March 27, 2003 – A change in date from the traditional Easter weekend hasn't hurt participation in the 30th annual International Rolex Regatta, which gets under way Friday off St. Thomas. As of the close of registration Thursday night, the boat count was a strong 92, with skippers and crews from the Caribbean, the U.S. mainland and Europe.
"We actually think the date change may have benefitted us this year," Ruth Miller, regatta director, said. "Easter falls very late in April, so we may have conflicted with Antigua Race Week and other events. For a number of reasons, it made sense to pick a weekend and stick with it. Sailors can plan in advance, and this is especially valuable if they want to bring big boats down.
"We haven't heard any disgruntled sailors. Everyone seems to be happy about the date."
This year's Rolex has a number of changes both on the water and off.
"On the water, we'll have a continuation of something that was new last year," Miller said. "Peter Reggio will be coming back and be our principal race officer. Peter has just returned from a stint at the Louis Vuitton Series, the prelude to the America's Cup, where he received all kinds of accolades for running tremendous races.
"He's such a treat to work with. The racers love him because he's very user friendly. He talks to them, uses their information about what's happening with the weather and the courses to make his decisions about the type of courses to run. In addition, Peter's has some people he's worked with for many years, people who have volunteered their time to come down here from various places because they like working with him, they like working on race committee activities, and they want to help us make this a fantastic regatta."
Another on-the-water change is in scoring. For some time, the scoring system at the hosting St. Thomas Yacht Club has been antiquated, Miller said.
However, "This year, we'll be keeping up to date with the computer age," she said. "Someone will be on the race committee boat with real-time scoring. So we're planning to have results — at least provisional results, protests pending — on the Web site before the boats come back in from racing."
And that would be, of course, the Rolex Cup Regatta Web site.
As for racers, Miller said that one of the most exciting happenings this year is with the beach cat class. "We've always had very strong beach cat racing in the Caribbean between Puerto Rico and our local Virgin Islands sailors," she said. "This year, we're welcoming a group of racers from the U.S. led by Olympians Jay and Pease Glaser.
"Joining them will be a number of teams from the Worrell 1000, the grueling beach cat race that goes from Fort Lauderdale to Virginia Beach. In addition, there's also a container load of beach cats coming from Puerto Rico; so, the competition in this class is just going to be tremendous."
Another class that promises hot action is the locally developed IC-24. "We'll have up to 12 boats from St. Thomas and possibly two more from the B.V.I.," Miller said.
Off the water, there are many significant changes this anniversary year.
"First and foremost, we've erected a tent city on the yacht club's tennis courts," Miller said. "There will be a permanent bandstand and we'll have our activities, our parties, out there under the stars every night … We're also going to be giving daily awards. Friday's awards are sponsored by the Ritz Carlton Club St. Thomas, and Saturday night Cruzan Rum is presenting the awards. The final awards are on Sunday night, under the tent. We're not having it off site this year, where people can't get a ticket or have to get all dressed up. This way, we can have everyone and every one's crew there for the prize giving."
The tent village also will house satellite operations of 10 St. Thomas restaurants for the weekend.
"So, we're expecting to invite and welcome people from all over the island to come to the yacht club, stay at the yacht club and party there during the regatta," Miller said.
Races are to get under way at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On Thursday; the Caribbean Weather Center on Tortola was forecasting winds of 5 to 10 knot, prompting fears that, as happened last year, racing might end up being curtailed for lack of air.
"I worked on everything else for the last 10 months, but I have no control over the wind," Miller said. "So, pray to the wind gods and everybody keep whistling."
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