Rolex International Regatta Rolls On

We were maybe half a mile from the leeward mark, surging along relentlessly aboard the X-65 Karuba V, when the rig came down to the accompaniment of a collective gasp from the crew. Thankfully, it wasn’t our rig—but we did feel sorry for the guys on Highland Fling XII, Irvine Laidlaw’s spanking new Reichel-Pugh IRC 52.
Author:
Publish date:
SAIP-120600-RC-05

We were maybe half a mile from the leeward mark, surging along relentlessly aboard the X-65 Karuba V, when the rig came down to the accompaniment of a collective gasp from the crew. Thankfully, it wasn’t our rig—but we did feel sorry for the guys on Highland Fling XII, Irvine Laidlaw’s spanking new Reichel-Pugh IRC 52. Their Code 0 had caught on a spreader and that was that—a timely reminder that hundreds of thousands of dollars and meticulous preparation are no match for a moment’s ill-judged crew work.

Highland Fling’s International Rolex Regatta was over on race one of day one, but for Karuba V’s crew, the fun was just beginning. Owned by a personable Croatian couple, chartered for the event by a group of affable Russians who normally race in the Med, with a crew comprised largely of whomever regatta co-chair John Sweeney could round up on the dock each morning, the comfortably appointed cruiser-racer was perhaps not representative of a typical Caribbean IRC campaign. She was, however, entirely representative of the international flavor of this long-lived event, which attracts boats and sailors from all over the world. 

rolex

The Rolex battle flag snapping from the crosstrees of the St. Thomas Yacht Club’s flagmast (it’s more than just a flagpole) marks the spot where the Swiss watch company started its long association with international sailing. Even today the clubhouse, mere steps from the beach in Cowpet Bay, is a model of Caribbean informality; I can only speculate as to what it must have been like in 1974 when the inaugural Rolex International Regatta took place. 

Certainly the atmosphere, as welcoming and relaxed as anywhere I’ve been, can’t have changed. Having already sampled the delights of Antigua Sailing Week, the Heineken Regatta in St. Maarten and the BVI Spring Regatta, I was skeptical of the RIR’s claim to be the “crown jewel” of Caribbean sailing. Now I may be a convert. I can attest there’s no better venue for a party than this; the fact that most of the boats moor in Christmas Cove each night, far away from Charlotte Amalie, means that most crews naturally head for the club for dinner and a few beers. Such a captive audience of thirsty sailors can only mean one thing…

Also, the racing conditions are excellent, with courses stretching along the beautiful coastlines of St. Thomas and St. John and around the islets of Pillsbury Sound. The first race of the weekend finished in Charlotte Amalie Harbor, which must have made for a great spectacle from shoreside. 

rolex3

Breeze was in good supply, as is usual in late March. On Karuba V, the pickup crew managed to bend the big masthead kite to its collective will, despite the inevitable foul-ups as competing instructions were conveyed in three languages and the sailing master ran himself ragged coordinating our efforts, gaining in the process one of the most impressive rope burns I’ve ever seen. It was a reminder, if I needed it, of the immense loads on a boat this size in such conditions. Placed in charge of the spinnaker pole topping lift and foreguy, all I had to do was concentrate on not braining the bowman during our rather exciting dip-pole gybes.

Highland Fling’s dismasting was, thankfully, the major drama of the weekend, excepting the photo finishes in three of the six classes. Peter Cunningham’s TP52 PowerPlay (IRC-1), Andre Scarabelli’s Melges 24 Budget Marine/GILL (CSA-1) Jonathan Lipuscek’s J/105 Dark Star (CSA-2), Antonio Sanperre’s J/36 Cayennita Grande (CSA-non spinnaker), Fraito Lugo’s Orion (IC-24) and Jorge Ramos’s Hobie 16 Universal (Beach Cats) won the Rolex watches this time around. A bunch of disparate boats for sure, but you can bank on one thing: most of them will be back next year. And so, hopefully, will I. 

Related

mcarthy-and-mouse

Experience: McCarthy and the Mouse

Sitting at the helm in a light breeze, my arms crusted with a fine rime of salt, my skin so dry I’d lost my fingerprints, I heard a clatter and a curse from below. There were only three of us a thousand miles from shore and only one on watch at a time. Usually, the off watch lay ...read more

2018-giftGuide

2018 Holiday Gift Guide

Brass Yacht Lamp Does someone on your gift list spend the whole winter missing the warm days on the water? Let them bring a little bit of nautical atmosphere home with this new lamp from Weems & Plath. The glass enclosure means the flame cannot be blown out even by ...read more

image001

Opinion: On Not Giving Up Sailing

E.B. White was 64 when he wrote his now-famous essay “The Sea and the Wind That Blows,” which begins as a romantic paean to sailing and then drifts, as if spun around by a pessimistic eddy of thought, into a reflection on selling his boat. Does an aging sailor quit while he’s ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com A Helping Hand  This is a real-world solution, and I expect correction by my betters. However, anyone whose seacocks are modern ball valves rather than the grand old tapered cone variety may care to ...read more

1812-JeanneaueNewsVideo

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 410

Designed by Marc Lombard, the Sun Odyssey 410 shares much in common with her older siblings including of course, the walk-around deck. Other features that set the 410 apart from other models being introduced this year include the 410’s “negative bow” shape allowing for a longer ...read more

shutterstock_698968441

Cruising: The Bahamas

“The ‘Explorer’ chartbooks. All three.” “An unlocked phone. But good luck with BTC.” “Spam. It’s ‘spensive there!” These were just a few suggestions we received from fellow sailors who had cruised the Bahamas when we asked how to best prepare for the trip. In fact, several ...read more

windsensor

Gear: B&G Wind Sensors

Sense the Wind B&G has launched a new line of wind sensors, including the WS320, a wireless system that is suitable for masts up to 80ft. Wireless wind sensor technology has been hit-and-miss, with some users reporting intermittent signal failure on tall rigs, but B&G, citing ...read more