Twelve of the world’s best women match racers will compete in the Carlos Aguilar Match Race (CAMR), presented by the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism, on December 1 to 4. This year, the CAMR is the fifth and final event of the 2016 Women’s International Match Racing Series (WIM Series). Equally, St. Thomas’ Charlotte Amalie harbor is one of the world’s best sailing destinations.
“We want to welcome all the sailors and visitors who are traveling to the U.S. Virgin Islands for this year’s Carlos Aguilar Match Race,” said Beverly Nicholson-Doty, Commissioner of Tourism, U.S. Virgin Islands. “Our warm weather, beautiful waters and first-rate marine facilities make the U.S. Virgin Islands an ideal choice for sailing. We also encourage everyone to venture beyond the shores to explore and enjoy the variety of attractions, activities, shopping and restaurants during their stay in the Territory.”
More specifically, there are two main reasons that makes St. Thomas’ Charlotte Amalie harbor such an amazing place to match race.
“The first is that it is so beautiful,” says Henry Menin, a long-time St. Thomas resident, former Chairman of ISAF (now World Sailing) Match Racing Committee and one of six Umpires for the CAMR. “You are sailing in a natural amphitheater, with the colorful Danish buildings of the old town just a couple of hundred yards to the north. Then you have Hassel Island, a beautiful National Park just to the south. Behind the town, you have magnificent green mountains overlooking the course and the harbor. And last, but not least, you have the main thoroughfare of the town, bordered by the sea wall, bringing much of the island traffic within easy viewing distance of the racing.”
Secondly, adds Menin, are the beautiful racing conditions.
“The water is blue and warm with virtually no waves and almost no current. The breeze is warm and friendly, but shifty. However, it is almost always out of some form of the east, so it is highly unlikely that the Race Committee would ever have to reverse the starting line with the windward mark. In the eight years of the CAMR, I have never seen that kind of wind shift,” he says.
What do the harbor conditions overall represent for the WIM Series teams?
“It means you have to be intensely vigilant all the time, looking around to see what is coming your way, and sometimes it means taking a flyer, especially if you are behind.
The harbor will test the mettle of even the very best sailors. Keep your eyes open and look for every clue as to where the wind will come from next, or where it will die and leave you struggling to keep up your speed. Never despair though, because you may be the victim of a dying breeze one moment and the beneficiary of a private puff that will take you into the lead the next,” says Menin.
One WIM Series skipper, the USA’s Morgan Collins, will have a U.S. Virgin Islands crew member aboard.
“It will be great to have a USVI crew to help out with the sailing areas as well as sailing the IC24’s,” says Collins, who is from Port Washington, New York, the sailing coach at the State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College and sets sail in the CAMR as her second WIM Series event. “Our team’s strategy will be to work together using our diverse backgrounds to make our boat the fastest one on the course. We are all previous college sailors and know that speed is one of the most lethal weapons on the course. Our goal in the final event of the WIM Series will be to aggressively control in the pre-start and gain an advantage early in the race.”
Collin’s USVI crew is Mayumi ‘Mimi’ Roller, who learned to sail in the KATS (Kids and the Sea) program in Coral Bay, St. John, and later raced with the Antilles School sailing team. More recently, Roller is a 2012 Olympian in Laser Radial and 2013 All-American Skipper and St. Mary’s College Athlete of the Year.
“I am very excited to crew in the CAMR,” says Roller. “I have never competed in a match racing event before, so this regatta is presenting a new challenge that I am enthusiastic to meet. Other than my fleet racing background, I was a key player on my college’s team racing team my senior year, so hopefully that experience helps!”
Another local aspect of the CAMR is the boats, IC, or Inter-Club 24s. The design takes a used J/24 hull and fits it with a new Melges 24-style deck mold that is wider, has no traveler, and can carry up to five sailors. The design was innovated by St. Thomas sailor, Chris Rosenberg, and boat builder, Morgan Avery, in 1999 in response to a need to jump-start racing and instruction following the decimation of the local sailing fleet after successive hurricanes.
St. Thomas as the site of the WIM Series Finale came about through the friendship forged over the years between CAMR co-director, Verian Aguilar Tuttle, and Liz Baylis, executive director of the Women’s International Match Racing Association and manager of the WIM Series. Baylis has competed as crew in the CAMR in the past.
The CAMR is named in memory of Aguilar Tuttle’s late husband, Carlos Aguilar, who was an avid sailor and loved match racing. Aguilar also enjoyed mentoring young sailors. Thus, the CAMR Youth Regatta, scheduled on December 3 during a mid-day break from WIM Series competition, offers an opportunity for local youth to get out on the water.
“The intent at the inception of the CAMR eight years ago, was to always tie in the youth and especially the local Virgin Islands kids who may not have the opportunity to be exposed to this kind of sailing. The organizing association of the CAMR wanted this event to give back to the community through the youth!” says Aguilar Tuttle.
Fifteen to 20 8- to 17-year old students enrolled in the MVP (Marine Vocational Program), will team up with WIM Series skippers for three short fleet races in the harbor. These students have already participated in the MVP’s learn-to-swim program and sailing lessons at the St. Thomas Yacht Club.
The CAMR WIM Series finale is a World Sailing Grade One event. The format features a full round robin of all teams, followed by knockout quarterfinals for the top eight, and then knockout semi-finals, petit-finals, and finals.
The Virgin Islands Sailing Association (VISA) and St. Thomas Yacht Club (STYC) are the organizing authorities for the CAMR, namesake for the late Carlos Aguilar, who was an avid sailor and loved match racing. Sponsors for the CAMR include the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism; Heineken and Captain Morgan, distributed by Bellows International; Yacht Haven Grande; K3; International Capital & Management Company; Auven Therapeutics; John and Claire Foster; XO Energy; the Prior Family Foundation; Ballerina Jewelers, St. Thomas and St. John; AH Riise, Official Rolex Retailer, U.S. and British Virgin Islands; Self Insurance Consultants, Inc.; and VINow.com