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July 5, 2001 — New boats and new sailors added excitement to the 37-year-old Lady Tristram Cup hosted by the St. Thomas Yacht Club on July 1. Among the first-time entrants, the Kiwi 35 WildThing made a splash in terms of speed as Antigua-based owner/skipper David Baird drove the vessel in a swift circumnavigation of St. Thomas and crossed the finish line first to win the Lady Tristram Around-St. Thomas race. Revised from an earlier story. See editor's note at the end.
Named by an early yacht club member, Col. John Brindley, who regularly sailed his 46-foot Rhodes yawl, Lady Tristram, in club races, the event really honors the first monohull over the line after a circumnavigation of St. Thomas. While Brindley crossed the finish line first on several occasions, he never won a race once times had been corrected for handicap. Brindley felt so strongly that what really counted was who finished first that he donated a perpetual trophy and named it after his boat.
WildThing isn't new to the Virgin sailing scene, but the Tristram Cup win was definitely a rebirth. "This boat has had a rough past, spending many years at a time on the hard," Baird explained. From daysailing in the mid-1980s, the vessel took on a racing life when Tortola's Barney Cross acquired it in 1995 and re-rigged it to its present configuration. "The maximum speed Barney recorded under sail was 23 knots reaching down the north side of Tortola," Baird said.
After it had sat in dry storage for nearly three years, Baird bought the boat last October. "It wasn't until mid-December when we ferried over to Road Town to do a quick rig and launch," he said. "Then followed a 50-minute trip covering the 10 miles back to Coral Bay, St. John, in 25 knots of wind under the main alone. We had only three crew members aboard who knew little about the boat, and we did 15 knots. That was a rush!"
WildThing sat at anchor for two months as Baird's job on St. John wound down and he prepared to move to Antigua. "We tried to sail the boat to Antigua, but the five-man crew couldn't control the boat in the 25-knot winds, even with a triple reef in the main and a blade," he said. So the boat was left at a mooring in the Virgin Islands until June.
On several occasions, Baird had raced on Mirage, the Custom Cal 40 skippered by St. John's Alan Brugger. "Mirage has left the territory for an extended cruse, but her race crew was anxious to sail," Baird said. "So, the crew got together and did a quick preparation so we could race WildThing in the Commodore's Cup on St. John, where we took line honors both days."
Pleased with the performance, even though the boat had little work and the crew had little experienced with racing it, Baird and the crew — such well-known local sailors as Boyd Sprehn, Mary Kay Kasmerski, Leo Voorneveld, Trace Donaldson, Keith Keen and Caroline Thurman — decided to enter the Lady Tristram Cup.
"We decided to enter the race prior to hauling out for a refit," Baird said. The Lady Tristram race was not without teething problems. "We had never flown the huge, circus-tent-sized asymmetrical spinnaker before," Baird said. "On the first jibe, out near Buck Island, it wound around the forestay three times. Meanwhile, the rest of the fleet raced off towards Water Island and the west end of St Thomas. We had a lot of water to cover to catch up, once we had all in order."
WildThing passed close to St. Thomas racer John Haracivet's 38' Beneteau, Tempest, which was then running at 8 knots off Water Island. "Our speed was about 12 to 15 knots at the time," Baird said. "We passed the entire fleet by the time we ran into the wind hole of Salt Cay." Again, there was the matter of taking down the huge spinnaker in what was 20 knots of wind, as the WildThing crew watched the rest of the fleet pass them by.
"So began the beat up the north side," Baird said. "The Kiwi 35 is not a good windward boat in a rough sea. Each wave easily stops the lightweight boat. But, by some good strategy, we eventually managed to catch up to the fleet, passing them all just before Coki Point, and held our lead to the finish."
Although the Lady Tristram Cup winner is the monohull over the line first, handicaps were figured and boats were ranked on corrected time. Figuring this way, Haracivet's Tempest led in the five-boat spinnaker racing class. "We had some new people on board that hadn't sailed with us before, and the winds were in our favor," Haracivet said. Tortola's Kevin Rowlette, aboard his Olson 30, Rushin Rowlette, finished second on both actual and corrected time, and fellow islander Eddie Brockbank's Olson 30, Fastidiots, corrected out in third.
New IC-24 class holding its own
Since making its debut at the Rolex Regatta in April, the local IC-24 class — a converted J24 design that is easier to sail — has been actively racing during Friday fun nights, in sailing classes and at regattas. For the Lady Tristram, six IC-24s sailed a shortened course that navigated Great St. James and out to Frenchcap.
According to Ruth Miller, who crewed aboard the winning IC-24, Feeling Friendly, "The real key to our win was Chris calling tactics." Her reference was to IC-24 innovator Chris Rosenberg. "The winds were shifty out there today, but with Chris, no one just sits there as crew," Miller added. "Everyone got to take a turn at the tiller."
Chris Thompson's No Sea Um finished second, while Cold Beer V with IC-24 builder Morgan Avery at the helm came third. Since the boats are identical in design, there was no handicap to calculate. The beauty of the equal design was evident at the finish line, as all six IC-24's finished within four minutes of one another other after a race of more than two hours.

Editor's note: An earlier story on the Source indicated Tempest, captained by John Haracivet, was first over the line. With the emphasis usually on handicap racing, awards based on handicap performance took center stage at the Lady Tristram Cup. But, looking back at how the event started and the reason for the name, the Cup winner was actually someone different than the handicaps indicated.

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