St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The Christmas winds provided perfect conditions for the first day of racing at the 7th Carlos Aguilar Match Race (CAMR), presented by AeroMD. Sailing in 15 to 20 knots of breeze, under sunny skies and on a moderate chop in the Charlotte Amalie harbor venue, the USA’s Stephanie Roble and USVI’s Taylor Canfield were the two skippers that finished the day undefeated. Roble, currently the No. 1 ranked woman match racer in the U.S. and No. 4 in the world, leads with 7 wins to Canfield in second with 6 wins at the conclusion of flight 10 in the first of two round robins.
“The weather was picture perfect as it usually is here for sailing, but for me it was especially fun to be back in my home waters and with all my friends and supporters,” says Canfield, who is currently ranked No. 2 in the world in the Open match race rankings.
The story of the day for Canfield and his team was staying out of trouble and keeping the umpires out of the race.
“We had some really interesting matches. One with Chris (the USA’s Chris Poole) got pretty aggressive and he ended up with a black flag penalty. Our match with Peter (the USVI’s Olympic medalist and America’s Cup skipper, Peter Holmberg) was so close that the lead changed twice before the finish. Our game plan is to keep sailing fast, not getting overly complicated and making sure we do the simple things right.”
Canada’s Elizabeth Shaw is a first-time CAMR skipper. Although Shaw and her team didn’t top the scoreboard, they did enjoy a great day of racing.
“It was all about conditions and competition for us today,” says Shaw, who last month crewed on Roble’s Epic Racing team in Busan, Korea, when they won the 2015 Women’s International Match (WIM) Racing Series. “Conditions were world class. We had moments of brilliance and at other times we made silly mistakes. We’re tracking upward, so that’s certainly in the right direction. What I really enjoy is that this isn’t a group of skippers that normally comes together at one event so it’s a really a great opportunity to duke it out with the best.”
The USA’s Chris Poole had a tough day yet it didn’t dampen his spirits.
“It was blustery and we’re missing our usual main trimmer, Chris Kennedy, who couldn’t come down. That hurt us, plus we made some simple mistakes and the black flag in one race didn’t help. We saw it all today. We usually start slow and then pick it up in the quarter finals. But that won’t help us this year since the format is a double round robin and every race counts,” says Poole, who is ranked 26th in the world in the Open Match Race rankings.
The Double Round-Robin format means each of the nine international teams race against each other twice, with the team earning the most wins declared the champion.
One of the signature aspects of the CAMR, and something now being copied at match racing events across the globe, is the inclusion of junior sailors on every team. This is analogous to adding up-and-coming high schoolers to the active roster of teams playing national football or basketball championships.
“It was fun sailing with Taylor (Canfield),” says Sam Morrell, a junior and member of the Antilles School sailing team. “I learned a lot, like the rules, strategies and what to do in certain situations like at the pre-start.”
Ryan Hunter, also a junior and sailing teammate of Morrell at the Antilles School, crewed for the USA’s Dave Perry, a five-time U.S. Match Racing Championship winner and author of Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing Through 2016.”
“I just soaked up the knowledge out there today. The best part was learning what a fake dial up is,” says Hunter, about a key pre-race strategy.
On Saturday, St. Thomas’ Addelita Cancryn Junior High School Aquatics Program students will pair up with these top-ranked skippers for fleet racing in the Carlos Aguilar Match Race Youth Regatta. This event will take place between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Match racing pits one identical boat against another on a short course oftentimes near to shore. On-the-water umpires make instant calls and enforce the rules. The result is very exciting racing up and down the Charlotte Amalie waterfront.
Spectators are invited to watch the racing under tented bleacher seating where there will be live narration. Racing starts at 9 a.m. (GMT – 4 hrs) on Saturday and Sunday, with awards in the early afternoon on Sunday.
Past winners of the CAMR read like a Who’s Who of sailing: the USA’s Sally Barkow and Finland’s Staffan Lindberg won the Open Division in 2012 and 2011, respectively, while the USA’s Genny Tulloch triumphed in 2008 and 2010 and France’s Claire Leroy in 2009 in the Women’s Division, and it was the USVI’s Taylor Canfield in 2008 and Peter Holmberg in 2009 and Portugal’s Alvaro Marinho/Seth Sailing Team in 2010 that won in the Open Division. The USA’s Dave Wilson won the 2013 CAMR.
The CAMR is an International Sailing Federation (ISAF)-provisional Grade Two event. The event will be raced in IC-24s, a one-design modification of a J/24.
The Virgin Islands Sailing Association (VISA) is the organizing authority for the CAMR, namesake for the late Carlos Aguilar, who was an avid sailor and match racer.
AeroMD is the CAMR’s presenting sponsor. Supporting sponsors include the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism; Heineken, distributed in the U.S. Virgin Islands by Bellows International; Patron, distributed by Glazer’s Premier Distributors, LLC; Budget Marine; and the St. Thomas Yacht Club.
DAY ONE STANDINGS
1. Stephanie Roble, USA, 7-0
2. Taylor Canfield, USVI, 6-0
3. Dave Perry, USA, 4-2
4. David Dellenbaugh, USA. 4-3
5. Peter Holmberg, USVI, 3-4
6. David Storrs, USA, 2-4
6. Julianna Senfft, Brazil, 2-4
8. Elizabeth Shaw, Canada, 1-7
9. Chris Poole, USA 0-7