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50th St. Thomas International Regatta Day 1

by Carol Bareuther 30 Mar 02:45 UTC March 29-31, 2024
M2 rounding a mark on day 1 of the 50th St. Thomas International Regatta © Dean Barnes

Multiple races make for competitive racing

The strategy for the team aboard the USA's Marc McMorris' Cape 31, M2, on the first day of racing in the 50th anniversary St. Thomas International Regatta was "to not be that guy who made the mistakes," says James Espey, M2's tactician. It wasn't to be, at least not at first. "The first race we had a gear failure and had to change the sail," says Espey, about the 5.6 nm route set off the southeast side of St. Thomas.

In the second race, which was a slightly longer run around natural marks like Dog Rock and Little Saint James, M2 closed the gap on fellow one-design competitors in CSA Spinnaker 1, the USA's Sandra Askew's Flying Jenny, and the UK's Michael Williams' ShotGunn. M3 held a podium place but was in third.

Then came the last of the trio of races for the day, and at double the distance of the previous two. "We tossed around a couple of game plans. With the winds unusually out of the west, we decided on a pin-end start rather than the rest of the class favoring the committee boat end," explains Espey. "That gave us a good start. But what gave us the win was deciding to take down the spinnaker on the reach. Everyone else kept their spinnaker up. It was a team decision and paid off at the finish line."

Racing Recap

M2 was one of nearly 40 boats with crews hailing from the Caribbean, U.S., and Ireland, that competed in one of five classes.

ShotGunn finished the day in first place in CSA Spinnaker Racing 1, just one point ahead of Flying Jenny and three points in front of M2.

In CSA 2, the USA's Donald Nicholson's J121 Apollo, which won its class in Thursday's Round the Rocks race, led with a trio of first-place finishes.

"We sailed well today and were pleased with our performance," says Nicholson, from Westin, MA, who sails with a Corinthian crew that hails from the East Coast of the U.S. and Canada.

Puerto Rico's Keki Figueroa's Melges 24, Exodus, is leading CSA 3. In this class, St. John's Mike Feierabend on his J24, Bravissimo, was one of a handful of STIR boats with a young sailor on board.

"We had high schooler, Cruz Lonski, trimming the jib today. He's sailed with us for a couple of years since he was in Optis. We have a great class that all corrects out to within a minute on handicap," says Feierabend, of the two Melges 24s and J34 he is competing against."

In CSA Non-Spinnaker, the USA's Steve Schmidt on his Santa Cruz 70, Hotel California Too, ends the day one point behind class leader, St. Thomas' Lawrence Aqui aboard his Dufour 40, Wild T'ing.

"My boat was built by Bill Lee, whose boats held the record for the Transpacific Yacht Race from California to Hawaii for some 30 years. Unlike those all-out race boats, Hotel California Too is a semi-custom racer-cruiser designed for liveaboard single-handed sailing. We have a mix of St. Croix crew, with Dave Sommer and his son Eric, Stan Joines and Chandra Henderson, and crew from St. Thomas with Michael Connor," says Schmidt.

The biggest class of STIR 2024 is the One-Design IC24s, a homegrown design where a J/24 hull is fitted with a new Melges 24-style deck mold that is wider, has no traveler, and can carry five sailors.

St. Thomas' Cy Thompson, a two-time Olympic laser sailor, is leading the 15-boat pack after four windward-leeward races in Jersey Bay, off St. Thomas' South Shore.

For fellow St. Thomas IC24 skipper, John Foster, this marks the 50th year he's competed in STIR, which was called the Rolex Cup Regatta when it started in 1974. Getting hit in a collision in the second race of the day, and having the mainsail crash to the deck in the fourth didn't spell quite the result Foster wanted. But that didn't dampen his spirit.

"The USVI had just gained Olympic status a few years before, and the BVI and Puerto Rico did too about the same time. That meant that suddenly, we had more Olympic class boats like Tempest, Solings, Flying Dutchman, and Stars sailing. The talent level was high. Then, when Rolex agreed to sponsor the regatta in 1974, suddenly, we were a magnet for race boats from all over the world," says Foster.

Schedule of Events

The second day of STIR Racing kicks off for an 11 a.m. start on Saturday, March 30. STIR competition follows on Sunday, with an 11 a.m. start to the day and Awards Ceremony starting at 5 p.m. Race courses are set off the southeast, northeast, and east end of St. Thomas and in Pillsbury Sound between St. Thomas and St. John, with specific courses for each class designated daily by the Race Committee based on weather.

Real-time results for STIR are posted at

Strong Sponsor Support

STIR organizers thank the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism; The Moorings; Milagro Tequila, Bacardi Rum, Stoli Vodka, and Leatherback Brewing, distributed by the West Indies Company; Cardow Jewelers, K3, and Ocean Surfari for their strong sponsor support.

STIR 2024 is a Sailors for the Sea Clean Regatta, with green initiatives such as paperless event management and a water refill station.

For more information, visit

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