ST. THOMAS — Sailing is social distancing at its best. No one knows this better than St. Thomas’ Chris Rosenberg and his 15-year-old son Christian, who won the IC-24 class, and St. Thomas’ Marcus Compton, who topped the Hobie Wave class, in this weekend’s inaugural St. Thomas Yacht Club Invitational Regatta.
Twenty-one boats — with skippers hailing from all three U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the United States and Sweden — completed 10 races total in the two-day regatta, which concluded Sunday.
Conditions, and what gives the U.S. Virgin Islands its reputation as a world-class sailing destination, gave competitors a little bit of everything, from winds gusting over 20 knots to light puffs at less than half that speed.
These “best of both worlds” of wind were accompanied by COVID-19 protective measures such socially distanced boats, crew limited to double-handed on IC-24s and single-handed on Hobie Waves, and facial buffs or masks in place.
Twenty-two points separated Rosenberg and his son from the second-place finisher, St. Croix’s Eric Cusin and crew Peter Nielsen, in the 13-boat IC-24 class.
“When we considered how to get back out racing with the pandemic, the decision was made to sail the IC-24s with two people instead of the usual five,” Chris Rosenberg said. “I asked my son to crew with me as we’re in the same household. He agreed, we started practicing on Friday nights during the series hosted by the St. Thomas Sailing Center, and little by little we improved.
“The first day of racing was hard since there was a lot of breeze. [Sunday] the wind was much lighter. Christian tacked the jib perfectly and he called all the headers and lifts. To see him give it his all, in these trying times and for two days, was such a great to experience to have as a father.”
After first and second places, scores in the IC-24 Class were so close it was anyone’s game. In fact, there were three ties — for third place, fourth place and sixth place.
Scores were almost as equally close in the eight-boat Hobie Wave class. In fact, it came down to the last race and only two points ultimately separated Compton from the second-place finisher, St. Thomas’ Julian van den Driessche.
“On the first day I capsized twice, but on a positive note, I did have two firsts,” Compton said. “I was glad [Sunday] brought an end to the capsizes with the light breeze. I knew it was close with Julian. He would plant himself to windward of me at the start and use his, I must say, superior speed and pointing to pass by me.
“The light breeze made it more challenging and I really had to keep the boat moving, the sail loose and breathing, and constantly compare other sailor’s speed and position. I would encourage others to take part in competitive and friendly classes like Hobie Waves and the IC24. While practicing safe health guidelines, the racing really pulled us through the emotionally difficult COVID-19 months.”
The STYC Invitational Regatta commemorated a perpetual trophy. This was awarded to the winner of the IC-24 and Hobie Wave classes, Rosenberg and Compton, respectively. This perpetual trophy is dedicated to Rudy Thomson and Dick Avery for their long-standing contributions to STYC and Olympic racing and inspiring sailors of all ages.
One of the biggest take-home messages from this weekend’s event is the high quality of racing, says Tony Coffelt, the St. Thomas Yacht Club’s commodore.
“There was tight racing and close scores in both the IC-24 and Hobie Wave classes,” Coffelt said. “Add to this the Race Committee offered both round-the-buoy and round-the-island racing. Plus, our ideal Virgin Islands’ conditions offered competitors a range of wind speeds. I think this has been an excellent start to the makings of a world-class regatta.”
The 2020 St. Thomas Yacht Club Invitational Regatta tests the waters for a larger event in future years where teams from yacht clubs throughout the Caribbean, United States and Europe will be invited to race.
Starting in 2021, the STYC Invitational Regatta will move to a permanent date of the third week in May — next year it’s May 14-16. This time coincides with the wrap-up of the Caribbean race season and creates an extension to the territory’s tourism season.