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31st International Optimist Regatta, TOTE Clinic & TOTS Team Race kicks-off this week

by Carol Bareuther 10 Jun 00:52 BST June 10-16, 2024
31st International Optimist Regatta - Opti's racing off the St. Thomas Yacht Club © Matias Capizzano

What makes this coming week of sailing events unique is the combination of instruction, team, and fleet racing for beginners and advanced sailors alike, all in one event.

The TOTE Clinic kicks off Monday through Wednesday, the TOTE Team Race is on Thursday, and the 31st International Optimist Regatta (IOR), hosted by the St. Thomas Yacht Club (STYC), runs from Friday through Sunday.

Commissioner of the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism, Joseph Boschulte, shared his excitement, saying, "We are thrilled to welcome young sailors and their families to the U.S. Virgin Islands for the 31st International Optimist Regatta. This event not only showcases the incredible talent of our youth but also brings together a vibrant community from around the world to experience the natural beauty and hospitality of St. Thomas. We look forward to an exciting week of competition and camaraderie, and we wish all participants the best of luck in their races."

Youth Sailors Ready to Race

A fleet of over 100 8- to 15-year-old sailors representing the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and several U.S. states will compete in 8-foot long single-sail Optimist in this trio of events. The IOR is a bucket-list regatta to win for young sailors, as in its three-decade history, past champions have gone on to race in the Olympics, One-Design World Championships, and the America's Cup.

This year, the IOR serves as a spectacular tune-up for the Optimist North American Championships (OPTINAM), set for July 13-20, in neighboring San Juan, Puerto Rico.

"The IOR is a perfect setup for OPTINAM in Puerto Rico due to the similarities of the venues. The two main similarities are the wave size and wind conditions. However, seagrass or sargassum is increasing yearly, making it a special challenge to sail around the course. There is a unique technique in clearing the blades that the sailors must practice and develop to sail fast. Huge gains or losses can occur when sargassum is a factor. The sailors coming to IOR will have a wonderful opportunity to train this and be ready for Puerto Rico," says Agustin 'Argy' Resano, USVI National Team Coach, TOTE Clinic, and TOTE Team Race organizer.

U.S. Optimist National Team members who race in the IOR and OPTINAM are Wills Gandy, Coral Reef Yacht Club, FL; Cassady Lorentzen, Balboa Yacht Club, CA; and Alexander Montagu, San Francisco Yacht Club, CA.

"This is my first time at the IOR, and I'm really looking forward to it," says Montagu. "I think the conditions (the wind, waves, and especially the swell) at the IOR will be very similar to the conditions at the North Americans and Worlds. I'll need to adjust my technique because in San Francisco we have chop. This should help my training! I also can't wait to visit St. Thomas, as I've heard it's amazing!"

The U.S. Virgin Islands sailors racing in the IOR and who will represent the territory at the OPTINAMS are Reagan Uszenski, Samantha Degraff, Avery Pearsall, Finn Hodgins, Hunter Reinbold, Wyatt Fogarty and Will Zimmerman from St. Thomas, and Kai Tanguay and Croix Benton from St. Croix.

"At this year's IOR, I am looking forward to seeing sailors come from outside the USVI that bring good competition," says Hodgins, who won the age 10 & Under White Fleet last year and now will sail in the age 11-and 12-year-old Blue Fleet while representing STYC. "IOR will be in the same conditions as North Americans. That's how I will be ready for the OPTI NAMS."

Three In One Event

The impressive week of junior sailing kicks off today with the TOTE Clinic, June 10 to 12. The coaches, in alphabetical order with their affiliations, are Mykel Alonso (Coral Reef Yacht Club, FL, USA), Megan Cassidy (St. Thomas Yacht Club, USVI), Spencer LeGrande (St. Thomas Yacht Club, USVI), Joie Paciulli (St. Thomas Yacht Club, USVI), Gonzalo Pollitzer (Club Nautico San Isidro, Argentina), Agustin Resano (STYC, USVI), Manny Resano (JK Sailing, CA, USA), Esteban Rocha (Fort Lauderdale Yacht Club, FL, USA), and Emily Verdioa (St. Thomas Yacht Club, USVI).

"There aren't many clinics around the world with over 100 boats. It offers the perfect opportunity to work on big fleet starts. This success is due to the coaches' willingness to bring their teams and train together with other coaches, understanding that there is a great benefit for everybody involved," says Resano.

On June 13, over a dozen teams are expected for the TOTE Maritime Team Race.

The IOR sets sail from June 14 to 16.

Trophies will be awarded to the top five finishers in the Red, Blue, and White classes, the top three overall, and the top-place female. Participation awards will be awarded to all Green Fleet sailors. Additional awards include the Peter Ives' Perpetual Trophy (superb sailor/individual), the Chuck Fuller Sportsmanship Perpetual Trophy, and the perpetual Founders Trophy, awarded to the Top Female Sailor. The Awards Ceremony takes place at 3 p.m. on Sunday at the STYC.

Strong Sponsor Support

Winners in the Red (ages 13-15), Blue (ages 11-12), and White (age 10 and under) fleets will receive signature Virgin Islands'-styled Lite Up Watches from Cardow Jewelers, each in coordinated Red, Blue, and White colors. Perfect for junior sailors, the kid-favorite timepieces are water-resistant and feature a silicon band, flashlight, light-up feature, and an outline of all three U.S. Virgin Islands on the face.

The IOR is sponsored by TOTE, the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism, The K3 Company, Cardow, MSI Building Supplies, Lagnappe Interiors, and CC1 Virgin Islands.

This year's event will follow an eco-friendly theme. Sailors will be encouraged to recycle all plastic water bottles, keep all lunch bags and wrapping out of the water, pick up trash on shore, and accept drinks without straws.

For more information, Email: or call (340) 775-6320. Or, for the Notice of Regatta (NOR), Registration Form, and other information, visit the St. Thomas Yacht Club website at stthomasyachtclub.org/sailing/regattas/international-optimist-regatta or Regatta Network, www.regattanetwork.com/event/25798. Please also see the International Optimist Regatta on Facebook and Instagram @internationaloptiregatta.

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