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IC24 Column - Nation's Cup Qualifier to Showcase IC24 to North America

The IC24 was birthed on St. Thomas, yet the St. Thomas fleet has slumped into a becalmed lull. Witness this year’s St. Croix International Regatta. Only one St. Thomas boat raced compared to three from the BVI. What happened?

“Fleets go in a cycle,” explains Carlos Aguilar, who served as tactician aboard Chris Curreri’s Brand New Secondhand during the St. Croix regatta. “The BVI sailors sail twice a week and help each other. We feel that we’ll get beat. It’s hard to get out of a slump. But, I think Rolex will bring a spark back to the class and the Nation’s Cup qualifier in June.”

Last year, the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) revived the International Match Racing challenge called the Nation's Cup. ISAF selected the St. Thomas Yacht Club as the host for the North American qualifying regatta. All Caribbean sailing nations have the opportunity to compete against the best of the USA, Canada and Mexico for the right to represent the region at the Grand Final Nations Cup Regatta to be sailed in Ireland later this year.

In direct contrast to the match racing of the America's Cup, which requires millions of dollars to field a team, the Nation's Cup offers the best sailors of every nation the opportunity to race for their country for a modest entry fee and travel expenses. The same rules and on the water umpires are u sed for both competitions. The match-racing format will mean a series of one on one races with the racing action being almost continuous over the period of the event.

The Nation's Cup event hosts will supply a fleet of equal boats free of charge to the competitors. Members of the St. Thomas Yacht Club have offered use of their IC-24 one design fleet to the visiting teams. The IC-24s will be raced with spinnakers and without lifelines. Organizers expect to see about 16 open teams and a half dozen women’s teams.

“This is huge recognition value, huge exposure for the IC-24,” says Aguilar. “These boats are ideal for match racing.”

He continued, “There will be a sail off in April to see who represents the Virgin Islands. The sail off will consist of three men’s teams, two made up of St. Thomas sailors and one a mixed team from St. Thomas and St. Croix, and two women’s team, one of St. Thomas sailors and the other mixed. Practicing for both Rolex and the sail off should bring a lot of excitement back to the St. Thomas fleet.”

Interestingly, in the early 1990’s, it was St. Thomas’ Peter Holmberg’s win in the Nation’s Cup regional qualifier in Bermuda and the Nation’s Cup itself in Spain that launched his international match racing career.

“We hope that in three year’s time, that St. Thomas can host the Nation’s Cup itself,” Aguilar says. “That would offer world recognition to the IC-24.”

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