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Rolex Racers Jam in St. Thomas Harbor


March 26, 2005 – In a change of pace from past years, sailors at the International Rolex Regatta in St. Thomas, traded in short-course buoy racing for a coastal romp that took them from Cowpet Bay, where host St. Thomas Yacht Club is located, to a finish line just inside the harbor of Charlotte Amalie. The 79-boat fleet then reversed course for the second race of the day and beat back upwind in 12-15 knot breezes to St. Thomas Yacht Club where a beach party awaited the tired but happy competitors. It was the second day of the three-day Easter Weekend event, which has repeated itself here for 32 years, and now only one race remains tomorrow to determine the winners of Rolex watches in each of nine classes competing.
The IC-24s and J/24s reached the harbor first, taking the most direct course for the coastal distance of six miles, while the bigger boats and beach cats added around-the-buoys extensions to their routes, making the longest of the courses a 16-miler. With easterly winds prevailing, getting to Charlotte Amalie was an easy mix of downwind and reaching angles, but the return trip was an uphill slog, especially for the Beach Cats, which don’t point as high as monohulls.
"It was just over an hour getting there and an eternal two and a half hours getting back.," said Carla Figueroa of Puerto Rico, who is crewing for her husband Enrique, the class’s defending champion, on Suzuki/Red Bull. "I would have liked to have done the easier part last!," she laughed. She and her husband easily topped the class in both races, as they did in yesterday’s three races. The latter Figueroa is a multiple world and national champion in catamarans and has represented his country in the Olympics four times.
Richard Shulman (Riverside, R.I.), the skipper of the IMX 45 Temptress, absolutely loved the return trip, no matter how "gruelling" it was. "I actually gave up the helm at one point, because I wanted to sit on the rail and look around. It’s my first time to do this event, and the scenery is just so amazing." The Temptress crew, made up of all Rhode Islanders, maintained its lead over Spinnaker Racing Class 2 when it won both of today’s races. Shulman said the key to his success is having a core group that has sailed together for over two decades. He gave a respective nod to Carlo Falcone of Italy and Antigua, who is holding on to second aboard his Vallicelli 44 Caccia Alla Volpe. "We have to work hard to beat them," said Shulman.
The start for the return course today provided the most visual excitement, as boats worked to use the confinement of the harbor and the starting line within it to their advantage. For the five largest boats sailing in Spinnaker Racing Class 1, the scene was more like watching the pre-race maneuvers at the America’’s Cup, as the boats wove in and out among spectator boats and anchored cruising boats to find an advantageous position. Tom Hill’s Puerto Rican entrant, Titan 12, swept the competition for a second day in this class.
A final distance race, this one a traditional course through Pillsbury Sound, is planned for tomorrow.


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