Nothing says “fun in the sun” quite like the International Rolex Regatta, set for March 25-27, 2011. For 38 years, the event has been attracting racing sailors and their families to the Caribbean Island of St. Thomas, where the St. Thomas Yacht Club opens its doors (figuratively, that is, since its open-air clubhouse doesn’t really have doors) to welcome guests and share extraordinary island-style experiences, not the least of which is three days of weaving through the visually arresting cuts, cays and islands of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Teams from the U.S. and Europe are always among those to beat, but no one dismisses the home-grown talent from St. Thomas and islands farther afield such as Puerto Rico and St. Martin.

The racing is serious (the International Rolex Regatta is a part of the US-IRC Gulf Stream Series), with a professional race management team (Dave Brennan and Dick Neville are Principal Race Officers) and an international jury (ISAF Vice President Eric Tulla and Tuna Wullschleger will share the Chief Judge position). At the same time, nightly beach parties, a reggae music/food festival on Saturday night, and an unforgettable prize giving on Sunday hosted by Rolex lend more spirit and colour to the occasion than a mocko jumbie at Caribbean Carnival.

One return competitor who appreciates the perfect blend of high calibre racing and socializing is Phil Lotz (New Canaan, Conn./Newport, R.I.), who two years ago finished second in class with his Swan 42 Arethusa. He went on to make headlines with victories at the Swan 42 Nationals and the NYYC Invitational Cup in 2009. “We decided to come again because the event is of international quality, it’s a nice, fun place to be, and it’s easy to get Arethusa in and out of St. Thomas,” said Lotz. He explained that the boat will be shipped from Newport, R.I. this week, and that his crew and family plan to move on from the International Rolex Regatta to the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival, which starts March 28 and is linked to the Rolex Regatta to make Virgin Islands Race Week.

“With dependable trade winds, great racing is assured, and we work hard to make it easy for sailors and their families to participate,” said Regatta Co-Director Bill Canfield, explaining that the St. Thomas Yacht Club is the central meeting place for breakfast each morning and socializing after racing.

“One of our traditions is the ‘town race’ on Friday, where the entire fleet races from the east end of St. Thomas right to the heart of the bustling commercial harbour of Charlotte Amalie,” added Canfield. “Once the fleet has finished, we start them again for the race back home. It gives us a chance to share the spectacle of a mass of colourful spinnakers with the people who live on St. Thomas and others who are visiting, and it gives the racers an opportunity to see St. Thomas’ beautiful and historic capital. Racing is rounded out on the weekend by a mix of island races and windward/leewards designed to test skills and showcase the stunning shoreline.”

While much of the fleet takes advantage of free berthing on the docks at the StTYC or the mooring fields nearby, some of the boats choose more luxurious marina accommodations - also free - at American Yacht Harbor and Yacht Haven Grande.

The Notice of Race for the 2011 International Rolex Regatta has been published and is available for download at  www.rolexcupregatta.com, where online registration is also now open, making it easy to sign up and follow current entries, competitor updates and results for the regatta. During the event, race fans can enjoy daily video highlights and real-time race information, including blog updates and live results via the internet and on large screens at the yacht club.

The international Rolex Regatta typically hosts classes for IRC, CSA (Spinnaker Racing, Spinnaker Racing/Cruising and Non-Spinnaker Racing), One-Design IC 24s and Beach Cats. It has been hosted by St. Thomas Yacht Club since 1974, making it the oldest regatta in Rolex’s portfolio of international sailing events. The Rolex portfolio includes famous offshore and grand-prix events such as the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, Rolex Fastnet Race, Giraglia Rolex Cup, Rolex Middle Sea Race, Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship.