The 2021 St. Thomas International Regatta starts today with the traditional warm up event — the Round the Rocks Race.

The race, which starts at 11 a.m., consists of seven boats in two classes — CSA Spinnaker and CSA Non-Spinnaker — circumnavigating St. John.

On Friday, the regatta kicks off in earnest with three days of point to point and buoy racing. Thirty-four yachts are registered for the regatta, which runs through Sunday. The classes included in the competition are CSA (Caribbean Sailing Association) Racing and Non-Spinnaker and One-Design IC24 and Hobie Wave.

For the first time in regatta history, race officers will set virtual marks for the CSA spinnaker and non-spinnaker racing classes. Virtual marks are GPS (global positioning system) waypoints on the course that competitors need to sail around, but these are not physical marks like buoys. The coordinates of these virtual marks are included in the sailing instructions that all entrants receive.

“The main advantage is course management. I can make a race course longer or shorter depending on time requirements for a given race,” according to Dave Brennan, one of the regatta’s principal race officers. “I think going forward this will help in race management capabilities especially in setting deep water marks.”

Race officers are responsible for creating courses, choosing which to use each day, and making sure the courses are well set.

In terms of COVID protocols, hand sanitization stations will be plentiful and social distancing and mask-wearing will be emphasized during the event. On the water, crews in boats such as the one-design IC24 are limited to three this year, and bigger boat classes will remain in social bubbles throughout the regatta. And onshore, there will be staggered class finishes and happy hours daily. There will be two awards ceremonies on Sunday: 4 p.m. for IC24s and Hobie Waves and 5 p.m. for CSA Racing and Cruising boats.

Registration for the regatta continues today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the St. Thomas Yacht Club. Final registration is Friday from 8 to 9 a.m., also at STYC. For more information, call (340)-690-3681, email dave@stthomassailingcenter.com or visit stthomasinternationalregatta.com