have been confirmed, with the 81st edition of the event bringing triumph for boats both large and small.
The winner of the prestigious Gold Roman Bowl for first boat overall on IRC handicap is Tony Langley’s TP52 Manroland Sheetfed. Competing in IRC 0, Manroland Sheetfed (aka Weapon of Choice) was the second monohull to complete the course, finishing in 4hrs, 42mins and 12secs to win on corrected time by just 3 minutes.
Tony Langley’s crew held off a strong challenge by last year’s Gold Roman Bowl winner Sundowner. Jo Hutchinson’s Contessa 26 won IRC Division 3D by completing the course in 8hrs, 31mins and 17secs giving them a corrected time of just 3 minutes and 4 seconds slower than the TP52 and awarding them the Silver Roman Bowl for second overall in IRC.
Sundowner also faced a fierce challenge from another previous winner of the race, Ed Donald’s Madelaine, a Nordic Folkboat that won the Gold Roman Bowl in 2007. Racing in the same class, Madelaine finished just two and a half minutes behind Sundowner on the water, to take third overall on corrected time.
Line honours went to the Multi 50 trimaran Actual, which crossed the finish line at 10.19.57 this morning, finishing in a time of 3hrs, 09mins and 57secs to just miss out on the outright record set by Francis Joyon in 2001 by just 1min, 28secs.
Skipper Yves Le Blevec, a Jules Verne record and Mini Transat winner, said: “We had three objectives for this race. Firstly don’t break the boat, secondly don’t arrive behind Prince de Bretagne, and in third it was to arrive in 1st overall across the line. We had those three points but we didn’t think about the fourth point – which was the record, and we missed the record by very little!”
Blevec said they weren’t aware of how close to the record time they were as they neared the finish: “We didn’t check that before, and when we saw the time we realised it was very close. But it was a very nice race, and on the south of the island there was big waves and windy, very nice conditions.”
They were followed home by last year’s line honours winner Prince de Bretagne, while first monohull home was the current course record holder ICAP Leopard, who rounded the Island in 03hrs, 59mins and 04secs.
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.