Dec. 6, 2008 — Hot sailboat racing in the Carlos Aguilar Memorial Match Race turned Friday's casual passersby into fans who came back to Charlotte Amalie Harbor for a second look at the top-ranked women's teams and the Caribbean's top male sailors.
A number of locals and vacationers who had walked by the tent and bleachers set up for the race came back to the event on Saturday.
One visitor to the event was Irvin Kittrell, a journalist from Pennsylvania who is new to the island and to match racing. Kittrell stopped by the gathering Friday to find out what all the excitement was about and by the end of action on Saturday had a good understanding of which boats were in control.
The second day also brought out Gov. John deJongh Jr., who stayed to watch two matches and met Olympic gold medalist Anna Tunnicliffe, who won the Laser Radial competition in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. First lady Cecile deJongh stopped by a little later in the afternoon.
Conditions for the race were near perfect on Saturday, with no rain and fairly steady wind through the harbor.
A number of the male teams were new to match racing, and incurred more than the usual number of penalties, 30 penalty flags yesterday and 15 to 18 flags Saturday, according to Debbie Schoenherr, one of the umpires.
"A lot of us knew Carlos [Aguilar]," said Chief Umpire Tom Rinda. "He umpired with us at the Nation's Cup qualifier three years ago. Carlos loved sailing and loved being on the water. He would have wished he was here."
The second round robin of the race had the six women's teams competing in the morning with the eight men's teams in the afternoon.
A number of teams were able to pull their scores up from yesterday, including San Franciscan Liz Baylis and Puerto Rican Fraito Lugo.
"We worked better after an extra day of practice," Baylis said, referring to her two-win third place standings after Friday's racing.
Crewmember Peasy Glaser agreed. "We're happy we are sailing tomorrow," Glaser said. "We came a long way, we want to sail every day."
Baylis' crew prevailed in the final match of the women's competition over Genny Tulloch to stay on for the semi-finals.
Lugo's second day bore out the learning curve theory. Lugo had not match-raced before and was unfamiliar with the combative nature of this brand of sailing. But he started putting numbers on the board Saturday, bringing his standings up to sixth place from eighth.
Top finishers at the end of day two were Tulloch of Florida and William Bailey of St. Thomas. They will move on with the top four teams to Sunday's semifinals. The top two seeds will get to pick their opponent in the first race. Tulloch said that she had chosen Lee Icyda of Team ISV.
"They gave us a really good race today," Tulloch said.
Bailey said that he had not yet discussed opponent selection with his crew.
"Today we started very aggressively," Maurice Kurg said. Kurg crews with 15-year-old Bailey and the "young bucks."
"Out of seven opponents we inflicted penalties on five. After that we just tried to sail clean [without incurring penalties], make the best of wind shifts, focus on good boat handling and defending our position."
Bailey's one loss was to Lugo.
"He just beat us in boat speed," Bailey said. "He was just hitting all of the shifts right."
This was Bailey's first match race as driver. To qualify for this match he trimmed the mainsail on second-place finisher Taylor Canfield's boat.
The two are competitive on the course, but off are "always going over stuff that went on, trying to get better together."
In second place before Sunday's semi-finals, Canfield has been doing a lot of match racing compared to his leading opponent. He hopes to make it to the America's Cup someday.
Canfield says that he and his crew had a few minor errors Saturday and plan to minimize those for Sunday. He described one error in his match up with Team BVI's Chris Haycraft.
"I slowed my boat way too much," Canfield said. "We controlled the entire prestart and gave it away in the last ten seconds. Then in the last race against William Bailey we sailed out of the pressure downwind. William and his crew did a good job of watching and executing."
Match Racing for Newbies
Unlike fleet racing, most match races take less than 15 minutes. The competition is between crews, as the boats are all the same using the same sails and equipment, creating a level playing field. With a limit of four crew members per boat the weight limit for each boat is 598 pounds for the women and 770 pounds for the men.
The boats for the Carlos Aguilar 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 opponent's wind or to force opponents into penalty-earning infractions.
Many of the boats were modified locally by Morgan Avery, who explained they were developed after Hurricane Marilyn all but wiped out the J-29 fleet in the territory.
Racing sailors started scouting for replacement boats.
"We looked at Sonars and Colgates — the Colgates had a big cockpit, but we loved the feel of the J-24s and it's liveliness," Avery said. "It's like a big dinghy."
The J-24s weren't yet right, though, for the people who sailed in the local fleet.
Avery noted that there were a number of 50-plus year old sailors in the fleet at the time.
"On a J-24, only the driver and the trimmer really both fit in the the cockpit and the rest of the crew wear knee pads," Avery explained. "We knew we had to build so that it would be comfortable for every age group. Fifty-year olds can tack as well as a kid."
To modify a J-24 into an IC-24 took a little surgery. The cockpit of the agile and responsive IC-24 is longer and there is more flat space in the middle. The mainsail has a shorter cut, leaving more clearance under the boom.
"The skipper is less important because the crew can dictate where the boat is going," said Chris Curreri, who finished in seventh position.
Results after day two of the Carlos Aguilar Match Race:
1. William Bailey, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands (12 wins)
2. Taylor Canfield, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands (12 wins)
3. Alec Anderson, Tortola, British Virgin Islands (8 wins)
4. Chris Haycraft, Tortola, British Virgin Islands (8 wins)
5. Peter Stanton, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands (7 wins)
6. Fraito Lugo, Puerto Rico (3.5 wins)
7. Chris Curreri, St. Thomas/El Salvador (3 wins)
8. Frits Bus, St. Maarten (2 wins)
1. Genny Tulloch, California (8 wins)
2. Anna Tunnicliffe, Florida (8 wins)
3. Liz Baylis, California (6 wins)
4. Lee Icyda, Rhode Island/St. Thomas (4 wins)
5. Sandy Hayes, Massachusetts (4 wins)
6. Louise Bienvenue, New Orleans (-1 wins)
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