Drivers and pedestrians traversing Waterfront Drive in Charlotte Amalie on Wednesday got a sneak peek of the competition to come in the Women’s International Match Racing Series finale held at the Carlos Aguilar Match Race (CAMR), on November 29 through December 2.
The twelve teams, all of which who have flown into St. Thomas this week from France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and the USA, used the practice day to acclimatize to the welcome tropical conditions and accustom themselves to the often-tricky always-challenging wind conditions in the harbor. For one team, led by skipper Renee Groeneveld and her crew from the Netherlands, it was more of a re-acquaintance.
“We’d certainly like to be on the podium again this year,” says Groeneveld, who won the 2016 WIM Series Finale at the CAMR in St. Thomas. “There were light winds last time and I think we might get those conditions again on Thursday, but after that the winds are forecast to pick up so we need to be patient and ready for everything.”
Groeneveld’s 2016-winning Dutch team of Annemieke Bes, Lobke Berkhout and Mijke Lievens are all back.
This is the first WIM Series event of 2018 that the USA’s Janel Zarkowsky has sailed and the first time she’s taken the helm. However, this will be Zarkowsky’s fourth time competing in the CAMR, having served as a trimmer with the USA’s Dave Dellenbaugh twice and in 2016 on bow with the USA’s Stephanie Roble.
“We have a log of venue-, boat- and crew-specific notes from past events that I’ve studied and shared with my crew,” says Zarkowsky, who was the assistant sailing coach at Georgetown University for six years and whose crew are former Georgetown sailors: Isabelle Ruiz de Luzuriaga, Katie Olsen, Rose Edwards. “This is the first match race my crew has competed in, but college sailing is all about short legs and quick races, so I’m telling them to use their competitive collegiate instincts.”
One WIM Series team making its first appearance at the CAMR and in the U.S. Virgin Islands is Sweden’s Sanna Mattsson, and her team of Niki Blässar, Therese Berg and Louise Lindkvist.
“It’s so fantastic to be here and so warm. We haven’t sailed that much in this type of weather before and we are looking forward to it. Especially so with such a high level of competition here,” says Mattsson.
The remaining nine skippers competing in the 2018 WIM Series finale at the CAMR are: France’s Pauline Courtois, Margot Vennin and Margot Riou; Sweden’s Anna Östling, Johanna Bergqvist, Linnea Floser and Helena Nielsen; Great Britain’s Octavia Owen; and the USA’s Morgan Collins.
“Some of the world’s best women’s match racers are here and we’re honored to have them,” says the event’s principal race officer, Darcy Cook, from Chicago, USA. “I think the first day, on Thursday, when winds are forecast light, we’ll see who the really good teams are by who can find the shifts and move ahead.”
Match racing is sailed in two identical boats around a short course, providing fast action close to the crowds on shore. The intense racing is just as exciting for the spectators as it is strategically, tactically and physically challenging for the competing crews.
The CAMR is a World Sailing (WS)-provisional Grade One event. The format will feature a full round robin of all teams followed by knockout quarterfinals for the top eight, then knockout semi-finals, petit-finals and finals. The event will be sailed in IC24, a modification of J/24.
Namesake for the late Carlos Aguilar, who was an avid Virgin Islands’ sailor, the CAMR has traditionally featured highly ranked men’s and women’s match racing teams. Past winners of the Open Division in the CAMR reads like a Who’s Who of sailing: the USVI’s Taylor Canfield (2008, 2015), USVI’s Peter Holmberg (2009), Portugal’s Alvaro Marinho/Seth Sailing Team (2010), USA’s Sally Barkow (2011), Finland’s Staffan Lindberg (2012) and the USA’s Don Wilson (2013). Women’s Division winners are just as renowned: the USA’s Genny Tulloch triumphed in 2008 and 2010 and France’s Claire Leroy in 2009. In 2016, the first year the CAMR hosted the WIM Series, Groeneveld and her Dutch team won. The Virgin Islands Sailing Association (VISA) and St. Thomas Yacht Club (STYC) are the organizing authorities for the CAMR. Sponsors for the regatta include the US Virgin Islands Department of Tourism.
The WIM Series is the first and only professional sailing series for women, hosted by the Women’s International Match Racing Association (WIMRA) and joined by the world’s leading women match racing sailors. The 2018 WIM Series also included the Helsinki Women’s Match in Finland, June 25-29; the Lysekil Women’s Match in Sweden, August 6-11, the Women’s Match Racing World Championships in Ekaterinburg, Russia, August 13-18; and Swiss International Women’s Match, in Ascona, Switzerland, October 30-November 3.
The CAMR is known internationally for introducing young sailors to the sport, working cooperatively with the V.I. government and V.I. Department of Tourism in its efforts to get more of the island’s youth out on the water. As such the event hosts the CAMR Youth Regatta each year.
The 2018 CAMR is sponsored by the V.I. Department of Tourism, Virgin Islands Olympic Committee, Virgin Islands Sailing Association, Heineken and Captain Morgan distributed by Bellows International, Patron distributed by Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, Auven Therapeutics, INOVB LLC, St. Thomas Yacht Club, Antilles School, IGY Yacht Haven Grande, Storage on Site, Prior Family Foundation, Theodore Tunick & Company, Budget Marine, Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, Emerald Bay Beach Resort, VInow, Island Business Graphics, XO Bistro, Anonymous.
WIM Series standings going into the Finale at the CAMR (Team, skipper, nationality, points):
1. Match in Pink by Normandy Elite Team, Pauline Courtois – FRA, 87
2. Team Kattnakken, Trine Palludan / Henriette Koch – DEN, 85
3. L2 Match Racing Team, Marinella Laaksonen – FIN, 56
4. Swiss Women Match Racing Team, Alexa Bezel – SUI, 46
5. Mermaid Sailing Team / New Sweden Match Racing Team, Claire Leroy – FRA, 41
6. Team Bergqvist Match Racing, Johanna Bergqvist – SWE, 40
7. Matchmoiselles by Normandy Elite Team, Margot Vennin – FRA, 33
8. Team Mac, Lucy Macgregor – GBR, 25
9. ProKaTeam Sailing Team, Ekaterina Kochkina – RUS, 24
10. Team Sköna Vibbisar, Antonia Degerlund – FIN, 24
11. ChicaCER, Laurane Mettraux – SUI, 22
12. APCC Women Sailing Team, Margot Riou – FRA, 21
13. Team Anna, Anna Östling – SWE, 20
14. Team BAAM!, Allie Blecher – USA, 16
15. Swedish Women’s Match Racing Team, Sanna Mattsson – SWE, 16
16. Stockholm Match Racing Team, Sanna Häger – SWE, 15
17. Women On Water, Henriette Koch – DEN, 14
18. Peregrine Racing, Linnea Floser / Hanna Ericksson – SWE, 13
19. BERGAUF Sailing Team, Milena Laverycheva – RUS, 12
20. NZ Match, Celia Willison – NZL, 12
21. Athena Racing, Octavia Owen – GBR, 11
22. BornToSail, Alexandra Martynova – RUS, 10
23. Team Skogman, Jassi Skogman – FIN, 8
24. Dutch Match Racing Team, Renée Groeneveld – NED, 0
24. Team Nielsen, Helena Nielsen – SWE, 0
24. As One, Janel Zarkowsky – USA, 0
24. Caribbean Wind Racing, Morgan Collins – USA, 0