The Royal Danish Navy training ships Thyra and Svanen, which sailed to the territory to take part in the Transfer Day Centennial celebration, joined a fleet of sleek sailing yachts March 24 through 26 for the 44th St. Thomas International Regatta.
“We received word last fall that the Thyra and Svanen would be in St. Thomas in late March for the commemoration of the Transfer Centennial. Therefore, we reached out to the commanding officers and invited them to race. Our invitation was accepted, and with strong community support, the rest is history,” regatta director Chuck Pessler said.
According to the St. Thomas Yacht Club, which hosts the international regatta, the two Danish yachts arrived March 20 and at IGY’s Yacht Haven Grande marina for the week. The club orchestrated the measurement of the vessels, a three-plus hour process, in order to assign a CSA (Caribbean Sailing Association) handicap rating. This enabled the two 60-foot Bermuda-rigged yachts to race competitively with other yachts, providing more fun for fellow competitors and hands-on training for the vessel’s officer-in-training cadets.
The next day, 16 students from the Marine Vocational Program, who have taken swim, sail and powerboat classes and who are also members of the Boys and Girls Club of St. Thomas, toured of both the Thyra and Svanen and had the chance to speak with the Danish cadets and officers about their nautical experiences. The cultural exchange was even more pertinent when students asked why the Danish flag flying atop the vessel’s masts didn’t look like the country’s flag they saw in their school lessons. The officers explained that the forked ‘fish-tail’ rather than straight edge on the right side of the flag denoted that the Thyra and Svanen are military ships.
“This was really an incredible experience for our students. They were able to see, take part in and learn many things about the boats and the Danish sailors,” said Jacqueline Brown, St. Thomas unit director of the Boys and Girls Club of the Virgin Islands.
On Wednesday, the Thyra and Svanen’s officers, cadets and crew met with members of the sailing community and public at a reception at the Coral World Ocean Park. The cultural exchange continued in seaside surroundings that are a signature feature of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Almost two dozen racing yachts cast off on the 2nd annual Round the Rocks Race on Thursday, including the the two Danish boats. The event, a tune-up for the regatta, features a circumnavigation of St. John, offering sailors an opportunity to get acquainted with the beauty of this U.S. Virgin Island.
Weather conditions for the three-day STIR ranged from breathless calm to winds gusting 20-plus knots, flat calm to six to eight-foot seas, and rain squalls intermixed with bright sun. Thyra and Svanen were among the vessels that sailed into the Charlotte Amalie harbor on the first day of regatta racing, then sailed in towards the waterfront bulkhead to give a “Centennial Salute” to spectators ashore, the organizers said. The parade coordinated with the shoreside centennial Fort Fete. The Royal Navy yachts continued to race throughout the weekend.
“Racing presented a different opportunity for our cadets,: said said Lt. Commander Martin Kristian Engelhardt, commanding officer of Svanen. “Normally, training is a slow and methodical process. In racing, you have to make quick decisions. It was definitely a very nice experience that we and our cadets will long remember.”
On the final day, Royal Danish Navy Squadron Commander, Captain Lars Hansen watched Thyra and Svanen in action by. The club treated Hansen to a day on the water to watch the racing.