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HomeNewsArchivesRock Stars of Sailing Set for Match Race in Charlotte Amalie Harbor

Rock Stars of Sailing Set for Match Race in Charlotte Amalie Harbor

Dec. 4, 2008 — The Carlos Aguilar Match Race has attracted some of the sailing world's biggest celebrities to the Virgin Islands for hot spectator-oriented sailboat racing.
Fans will be greeted to a free viewing of the event, held right in Charlotte Amalie's harbor.
Unlike fleet racing, match racing is rapid, with most races taking less than 15 minutes. The competition is between crews, as the boats are all the same, with the same sails, creating a level playing field. There is a limit of four crew per boat and a total crew weight limit for each boat of 598 pounds for the women and 770 pounds for the men.
The boats for this match race are the locally popular IC-24s, which are modified J-24s. The races are one on one, and boats attack each other's positions to steal opponents' wind or force opponents into penalty-earning infractions.
Friday's racing will consist of a double round robin, meaning each boat will race against every other boat at least once. The races are a standard two-lap or two-sausage course.
Match racing is more spectator-friendly than fleet racing due to the dueling for control between the two competing boats in each race, said organizer Peter Holmberg.
"It's a cat-and-mouse game at the start," tactician Cory Sertl said. "It's very clear cut from a spectator point of view. Whoever finishes first wins."
Fleet racing often isn't so clear cut, having time handicaps based on typical boat performance, confusing to newbies to the sport.
"This is war," said Tommy Kozyn, who will run the foredeck for Team St. Maarten. "Two boats come at each other. You have one winner, one loser. That's it, that's the game."
With everything else equal, sailors know that a lot depends on luck.
"You can look totally brilliant if the luck goes your way," said Liz Baylis, skipper of the San Francisco Women's Match Racing Team.
Regardless of luck or skill, the women in this competition have the respect of the men.
"I am glad I'm not sailing against them," said Russ O'Reilly, who will race with Team Island Sol.
Many out-of-town competitors commented on the harbor's unpredictable winds.
Winds in the harbor can shift a full 270 degrees, O'Reilly said, and he expected the weather conditions of Thursday to last through the whole weekend.
Match sailors know how to leverage the shifts to their advantage.
"In the harbor it's puffy and shifty, so chances of catching up are better," trimmer Pease Glaser said.
This year's event brings men's teams from all over the Caribbean and top-tier ladies teams from all over the United States, including Laser Radial gold medalist Anna Tunnicliffe and Baylis, who is currently ranked sixth in the world.
Earlier this year Baylis' team won a silver medal in the 2008 Women's Match Racing World Championship in New Zealand. Her crew this time is Glaser, trimming main and calling tactics; Sertl, trimming jib and spinnaker; and Joanne Fisher on the foredeck.
"We haven't all four of us sailed together," Baylis said, noting that she had sailed with each member of the crew at various events.
They will face a number of other teams, including Tunnicliffe's and Louise Bienvenue's Team New Orleans, Bienvenue, a relative newcomer to the sport, has only been sailing since 1995, a relatively short time to reach the elite level of match sailing.
Woman's match racing is reaching new popularity and has recently become an Olympic sport, according to Holmberg.
Many of the women's teams will come back to the territory next year for the U.S. Womens' Match Racing Nationals.
The Carlos Aguilar Match Race is sponsored by watch manufacturer Ulysse Nardin and Trident Jewels and Time, as well as a number of other local companies. It will take place Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On Friday the men will race first starting at 9 am. Ladies racing will begin at 1 p.m.
For more information, visit the St. Thomas Yacht Club website.)
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