St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Twenty-two boats, with skippers hailing from the U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, USA and Sweden, are ready to take their start on Saturday in the first annual St. Thomas Yacht Club (STYC) Invitational Regatta sponsored by Leatherback Brewing Co. and MUTINY Island Vodka. COVID-19 protective measures such as social-distancing via crew limited to double-handed on IC24s and single-handed on Hobie Waves, plus face buffs as required racing attire, will be in effect for this two-day event as directed by the USVI Government’s Open Doors phase. Run out of the Club’s St. Thomas Sailing Center (STSC) in Cowpet Bay, this inaugural regatta celebrates sailing as an ideal socially distanced sport and the seas surrounding the U.S. Virgin Islands as the best place in the world to race.
Keen Competition in IC24 Class
The 13-boat IC24 Class, a one-design innovated at the STYC and converted from J/24s, packs a lot of talent and competition will be keen.
“We’re looking forward to having the sailing community back together and having some fun,” says Eric Cusin, who got his start sailing Optimist dinghies off his home waters of St. Croix, USVI. Cusin will have his hand on the tiller while crew Peter Nielsen works the foredeck.
The BVI’s Ted Reshetiloff will race with his 17-year-old son, Max, as crew. The regatta will be an extra special occasion since the two recently endured a two month plus COVID-19 separation.
“My family and I live aboard our sailboat at Nanny Cay and we had just purchased a new to us boat,” Reshetiloff explains. “We had it shipped from Singapore to Miami and I left in March to sail the new boat to the BVI with some crew. While at sea, the BVI borders closed and I was forced to divert to the USVI. I’ve been living aboard by myself since arriving March 29 but was just reunited with my family last Sunday, Father’s Day! So, I am very much looking forward to time on the water with my son.”
Peter Sernhede, who hails from Sweden, will benefit from local knowledge by racing with St. Thomas’ Cory Brown as crew.
“There are some things in life you just can’t get to much of and sailing is one of them. Then to be able to do so in these fantastic surroundings and waters is just such a pleasure. As a bonus this is a regatta, so I am hoping for good results to take to my home yacht club, Sunneskärs Båtsällskap,” says Sernhede.
St. Thomas’ Mike Finley, John Foster, Bill McConnell and Chuck Pessler; St. John’s Jarrett Altmin and Jasper Moon; Puerto Rico’s Jaime Balzac and Fraito Lugo; and Dave Franzel from the USA will round out the IC24 class.
Hobies Take to the Waves
Nine sailors will race one-design in 13-foot long two-hull Hobie Waves.
“Just sailing again even with social distancing, that’s what I’m looking forward to,” says St. Thomas’ Joyce Campbell. “This event is the first step in reinventing our sport in the new COVID-19 environment.”
St. Thomas’ Marcus Compton is especially happy to sail a Hobie Wave in competition.
“I didn’t sail the Hobie Wave at first because I figured it performed like a hotel rental boat for visitors. Big mistake. The more I sail it, the more I realize you make the boat do what you want it to. You squeeze performance out of it. The Wave planes lively in breeze and it handles a lot of breeze well. It also moves nicely in very light winds, which is definitely my favorite,” says Compton, a second-generation sailor and avid windsurfer.
The STYC Invitational Regatta will commemorate a perpetual trophy, which will be awarded to the winning teams and dedicated to Rudy Thomson and Dick Avery for their long-standing contributions to STYC and Olympic racing and inspiring sailors of all ages.
Learn to Sail
Sailing is not only a great way to socially distance, but a positive activity for mind and body. The STSC offers several instructional programs for adults, from learn to sail to advanced bareboat certification and cruising classes. Classes are taught by highly experienced instructors aboard the Club’s IC24s. Schedules range from a vacation week format for those who wish to fly in and combine visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands along with sailing instruction, to weekend end and late-afternoon classes for those that live locally and need to schedule around employment. Class registration comes with a 30-day Bluewater Membership, where students to use and enjoy Club facilities and amenities. A $150 Blue Water Boat Access fee enables students to sail IC24s and Hobie Waves throughout their Blue Water Membership. Students who get hooked on sailing can pursue their passion regularly. The STSC hosts several regular activities such as Ladies Hobie Wave Racing every other Thursday, co-ed Hobie Wave Racing every Thursday, double-handed IC24 racing every Friday and more.
Strong Sponsor Support
The STYC Invitational Regatta is the newest of the events hosted by the St. Thomas Yacht Club, which also includes the St. Thomas International Regatta, International Optimist Regatta, and a match race. The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism is a strong supporter of all these events.
Additionally, the Leatherback Brewing Company and MUTINY Island Vodka, both based on St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, are co-sponsors of the 2020 STYC Invitational Regatta.
“We are happy for the opportunity to participate in the STYC Invitational Regatta. This event makes our close community stand out in the Caribbean and brings us all together. We always excited to support our local community!” says Todd Manley, CEO and Founder of MUTINY Island Vodka.
MUTINY Island Vodka, the Caribbean’s Original Island Vodka handcrafted from breadfruit, is a first in the world new spirit and created in the USVI. The company will feature its MUTINY Island Vodka and its crafty infusions including Smoked Hot Pepper, Cold Pressed Coffee, and the new ROOTS edition featuring local roots of Ginger and Turmeric at the event.