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Wild, Windy Racing Opens Regatta

Spectacular broaches, inadvertent jibes, man-overboard rescues and crazy capsizes created a dramatic start to the 42nd St. Thomas International Regatta on Friday, as 20- to 25-knot breezes and 4- to 6-foot seas tested the 62 yachts at sea.

Under brilliant sunny skies and 80 degree air and water temperatures, the 62-boat fleet enjoyed a wild ride on a course that took the fleet from the St. Thomas Yacht Club to the Charlotte Amalie harbor and back.

“The life line broke right before the first start and we had crew in the water,” said Puerto Rico’s Ivan Aponte-Gonzalez, bowman on Luis Juarbe’s Melges 32 SOCA, one of four yachts in this class. “We were able to pick him up, make the start on time and actually win the race. What was really cool was going 16 to 17 knots downwind into town.”

SOCA leads the Melges 32 class tied on points, with Smile and Wave in second place and Lazy Dog third after two races.

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Turtling upside down with hulls in the air was the order of the day in the Beach Cat Class. It wasn’t a capsize that took the USVI Hobie 16 entry Nuts, driven by 18-year old Nicholas Gartner with the UK’s Ian Bartlett as crew, out of the first race.

“We blew the jib before the start,” says Gartner, a senior at Antilles School who will attend either the U.S. Naval Academy or U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in the fall. “So we came in, drove off to get another jib, rushed to put it on and then hauled off to the harbor. Thanks to the heavy wind we got there just in time to make the second race and finished third.”

Flight Risk leads the Beach Cat class, with Island Sol second and Caribbean Auto Mart third.

In the record 20-entry IC-24 Class, Jason Putley of the British Virgin Islands on the tiller aboard CYM/INTAC said it wasn’t so much the wind and swells as it was first day tactical issues that led to a collision in the last of the classes three races.

“We led the first race all the way down the south side of (St. Thomas) until the last 25 seconds, when two other boats beat us. We did pretty well in the second race, then in the third we hit another boat and our shrouds got locked together. The whole class passed us before we got untangled and got going again,” said Putley, an 11th-grader at Tortola’s Cedar School. Putley plans to make an Olympic bid in the Laser for 2020.

Four of his crew had never sailed before, but that didn’t stop the UK’s Peter Scholfield from achieving solid mid-pack finishes aboard his HOD 35 Zarafa in the highly-competitive CSA 3 Class.

“It was great fun sailing today even though we didn’t necessarily come in covered in glory,” said Scholfield, a retired major in the Royal Armored Corps, whose crew are all members of the Royal Dragoon Guards who have recently served in Afghanistan. “You could say the boys had a baptism by fire.”

Dark Star, Boogaloo and Solstice, respectively, are the top three leaders in the CSA 3 Class.

The CSA 2 sported the sleek race boats, among them Nantucket Yacht Club-based Kismet, a Morris 48 owned and helmed by David Southwell.

“The conditions today are what we expect when we race in the Caribbean,” said Southwell. “We’ve raced in the RORC Caribbean 600 two years and this is the first time we’re sailing in St. Thomas. It’s very competitive here and that’s what we really like.”

Leading the remaining three classes after the first day are Conviction/Team Varg in CSA 1, Hotel California Too in CSA Non-Spinnaker and Odyssey in Non-Rated Cruising.

Racing continues Saturday off the southeast side of St. Thomas. Music by Flip Switch will play at the yacht club from 3 to 6 p.m. From 6 p.m. to midnight, Spectrum Band will perform at the St. Thomas International Regatta’s Yacht Haven Grande Party.

Sunday is the final day of regatta competition. Music by Full Circle will greet the fleet from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., and the Regatta awards ceremony will start at 6 p.m. on the STYC beach, followed by the Final Fling Party with Spectrum Band playing from 7 to 11 p.m.

Weather Routing Inc., the official weather provider for the regatta, will provide forecasts by 6 a.m. daily. These forecasts are available online at www.wriwx.com/clientproduct.php?id=4759. Weather maps and products specifically created for this event are also available at this link.

More information about the STIR and real-time results will be online at www.stthomasinternationalregatta.com and at www.yachtscoring.com/emenu.cfm?eID=1219.

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