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Island Wide One-Design Fleets

If you didn’t come to the Caribbean on a yacht, and you’re not chartering one once you’re here, what are the options for getting out on the water? Thanks to a surge in one-design fleets and a few dynamic yacht clubs, the opportunities are better than you might have thought…

Antigua

Tom Paterson takes care of the Antigua Yacht Club fleet. “You have to become a member,” he says, “but it’s very cheap.” The AYC organises the well-respected Caribbean Laser Championships dominated year after year by local hero and coach Karl James.

Elsewhere, Jolly Harbour has regular racing on Saturdays, while Horizon Yacht Charters has a fleet of 10 yachts available for racing. “We are all under-crewed,” admits Paterson.

Finally, the Sunsail Colonna Hotel has an abundance of sail boats – some 90 beach boats from Lasers and windsurfers to Hobies, Sports boats and 32-foot Beneteaus.

www.antiguayachtclub.com

www.sunsail.com

BVI

The Royal BVI Yacht Club has a fleet of Optimists, Picos, Lasers and Wayfarers. These are available for both training and racing. Although the boats are primarily provided for the use of members, non-members are welcome to join in on a pay and play basis.

“We have active fleets in the Optimists, Lasers and IC24s that race on weekends during the winter and week nights in summer,” confirms RBVIYC co-ordinator Judy Petz. “Visiting sailors are always welcome to visit the club in Road Harbour. For further details please contact us on 1-284-494-3286 or rbviyc@rbviyc.com

Also in the BVI, Racing in Paradise operates a fleet of IC24s for longer-duration charters around the islands. The IC24, developed by Chris Rosenberg in St Thomas, is a J24 with a modified, more open cockpit. The Racing in Paradise flotilla leaves Nanny Cay in Tortola and heads on a four-day racing/cruising trip through Norman Island, Bitter End in Virgin Gorda, Trellis Bay and back.

According to RIP’s Richard Wooldridge, “there are currently nine IC24s racing in the BVI”. The first was launched in March 2003, with the most recent being First Caribbean KATS in June 2005. Two more launches are imminent – one for Chris Haycraft, another one for the sailing school in Nanny Cay.

“Right now,” says Woolridge, “Chris Rosenberg is bidding on 12 J24s from the Naval Academy in Annapolis. Eight will be for the Puerto Rico fleet, where Fraito Lugo’s father will be managing conversions. One will be for the St Thomas fleet, and three will be for the BVI. We also have a Katrina-damaged J24 on the way from Miami. I’ll be converting that one.”

“We have regular racing on Friday evenings until light fades, in November, after which we revert to Saturday afternoons,” says Haycraft.

www.racinginparadise.com

St Lucia

The backbone of the St Lucia Yacht Club fleet is the J24, introduced by Commodore Mike Green in conjunction with the St Lucia Sailing Association, St Lucia Olympic Committee, as well as Michael Camps and Robert Geoffroy at the Sailing School.

Developed in 1977, the J24 is the world’s most popular keelboat. The SLYC has a fleet of five, along with eight Lasers and 15 Optimists.

According to Commodore Green, “All boats are for training, although there is one club J that can be rented for the day. The plan is to get at least 40 Js down for the St Lucia Sailing Festival.”

www.stluciayachtclub.com

St Thomas

St Thomas’ Chris Rosenberg has been central to the growth of one-design sailing and racing in the Caribbean. After the St Thomas Yacht Club fleet was decimated in Hurricane Marilyn, Rosenberg introduced the IC24 concept to stimulate keelboat racing in the storm’s aftermath.

The nine-strong St Thomas IC24 fleet has become a regular feature of the St Thomas Rolex Regatta and BVI Spring Regattas. Otherwise, the Yacht Club still operates a fleet of Optimists, Lasers and 420s with priority given to members. Go to www.styc.net

St Maarten

While the St Maarten Yacht Club has an active Optimist Youth Sailing Programme, Lagoon Sailboat Rentals has been the driving force behind competitive adult racing on the island and beyond. LSR’s fleet of nine Jeanneau Sunfast 20s moored off Uncle Harry’s Bar, inside the lagoon, is available for regular evening and weekend racing as well as big-name regattas.

Regattas hosted by the LSR fleet include the North Sails Regatta, Caribbean Women’s Keelboat Regatta, Electec Regatta, and the twilight races. During the last five years there have been some legendary events – real down-to-the-wire races masterminded by well-known names from around the Caribbean. Robbie Hirst, Karl James, John Holmberg, Mike Green, Debbie Schreiber, Pat Nolan and Fraito Lugo are just a few of those who have come down to St Maarten to test themselves against their peers over a weekend.

For rates, dates and booking info, go to www.lagoonsailboatrental.com or call Cary on 557 0714.

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