Antigua boat leads after first event

The St Croix International Regatta kicked off the first leg of Cape Air CORT (Caribbean Ocean Racing Triangle) last weekend. Slate gray seas and sky and whiteout squalls with winds topping 35-40 knots were the key ingredients for the first two days of the regatta. Boats broached, crew went swimming, spinnakers blew, headsails came down, outhauls gave way, keels failed and crew were injured in conditions where visibility dropped to 300 feet as squalls came through. Conditions eased for the last day but the wind was still blowing 20-25 knots.

However, despite the weather, the race committee managed to get off 10 races for each class and spirits were high among the competitors in the yacht club bar after racing. As the first regatta of the northern Caribbean this was a less than gentle warm-up. A combination of punishing deliveries, rusty crews and tough conditions took its toll.

The ever-competitive racing class looks set to be a repeat of the 2002 battle for podium honors and so far it’s the same as last year’s winners. Jamie Dobbs from Antigua is leading with 17 points on his Olson 30 Lost Horizon II, John Foster’s Magnificent 7 from St Thomas is second with 22 points and the BVI’s Kevin Rowlette and his Willy T crew are third with 26 points. The crew onboard Antrim 27 Rhumb Squall found themselves a little overpowered throughout the regatta; on the second day they were laid flat by a broach and the entire crew was catapulted into the water. Angel Ayala’s Sun Bum II, a J/80, suffered a hellish delivery from Puerto Rico followed by rig problems and ended up only effectively racing for one day but will be back in fighting form for the Puerto Rico International Regatta.

In the racer/cruiser class two BVI boats will be slugging it out for the number one slot. Tartan 10 Cold Beer is currently leading its arch – but friendly – rival Pipe Dream by 11 points. Pipe Dream won CORT last year with a 14-point lead and will be looking for the same margin or more this year. John Haracivet’s Tempest is in third place leading the BVI’s Dehlerious by one point.

The usually competitive Melges 24 class faltered when Don Q Limon, while being towed from Puerto Rico, lost its keel. Another Melges 24 Mistress Quickly retired on the start line on the first day as its keel started to wobble as a collar around this retracting keel slipped loose. The boat continued to have problems on the second day and didn’t start on the third. St Maarten’s 2 Contact Carib was the only Melges 24 to race at St Croix and they also experienced rig problems forcing them to miss two races.

However, with up to 25 races expected in the three-regatta series and with no throwouts there is still a long way to go before the awards ceremony at the BVI Spring Regatta. Cape Air CORT participants are scored separately within their CORT classes.

In a month’s time, Cape Air CORT moves north-west to Puerto Rico for the Puerto Rico International Regatta, 14 -16 March and then west to Tortola for the final leg, the BVI Spring Regatta, 4-6 April.

Prizes for Cape Air CORT 2003 include roundtrip tickets on Cape Air’s Caribbean route and Maui Jim sunglasses for the winning boat in each class. Veuve Clicquot champagne will toast the winners and runner-ups. There will also be a grand prize of an all-inclusive 4-day/3-night stay at Bitter End Yacht Club, Virgin Gorda’s world-renowned water sports resort. Each Cape Air CORT entry at the BVI Spring Regatta will be entered into a draw for the vacation package valued at $1800.