Rolex Regatta Winners Rewarded With Brand New Rolex Watches

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The recent Rolex Regatta held in St. Thomas saw legends and new comers shine at the "Crown Jewel" of Caribbean regattas.

It came straight down to the wire on the final day for winners in 3 of 6 categories at the International Rolex Regatta, which commenced Friday and sponsored 68 boats as well as over 500 sailors representing the U.S., The Uk, Puerto Rico, Canada, Netherlands, Russia, Italy, Sweden, Monaco and several Caribbean islands. The big event, in its 39th year and organised by St. Thomas Yacht Club in the USVI, is the most well-known regatta in Rolex’s collection of global sailing events, and is regarded as the “Crown Jewel” of Caribbean regattas.

Today’s tactically challenging Pillsbury Sound races, with courses that wound through the cays of St. Thomas and St. John, determined winners in one IRC and 3 CSA classes in addition to a Beach Cat class, while one-design IC 24s finished six short-course contests in Jersey Bay to determine that class’s winner. The races were sailed in almost near perfect conditions, including plenty of natural sunlight and 15-knot breezes, which made the cloudy skies and sporadic rain showers that won over the last 2 days but a distant memory.

Peter Cunningham’s (George Town, CAY) 52-foot PowerPlay procured overall victory in IRC, where 9 boats were competing, and won a Rolex timepiece the Oyster Perpetual Submariner Chronometer as a winning prize for its outstanding overall performance. The team’s main competition was Willem Wester’s (Breskens, Zeeland, NED) Grand Soleil 46 Antilope (controlled by Belgian Olympian Philippe Bergmans) and Ashley Wolfe’s (Alberta, Canada) IRC 52 Mayhem, that finished second and third, respectively.

“We were head-to-head with Mayhem the whole regatta, which made it exciting,” said Cunningham, noting that Mayhem’s disqualification in the 2nd race of the series (for a pre-start infraction) and the dismasting of Lord Irvine Laidlaw of Rothiemay’s (MON) IRC 52 Highland Fling XII were unfortunate. “We lost the very first race today by one second to Mayhem and Antilope (who corrected out equally and posted 1.5 points each) to finish 3rd. The sailing is so fascinating here; you can not relax even one second or it’s the main difference between 1st and 2nd.”

Volvo Ocean Race veteran Bouwe Bekking (NED), tactician on-board Antilope, was happy with 2nd, especially since Antilope is a more heavy displacement boat than the others, and he admitted that the story may have been different had Mayhem not shown a DSQ in her score line. “They might have had a second in that contest, so you can count back and see that they might have done a lot better,” said Bekking, “but that’s luxury yacht racing.”

The levels of competition today was extraordinarily close in CSA 1, when Andrea Scarabelli’s (Cole Bay, St. Maarten) Melges 24 Budget Marine/GILL were able to keep the lead it had set up on day one and kept yesterday. It was by a mere half point in final regatta rankings, however, how the team prevailed over Magnitude 400, a Farr 400 actually owned and skippered by Doug Baker (Long Beach, Calif.). The challenge of the 40 footers, of which there were several in this class, have been billed as one to see, but it rather quickly became clear that the Melges 24 came ready to win.

The very first day, Budget Marine/Gill posted two wins in the “town races” that showcased plenty of downwind sailing. “This was good for us,” said the team’s skipper Christopher Marshall, “but the 2nd day had lots of upwind sailing and that’s when it reaped rewards for the larger boats (Magnitude 400 won both contests.). Then today was a mixed bag.”

The half-point variation in the final scores was a result of Budget Marine/GILL’s third-place finish in today’s first race using the identical corrected time as a second Farr 400 from Ca ., Blade, so each vessel was given 3.5 points as an average for second and third places (per the racing rules). “In the first start we have been over early, so we had to come back and lost at least thirty seconds,” said Scarabelli, who drove. “Everyone was in a bit of a bad mood after that, it wasn't for that, we would have likely been in 2nd (for that race). We knew we'd to do our best in the next race and perhaps it would be extremely hard to win-that we could lose the Rolex regatta due to a half a point.” The team put up a third in the second race to Magnitude 400’s fifth, and that turned out to be the combination that would give Budget Marine/GILL the final say and the sought after Rolex watch as prize.

Also winning by a mere half point today in CSA 2 was Jonathan Lipuscek’s (San Juan, PR) J/105 Dark Star. Lipuscek choose to go into today’s races with a half point edge on the merit of a couple of bullets posted the other day, and he posted a 2-3 today to dominate over Jaime Torres’s (also San Juan) Beneteau First 40 Smile and Wave, likewise winning the a Rolex watch for his performance. Which makes it a triumvirate of Puerto Rican teams on the stage was Sergio Sagramoso’s (San Juan) J/122 Lazy Dog, in 3rd, also with only a half point separating it from Smile and Wave. Several teams have been locked in combat for the whole regatta.

“We merely attempted to decrease errors and do everything with patience,” said Lipuscek at the Rolex Awards party, which had been held on the St. Thomas Yacht Club’s beach and showcased an enormous stage built out over the water. (It had been utilized on Saturday, also, for the regatta’s headlining Reggae Performance.) “It’s extraordinary that we’ve won the timepiece; I didn’t believe it until now.”

Puerto Rican teams in addition finished top-three in IC 24s, which carried the biggest fleet here with fifteen yachts. Taking over was Puerto Rico’s Fraito Lugo (Ponce), on board Orion, who counts this as his ninth time for it to win a Rolex watch here. He handed down the watch on to his foredeck crew Pablo Mendez and declared a full rotation has recently been made as far as his crew getting to proudly be part of the spoils of glory. “It’s experience with the boat,” said Fraito when questioned what his secret to success was. “Pablo has been sailing beside me since two thousand and two, and my tactician and trimmer have already been with me eighteen years. It feels so great to win; we lost this regatta last year, so we came back this year very aggressive.”

Defending Beach Cat class champion Jorge Ramos (Puerto Rico), on-board his Hobie 16 Universal, swapped wins for just two days with John Holmberg (St. Thomas), also sailing a Hobie 16 named Time Out with 13-year-old Naomi Laing, but today he triumphed in the class’s single race to ultimately take all round victory. Starting today, the two were tied on point scores after eight races, and the final tally confirmed Ramos 19, Holmberg 21.

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