A near-record 114 sailors, ages 8 to 15 and from five continents, will race 8-foot long single-sail Optimist dinghies in the TOTE Maritime Clinic, today through July 12, the TOTE Maritime Team Race, June 13, and International Optimist Regatta (IOR), presented by Electronic Merchant System (EMS) Virgin Islands, June 14-16. This trio of events is the largest annual little boat regatta in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Caribbean.
What makes it unique is the combination of instruction, team and fleet racing all in one week, which includes beginners and advanced sailors alike. What’s more, this year the event welcomes near-record international participation with sailors representing 13 countries: Antigua, Argentina, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Hong Kong, Ireland, Malta, Puerto Rico, the USA and all three U.S. Virgin Islands.
“We’re pleased to welcome this number of international sailors, which means another excellent year, great competition and an opportunity for our junior competitors to renew and make new friendships,” said Hollis Jenkins, regatta director. “Now in its third decade, we are very proud that several past winners and participants of the IOR, presented by EMS Virgin Islands, have gone on to become college All-Americans, and on the world sailing stage, first ranked match racers, one-design class world champions, Olympians and team members of America’s Cup campaigns.”
Two sailors to especially watch this year are Richard Schultheis, representing the Malta Young Sailors Club, in San Pawl il-Baħar, Malta, and Tommi.e Sitzmann, who sails for the Fishing Bay Yacht Club in Deltaville, Va., USA. Schulthesis finished fourth and Sitzmann fifth overall in the Gold Fleet at the 2018 Optimist World Championships in Limassol, Cyprus.
This is Schulthesis first competition in the IOR, and Sitzmann returns from last year, where he finished third overall in the 2018 IOR. The USA sailor will be joined at this event by other members of the U.S. National Worlds Team including Thommie Grit (Sarasota Yacht Club, Florida), Gil Hackel (Lauderdale Yacht Club, Florida), Jack Redmond (Lauderdale Yacht Club, Florida) and Samara Walshe (Edgartown Yacht Club, Massachusetts).
Another international sailor to watch will be Benjamin Guzman. Guzman, representing CNP Algarrobo, in Chile, finished third overall at the 2019 Optimist South American Championships in April, in Chile.
These sailors and the rest of the championship fleet will be up against tough competition from U.S. Virgin Islands sailors, including those who will represent Team ISV at the 2019 Optimist World Championships in Antigua in July. These are Tanner Krygsveld from St. Thomas, Winn Majette and Alejo Di Blasi from St. John, and Milo Miller and JJ Klemplen from St. Croix.
The TOTE Maritime Clinic, which started today in perfect sailing conditions, is run by top international coaches, who drill sailors on starts, tactics and strategy. These coaches are: Esteban Rocha (Lauderdale Yacht Club), Manny Resano (California Yacht Club), Mike Dowd (Colie Elite Racing Team), Bernat Gali (Lakewood Yacht Club), Omari Scott (Coral Reef Yacht Club), Mykel Alonso (Coral Reef Yacht Club), Pepe Betini (LISOT), Santiago Galan (St. Croix Yacht Club), and Argy Resano, Greer Scholes, Rayne Duff, Thomas Walden, Teddy Nicolosi and Chris Sharpless (St. Thomas Yacht Club).
Over a dozen teams are expected for the TOTE Maritime Team Race, Thursday, June 13. Entry fee for this one-day event is $160 per team of four sailors. Registration is available only on-site from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday, June 12.
The IOR, presented by EMS Virgin Islands, is hosted by the Virgin Islands Sailing Association (VISA), sanctioned by the Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA). It will take place June 14-16.
“Boating plays a huge role in our lives here in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Sailing, specifically, provides our young sailors with a discipline that will stay with them for life. Grit, confidence, responsibility…the list is endless. We, at EMS Virgin Islands, are proud sponsors of the IOR and look forward to an exciting event this year,” said Cobia Fagan, owner of EMS Virgin Islands.
Social activities include the Parade of Nations and Welcome Party on June 13 and Father’s Day Brunch and Awards Ceremony on June 16.
Trophies will be awarded to the top five sailors in each fleet and top three overall. Additional trophies include the Peter Ives’ Perpetual Trophy, the Chuck Fuller Sportsmanship Award and the top female sailor. The Sea Star Perpetual Trophy will be inscribed with the names of the sailors on the winning team racing team. A new Perpetual Trophy, introduced in 2017, is inscribed with the overall winners from the past 26 years.
This year’s event will follow an eco-friendly theme. Sailors will be encouraged to recycle all plastic water bottles, use the reusable water bottle in the goodie bag throughout the regatta, keep all lunch bags and wrapping out of the water, pick up any trash on shore and accept drinks without straws.
The IOR is sponsored by EMS Virgin Islands, TOTE Maritime, the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism and K3 Waterproof Gear.
For more information, call 513-2234 or email: [email protected]. Or, for the Notice of Regatta, Registration Form and Results, visit the St. Thomas Yacht Club website at www.styc.club or www.regattanetwork.com