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Opinion - Who Should Sail in Performance Cruising

Rumblings of both discontent and content abounded from the Performance Cruising class participants at the St. Croix International Regatta.

Long-time Crucian sailor, Stan Joines, who helmed his 1965-built Alberg 35, Windflower, felt this way: “This marks a low water mark for yacht racing and a heyday for poor sailors who want trophies. Ten years ago, everyone sailed for the competition. To race in a cruising class, you had to have a bed, a head and a sink. No one with self-respect would have imagined an S27 flying a spinnaker in cruising class. It would be in performance racing, of course. And a J/120 flying a spinnaker is a cruiser/racer, of course. At this regatta, these boats are in a class with three thirty-year-plus old boats flying just a jib and a main. Arrogance wins. Dignity loses.”

However, Tom Mullen, who hails from New Hampshire, but is no stranger to the Caribbean racing scene aboard his J/120, Shamrock V, had this to say. “We were all given the choice to fly a spinnaker or not before the regatta started and doing so or not influenced what handicap was used in scoring. For us, we opted to use a spinnaker. I think this option provides a nice opportunity for older guys like me with heavy boats to still enjoy some comfort, but still be able to turn it on when the opportunity presents itself. My prediction is that as the baby boomer generation ages, this class will catch on and grow.”

How boats are assigned to their classes, says Juliet San Martin, director of the St. Croix International Regatta, “is a combination of the class the participant wants to be in and who else signed up. Racer Cruisers sail with spinnakers and Performance Cruisers can choose to sail with a spinnaker or not. We had three boats enter as Racer Cruiser, the other six were put in Performance Cruiser. Running a Jib & Main class of two boats didn’t work. If sailors want a Jib & Main Class, the participants need to help get the boats out.”

From a broader perspective, St. Croix International PRO and chairman of the BVI Spring Regatta Committee, Bob Phillips, had this to share: “The Performance Cruiser class was started for racing boats that wanted to sail with reduced crews or with full crews but on what are typically tour courses and only two or one race a day, boats that didn't belong in the Jib & Main class because they are racing boats. Like St. Croix, the BVI Spring Regatta offers the choice of using a spinnaker or not, so there is also an element of chance as to which configuration best fits the wind and course conditions. This makes for a very mixed class and lots of fun. Our event has seen that class grow to become one of the largest classes in the regatta.”

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