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Written by Dan O'Connor   
Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Ask a Pro: Holmberg on Spring Sailing
Interview conducted by VIPY Editor Dan O’Connor.

Sailing great Peter Holmberg has been racing in both of this month’s big regattas since day one. And since day one, he said his enthusiasm for sailing his native Virgin Islands’ waters has remained constant. Holmberg recently took some time to reminisce on his fonder memories of years past, while taking a look ahead.

Photo courtesy of Peter Holmberg.

VIPY: How many years have you competed in the St Thomas Rolex Regatta and BVI Spring Regatta?
PH: I have raced in the Rolex and BVI Spring Regatta since the very beginning. I crewed for my father for many years as a kid, and then went on to racing my own boat.

VIPY: How would you describe the conditions on the Virgin Islands waters this time of the year?
PH: March and April are probably the best months for sailing in the region. The weather is most stable during this period which give us the classic trade wind conditions, 10-20 knots from the east. Purely perfect sailing conditions.

VIPY: The smooth sailing conditions have remained consistent through the past few decades of racing in the Virgin Islands, but what sort of changes have you noticed among the sailing and the races as trends change and new generations of racers emerge?
PH: The trend that I see emerging over the years has been of both the serious and the fun, taking their pursuits further. The serious racers have taken advantage of new technology to find new faster boats and sails, and train harder, thus lifting the level of competition very high. The fun side has also grown, with many people using the regattas as an opportunity to get together with friends for some semi-competitive sailing.

VIPY: This year marks the first at Rolex for High Performance ruling. How will this change the dynamics of the competition?
PH: Rolex added an IRC class several years ago to meet the growing trend of racing world-wide that was using this measurement rule, like simply adding another item to the menu to better attract visiting yachts. This year Rolex will unofficially score yachts under a new rule being developed, the High Performance Rule. This is a nice gesture to help sailors decide how well this new rule works before buying into it.

VIPY: What classes will you be competing in this year?
PH: I now race professionally and earn my living racing sailboats for various clients. This year I will race with a TP 52 named Highland Fling in the racing division. This is a new high-performance boat and we are really looking forward to pushing it hard in the local conditions.

VIPY: What are you looking forward to most about the upcoming races?
PH: I am really looking forward to the coming racing season in the Caribbean. The region has really earned a reputation for great racing, and we are seeing more and more teams include the Caribbean circuit in their racing itinerary. The grand prix boats in our size range, 45-65 feet, will see a very healthy attendance this year, so I expect some great racing.

VIPY: What are a couple of your fondest memories sailing in these regattas?
PH: My best memories of racing in the Rolex Regatta were the early days with my father where I learned so much about being a good sailor. And my best memory of the BVI Spring Regatta was the year I raced my J29 with my best friends as crew and it blew 25 and we won by a large margin each day.

VIPY: The two renowned regattas butt up in concession. Do you ever feel like it’s sailing overdose, or that one trumps the other? Or do you think the regattas pair well together?
PH: I believe staging the two regattas on successive weekends is the right formula. There will be years when a boat can only do one event and must choose. But there are more years when they will do both because of the ease of their proximity. And the unique attraction of two events in ten days, with some days in between to enjoy the Virgin Islands, is a special attraction that helps us attract the international competitors.

VIPY: As a seasoned vet and established pro, what has kept you continuously excited about sailing through the years?
PH: I am smart enough to realize that I am extremely fortunate to be able to earn a living doing the sport that I love. I am also very fortunate to sail in a great variety of different boats, from small 20 footers, to large 130-foot superyachts, and these different challenges keep the racing really enjoyable and exciting for me.

Holmberg at last years Gill BVI International Match Racing Championship. Photo by Todd VanSickle.

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