Carlos Aguilar Match Race, December 1-4
Imagine if you’re a tennis fan watching up close and personal the Williams’ sisters in match-winning play. Or, seeing Rory McIlroy putt to a hole-in-one if golf if your sport. Or, witnessing Tom Brady carry the old pigskin into the end zone for a touchdown? The Carlos Aguilar Match Race (CAMR), set for December 1-4, is the equivalent if you are a sailing enthusiast or even landlubber who enjoys your sports action served up live. In the CAMR’s eight-year history, America’s Cup, Olympic Medallists and World Champions have taken to the waters in St. Thomas’ Charlotte Amalie harbour to pit their prowess against one another. This year, the high calibur action continues when the CAMR hosts the fifth and final leg of the 2016 Women’s International Match Racing Series (WIM Series). Twelve women skippers – from Denmark, Finland, France, Sweden, The Netherlands and USA – and their teams will race for a $50,000 prize. The admission to watch is FREE!
Match Racing Primer
Match racing is the type of sailing that happens in the America’s Cup. That is, two identical boats sail against one another at a time. The tactics the two teams employ before the start, during the competition and on the way to the finish line are best described as a game of chess on the seas. Five minutes after one pair of boats begins racing, two more teams take their start, so the action is continuous. In the CAMR, the boats race around buoys that are anchored east to west along the Charlotte Amalie Waterfront between the U.S. Coast Guard Dock (near Vendor’s Plaza) and Tortola Wharf (terminal for ferries to the British Virgin Islands), and north to south from the Waterfront bulkhead to Hassel Island across the harbour. You can’t get any closer to the racing than if you were one of the crewmembers. There’s no need to leave the action if the sea air works up a hunger. Local Virgin Islands’ food truck, Hot on the Spot, will be selling goodies like fried chicken, fried fish, conch soup and lobster! The truck will be parked adjacent to the bleacher seating on the Waterfront.
Four Days of Racing
The race action starts at 9 a.m. and finishes up around 3 p.m. on Thursday December 1, Friday December 2 and Saturday December 3. On Sunday, racing starts at 9.m. and concludes around Noon. Covered bleacher seating is available to watch the action. An announcer gives minute-by-minute commentary of all the match race action, so you’re never lost with what is going on out on the water. What’s more, the teams waiting to sail sit in the bleachers too, so you can talk with these sailing sports stars. There’s an award ceremony for the teams under a big white tent set up on the grass at Yacht Haven Grande, right across from the restaurant, Fresh Bistro. Everyone is invited to attend!
Local Youth Get a Chance to Sail
A special event-within-an-event is the Carlos Aguilar Youth Regatta, which launches at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday December 3. Carlos Aguilar, the late sailor for whom the event is named enjoyed working with young sailors. In his memory, organizers created the youth regatta. This year, 15 to 20 8- to 15-year-old boys and girls, students in the MVP (Marine Vocational Program), will serve as crew for the top ranked women skippers in a short series of three fleet races on the same course used for the CAMR. These kids, also members of the Boys & Girls Club of the Virgin Islands, have already completed the MVP’s Learn-to-Swim program and taken sailing lessons at the St. Thomas Yacht Club as part of the MVP program. The goal of the MVP program is to help local youth gain skills needed to forge lifetime careers in the U.S. Virgin Islands world-famous marine industry.
A Bucket List Opportunity
The CAMR is an incredible way to get a really fun and definitely unique flavor of the island. St. Thomas, like all of the floating landmasses that make up the Caribbean, is volcanic in origin. Today, the Charlotte Amalie harbor is where the central magma-filled vent was located while the surrounding hillsides were once the cone and now create a natural amphitheatre. There has always been something to watch in the Charlotte Amalie harbor. In the late 1600’s, it was the Danish sailing ships that brought the first settlers. Over the next two hundred years, ships flying flags of many nations brought all manners of goods to the island and transported sugar cane back to Europe. In the last half century, Charlotte Amalie’s huge harbour has played host to up to 8 cruise ships at a time, inter-island ferries, small live-aboard yachts, private megayachts and even seaplane service. All competitive sailing on St. Thomas takes place out of the St. Thomas Yacht Club on the east end of the island, near Red Hook. The CAMR is the only time annually when sailboat racing takes place in the harbour. This, plus the skilled fleet especially this year, makes the CAMR an extra special treat.