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Sail Scene – Mid-Atlantic

Trade winds blow at the IRR in the USVI

After completing a single distance race on the final day, eight class leaders nailed down overall victories at the 35th annual International Rolex Regatta, held March 28-30 in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The trade winds that made the prior two days so exciting delivered once again as sailors on 90 boats completed the Pillsbury Sound course, set between the east end of St. Thomas, where host St. Thomas Yacht Club is located, and its smaller sister island of St. John. The two IRC classes, as well as Spinnaker Racing 1, Spinnaker Racing/Cruising and Beach Cats sailed a longer version of the race, while the remaining two classes — Spinnaker Racing 2 and Non-Spinnaker Racing — stuck to the more straightforward shorter course. In all cases, however, the key to victory laid in playing the second windward leg of the course correctly.

“After rounding Turtle Rock Buoy, the boats headed upwind into a northbound current, which you had to play for relief and back eddies,” says local sailor Ben Beer, who crewed aboard fellow St. Thomas sailor Peter Holmberg’s Farr 40 OnDeck Bandit that finished second overall in IRC 2. Bandit headed straight to the St. Thomas shoreline and hugged it while tacking to windward, rather than sailing eastward toward a string of cays that marked more open water.

Had the strategy been Bandit’s alone, it would have worked beautifully, but Tortola’s Christopher Lloyd, sailing his Beneteau 44 Three Harkoms, had the same idea and won the race on corrected time. Three Harkoms also won the class overall.

Hot racing the rule at Miami Grand Prix

There was no slam-dunk choice for the Boat of the Week honoree at the 2008 Acura Miami Grand Prix, held March 6-9. All four classes were hotly contested throughout the regatta.

Colm Barrington and his crew aboard Flash Glove counted all first- and second-place finishes and did not need to sail the final race en route to winning IRC 1 class in convincing fashion.

Andy Fisher skippered Bandit to a hard-earned victory in IRC 2, which had four different leaders over the course of the four-day regatta.

Michael Illbruck and the Pinta team led at the end of each day in Melges 32, an amazing feat considering it was the German skipper’s second regatta in the highly competitive class.

Ultimately, the three-part criteria that officials with Premiere Racing use to select the Acura Trophy winner favored the Farr 40 Barking Mad, owned by Jim Richardson of Newport, R.I. They won three of 10 races and overcame some double-digit results to capture the closest, most competitive class at the Acura Miami Grand Prix.

Race to Mackinac turns 100 this year

For the 100th time since 1898, sailors will gather in Chicago July 19 to begin the 333-mile sailing race to Mackinac Island, Mich. The Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac is one of the oldest and most prestigious freshwater sailing races, and attracts some of the best sailors in the world.

“The Mac,” as the race is affectionately known, will host 460 boats — a record number of entries — with about 5,000 sailors competing. Although the Mac remains primarily an amateur event, the race has a proven track record of attracting some of the finest sailing talent in the sport.

Record holders include renowned sailor Roy Disney with his monohull Pyewacket at 23 hours, 30 minutes and 34 seconds in 2002 and famous adventurer, the late Steve Fossett on Stars and Stripes, which set the multihull record of 18 hours, 50 minutes, and 32 seconds in 1998. Disney will serve as honorary chairman this year and Stars and Stripes, Fossett’s former boat, will compete again, skippered by the vessel’s new owner, Don Wilson of Chicago.

In addition to the record number of entries and the promise of exciting competition, all 460 boats will be tracked by GPS satellite technology this year, the largest offshore sailing fleet on record ever to be tracked.

ICSA nationals sail into Newport

From May 30 through June 4, the best college sailors in North America will race for three titles: the ICSA Women’s National Championship May 26-28, the ICSA/APS Team Race National Championship May 30-June 1, and the ICSA/Gill Coed National Championship June 2-4.

New York Yacht Club’s Harbour Court will be headquarters for the championships, with competitors utilizing the Museum of Yachting’s boat basin at FortAdamsState Park for their boat rotations. Racing will take place south of RoseIsland and west of Goat Island, offering spectators several vantage points from which to view the action. New York Yacht Club will host the championships — all three to be sailed in 420s — along with BrownUniversity and SalveReginaUniversity.

ICSA is the governing authority for sailing competition at colleges and universities throughout the United States and in some parts of Canada.