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Inaugural St. Thomas Yacht Club Invitational Regatta - Day 1

by Carol Bareuther 28 Jun 2020 06:27 BST 27-28 June 2020
St. Thomas Yacht Club Invitational Regatta: William 'Bill' McConnell on One Love (foreground) races nearly neck and neck with St. Thomas' Chuck Pessler on Desperado © Dean Barnes

The thrill of competition plus a pent-up delight at being back on the water racing summed-up sailors sentiments on the first day of the inaugural St. Thomas Yacht Club (STYC) Invitational Regatta sponsored by the USVI Department of Tourism, Leatherback Brewing Co. and MUTINY Island Vodka.

Twenty-one boats with skippers hailing from all three U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, USA and Sweden, completed six races on windward-leeward and round the island courses. Conditions proved why the U.S. Virgin Islands is a world-class sailing destination: sunny skies, 4- to 5-feet swells and an easterly breeze blowing 15- to 20-knots. COVID-19 protective measures as directed by the USVI Government's Open Doors phase were visible with boats socially-distanced, crew limited to double-handed on IC24s and single-handed on Hobie Waves, and facial buffs in place.

"The Department of Tourism warmly welcomes participants from the Caribbean, the U.S. mainland and Sweden to the first annual St. Thomas Yacht Club Invitational Regatta. We trust you will have a wonderful experience exploring our waters and enjoying the offerings of our islands while observing the health and safety guidelines in place for the safety of both residents and visitors. The return of marine tourism is vital to our economic recovery, as it is a strong contributor to the economic development of the Territory, and we are always pleased to support this important sector," says Joseph Boschulte, Commissioner of Tourism.

Rosenberg Leads IC24 Class

A 10-point lead put St. Thomas' Chris Rosenberg and son Christian at the top of the scoreboard after the first day of racing. The senior Rosenberg probably knows more about the IC24 than anyone, except fellow St. Thomas boatbuilder Morgan Avery. The two teamed their talents back in 2001, after successive hurricanes destroyed much of the Club's fleet, to convert J/24 hulls into a one-design Inter-Club boat that was easy for all ages to sail yet highly competitive. Today, the STYC's St. Thomas Sailing Center (STSC) owns a fleet of over a dozen of these boats, making it possible for sailors to fly in from neighboring islands or from around the world to race without having to transport their own vessels to the venue. It's a concept that will become reality as the STYC Invitational Regatta becomes even more international at its second annual, May 14 to 16, 2021.

This year, two teams from Puerto Rico are racing in the regatta.

"We're a bit rusty since we haven't raced since last December, but we are focused on good starts, being on the right side of the course and boat handling," says Efrain 'Fraito' Lugo, from Ponce, Puerto Rico, with Pablo Mendez on the bow. "Plus, any time you can spend time with family and friends like this is priceless."

It's been a year since fellow Puerto Rican sailor, Jaime Balzac, has raced, given the pandemic plus becoming a first-time father to twins. "My crew, Ricardo (Alvarez), is a long-time cruiser but a new-time racer, so there's a learning curve. It's fun. And, it's just great to be out on the water."

Two instructors for the KATS (Kids and the Sea) program in Coral Bay, St. John, are each helming an IC24 with junior sailors as crew. One is Jasper Moon, with 15-year-old Arjuna Danobeitia, and the other is Jarrett Altmin, with his 14-year-old son Dylan.

"This is my first time racing an IC24. What makes it fun is the great breeze and the competition is so tight. It's also nice how the Race Committee is mixing up the racing with a combination of windward-leeward and around the island courses," says Altmin.

Greenberg on Top in Hobie Waves

Only four points separate St. Thomas' Evan Greenberg, who is currently first in the Hobie Wave class, from St. Thomas' Marcus Compton in second.

"I've been doing the Thursday night Hobie Wave series the STSC runs, but this is my first real regatta. It's a whole other level of competition, with a full fleet of boats and rules. I'm a competitive guy, so I like it," says Greenberg.

Nearly half of the sailors in the Hobie Wave class are women.

"It's great to be out with the other boats racing in an actual regatta. There's such a great community spirit. Plus, when you're out there, just you and your boat, it's possible for forget about the pandemic for a little while," says St. Thomas' Kyrre Culver.

The STYC Invitational Regatta will commemorate a perpetual trophy, which will be awarded to the winning teams and dedicated to Rudy Thomson and Dick Avery for their long-standing contributions to STYC and Olympic racing and inspiring sailors of all ages.

Strong Sponsor Support

The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism is a strong supporter of the STYC Invitational Regatta, the newest of the events hosted by the St. Thomas Yacht Club, as well as the Club's St. Thomas International Regatta, International Optimist Regatta, and a match race.

Additionally, the Leatherback Brewing Company and MUTINY Island Vodka, both based on St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, are co-sponsors of the 2020 STYC Invitational Regatta. Leatherback Brewing Company brews and packages craft beer in the Virgin Islands with both traditional and uniquely Caribbean ingredients. MUTINY Island Vodka, the Caribbean's Original Island Vodka handcrafted from breadfruit, is a first in the world new spirit and created in the USVI.

The St. Thomas Sailing Center

Sailing is not only a great way to socially distance, but a positive activity for mind and body. The STSC offers several instructional programs for adults, from learn to sail to advanced bareboat certification and cruising classes. Classes are taught by highly experienced instructors aboard the Club's IC24s. Schedules range from a vacation week format for those who wish to fly in and combine visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands along with sailing instruction, to weekend end and late-afternoon classes for those that live locally and need to schedule around employment. Class registration comes with a 30-day Bluewater Membership, where students to use and enjoy Club facilities and amenities. A $150 Blue Water Boat Access fee enables students to sail IC24s and Hobie Waves throughout their Blue Water Membership. Students who get hooked on sailing can pursue their passion regularly. The STSC hosts several regular activities such as Ladies Hobie Wave Racing every other Thursday, co-ed Hobie Wave Racing every Thursday, double-handed IC24 racing every Friday and more.

For more information about the STYC Invitational Regatta and STSC sailing lessons, call Dave Franzel, , (340) 690-3681, or visit:

Results after Day 1:

IC24 Class (Boat Name, Skipper Name, Home, Points)
1. Bill T, Chris Rosenberg, STT, USVI (10)
2. Roundabout, Eric Cusin, STX, USVI (20)
3. Magic Bus, Dave Franzel, USA (23)
4. Red Dog, Fraito Lugo, Puerto Rico (25)
5. Huron Girl, Mike Finley, STT, USVI (27)
6. Boat Drinks, Peter Sernhede, Sweden (30)
7. Black Pearl, Ted Reshetiloff, BVI (43)
8. One Love, Bill McConnell, STT, USVI (51)
9. Desperado, Chuck Pessler, STT, USVI (51)
10. Stinger, Kevin Wakelee, STT, USVI (56)
11. KATS Pajamas, Jarrett Altmin, STJ, USVI (62)
12. Viola, Jaime Balzac, Puerto Rico (72)
13. KATS Meow, Jasper Moon, STJ, USVI (76)

Hobie Wave Class (Name, Home, Points)
1. Evan Greenberg, STT, USVI (15)
2. Marcus Compton, STT, USVI (19)
3. Julian van den Driessche, STT, USVI (19)
4. Kim Duff, STT, USVI (25)
5. Kyrre Culver, STT, USVI (28)
6. Oriel Blake, STT, USVI (33)
7. Joyce Campbell, STT, USVI (40)
8. Nate Brooks, STT, USVI (40)

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