Welcome to Peter Holmberg's official website. Peter's singular commitment to performance sailing has earned him an Olympic medal, the World No. 1 rank in Match Racing, and victory in the America's Cup, the oldest trophy in all of sport. The Caribbean's most famous sailor is living proof that ordinary people are capable of extraordinary things. Peter now bases himself in the Virgin Islands and offers professional sailing, consulting, and speaking services to clients world-wide.

August Update

I have just concluded racing in four events on the East Coast of the US in June and July, mainly in the Newport, RI area. My first two events were on the TP52 SPOOKIE, doing the Leukemia Cup and the NYYC Annual Regatta in Newport in June. We finished a close second in both of them. And by close I mean a couple seconds after 2 hours of racing in the Leukemia Cup to a smaller boat that we owed time on handicap, and in the NYYC Annual Regatta, in the final race of the series, on the final leg to the finish, we had to avoid a boat in distress and our opponent got past us to win the race, and the series by one point. That’s racing folks!

My next event was to be the Newport to Bermuda Race on the SPOOKIE, but the crew of our boat (and our entire class of grand prix race boats) all decided to cancel at the last moment due to a forecast of near hurricane conditions that were predicted to hit us as we crossed the Gulf Stream. A few unhappy owners who had committed to the costs and hotel rooms, but sorry, matters of safety and lives far out-weigh those of cost in my book.

I was then presented with an opportunity to join the TP52 PHOENIX team being led by Paul Cayard, with whom I have raced with many times over the years, and I decided to accept and thus start up with a new team. We did the NYYC Race Week in mid July and finished a respectable 3rd. Two weeks later we raced at the Edgartown Race Weekend in Martha’s Vineyard and the team came together nicely to score a 3rd, 1st, and 2nd in the three event series.

The PHOENIX team has now decided to jump over to Europe and join the big boys in the TP52 Super Series for the final two events of the 2016 season. First up will be the TP52 World Championships in Menorca Spain in September, followed by the Cascais Cup in Portugal in October. So some very exciting racing ahead for us in what I consider to be the hottest class of boats and the greatest concentration of talent racing these days.

Next up for me on my race schedule is a training session on the 140-foot J Boat TOPAZ. This is the latest launch in a growing fleet of these mighty J boats from the early 1900’s America’s Cups that owners are now restoring or building new to the original designs. There are scheduled to be eight of these majestic yachts on the starting line next year for a series of races that will include a showdown in Bermuda before the America’s Cup and then a World Championship in Newport. It should be incredible.

Following this training session in late August I head straight to Sardinia, Italy for the Rolex Maxi Regatta to race with an Australian team on a new Southern Wind 82. Exciting and fun times. All de best, peter

May Update

Well it’s a wrap, the 2016 Caribbean racing season is now done and dusted. My race tour started with the Caribbean 600 in February, and just finished with the Voile de St. Barths in mid April. Thanks to some good work by the Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA) and each of the individual regattas, this region now dominates the international race calendar for the winter/spring period. The weather is great this time of year, logistics are getting easier, and the events are all lifting their games and providing first class racing.

And overall it was a good year for racing down here, with higher than average winds, some very nice weather, and lots of good teams competing. My season started with two events on the RP 82 Highland Fling , first the Caribbean 600 in February, and then a week later the Heineken Regatta in St. Maarten. The 600 was an epic race, but unfortunately we had rig issues ¾ of the way through and had to retire. The Heineken was also a good event, with big fleets, challenging courses, and lots of shore side entertainment. Following this was the St. Barths Bucket, where I drove the 56m Rosehearty, with Paul Cayard calling tactics. Big, comfortable, and lots of fun, yet a full-on challenge to race this big of a yacht safely against a fleet of other big boats around granite marks. We managed to win our class after a tense final race while dealing with some gear failures.

Next up for me was the St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR) on the TP52 Spookie. This regatta offers a great variety of racing, with short courses that weave their way around rocks and islands with heaps of tricky current and wind to play. With 20+ kts of breeze every day, this event offered some of the best racing ever. We followed this up with the BVI Spring Regatta the next week and again some solid wind and scenic courses giving us loads of fun on the TP52. We won both these events, although the competition was not great, so we hope that teams do a better job networking in advance next year about which events to attend.

The final event of my Caribbean tour was the Voiles de St. Barths in mid April. Our class had no shortage of competition, with three other TP52’s, plus the Kerr 53 Tonnerre and the Kerr 55 Varuna. This event broke the windy mold and we had three days of very light and tricky racing. Luckily St. Barths is one of the nicest places on the planet, so being delayed ashore wasn’t all that bad! We managed a second at this event and it showed us that we still have quite a bit to work on before our next series of races.

Next up for me in June is a series of events on Spookie in the Newport, RI area, and then the Newport to Bermuda Race. We will have some serious competition at all these events from some really good TP52 teams, so the challenge ahead is a good one that I am really looking forward to.

All the best, peter

February 2016 Update

It has been a great start to my year of racing. First up was the Ft. Lauderdale to Key West Race in mid January on the TP52 Spookie. This is about 160 miles of downwind racing along the Florida Keys, playing the Gulf Stream currents, the shallow waters along the reef, the imaginary boundary along the keys set by the organizers, and the weather systems in play. We had a good race, plenty of sail changes through the night, and finished at about 4am, wining first overall.

Next up was Quantum Key West Race Week, also on Spookie, and sailing against a tough group that included the 2015 TP52 World Champions, another top TP52, plus a new 45 footer. The racing was hot, with many of them decided by just seconds. Going into the final race we were ½ point behind Quantum, so the race winner would win the week. Unfortunately the weather got nasty and the committee abandoned racing, so we ended the week in second, ½ point out of first. Bugger!

But two great races for our Spookie team, who lifted their game with every race. It’s a great boat, a wonderful crew, and I look forward to our next events together in the Caribbean.

My most recent event was last week, the Caribbean 600 on the 82foot Highland Fling. This race is becoming one of the new classic distance races of the world. For these reasons- February (ie. winter), 600 miles, start and finish in Antigua, while rounding 11 different islands, wearing t-shirts, under a full moon, with winds between 15 and 25 knots, while screaming along at up to 25knots. What is there not to like about it?! Most of the world’s heavy hitters now make this a part of their race schedule. We had prepared our inshore boat pretty well for this offshore test, but knew that we would be up against more than just the competition. We had a nice start and were in a tight pack with the four Maxi 72s for most of the race, so having a nice race within a race, always good for pushing yourself. We were leading our pack into Guadelupe, with only a couple more legs to go in the race, when we had problems with our rigging holding up the mast and had to retire. A real shame, as we were probably looking at a top 3 result, and our boat and team had been performing so well. Even this disappointment though will not erase the sweet memories of rounding Nevis and St. Kitts at sunset, rounding Saba at 10pm only a couple hundred feet from shore, rounding St. Barths and St. Maarten in darkness, racing just meters from our pack of boats all through this time, dolphins playing with us, and the general life onboard doing an offshore race with 20 of your new best friends. Truly a fantastic race that I hope to do many more times.

Now home for a couple days to wash my cloths, and then it’s off to the Heineken regatta in St. Maarten tomorrow, also on the Highland Fling. This time I intend to finish all the races and help get our team in the chocolates!

All de best, peter

Thanks 2015, and hello 2016 !!

At this start of the New Year it’s always good to look back at the past year, and ahead at the next, to make sure I stop and appreciate this great sailing journey that I am on.

My 2015 started with racing a TP52 in Cape Town South Africa, which is a great place to sail, and an even greater place to visit. I followed this up with the Caribbean racing season and three regattas on the Carkeek 40 SPOOKIE, and three events on the Briand 130 Superyacht P2. Some great racing, good results, and even better people that I did it all with.

My next big event was the Around Block Island Race on the new 100’ COMANACHE. This is the newest, biggest, hottest, and most breakthrough boat launched in the past few years. Sailing her was like getting a ride on the space shuttle. Truly a special occasion. We ended up wining the race and setting a new course record. What a blast, and thanks to Kenny Read for the invite!

Following this was the Transpac on the Santa Cruz 70 HOLUA, a 2000-mile race from Los Angeles to Hawaii. For a short course specialist like me, this is like a sprinter doing a marathon. I did my first Transpac 4 years before, so I was looking forward to this one and being more comfortable with the all the nuances of distance racing. It proved to be one of the most incredible sailing experiences in my life, blasting along in the pitch dark, like skiing down hill blindfolded and having to rely on all your senses to survive. Dolphins, whales, squalls, endless surfing, no shower for 10 days, freeze dried food, and sailing into Hawaii at sunrise. Epic.

Next up on my world tour were two events in the TP52 Superseries in Spain and Portugal on the new SPOOKIE 52. This series is the highest level of professional racing in our sport, and was an incredible challenge for our team. We got spanked in the first event as the rookies, but did a great job of learning and came back to win a couple races in the second event.

Immediately following this was the 50th Anniversary E Scow Blue Chip in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. An invitation only gathering of all the past and present legends in our sport. Three days of racing and spending time with some of the greatest sailors, and people, on the planet, in the heartland of America, was really special. Finishing second to Bora Gulari was a bonus. And spending time with my old friend Buddy Melges was an added bonus.

And my final event of the year was the opportunity to match race again in small boats, right here in my home waters of St. Thomas. Match racing remains my favorite form of sailing, where all the fundamental skills of sailing come into play, in a format that brings sailing to the public.

Now looking ahead at 2016, it is shaping up to be another exciting year with a couple new events and new boats. I’ll start with a couple races on the TP52 SPOOKIE in the US, and then do the Caribbean 600 on the RP 82 HIGHLAND FLING. This race of 600 miles around 11 different islands is becoming one of the biggest events of the year and should be a blast. Following this will be several other Caribbean events jumping between Spookie and Fling, some racing on the East Coast, a race to Bermuda, and then a new Swan 115 for a few events in Europe.

Thanks to all the great teams, owners, and crew that I am so lucky to do all this great sailing with. And a special thanks to my sponsors and partners – Horizon Yacht Charters, Kaenon Sunglasses, and Seahorse Magazine.

Wishing you a healthy, happy, and fast 2016,

peter

October Report

Just wrapped up my final two big “away” events of the year. They were two very different type events, and both were great. First up was the TP52 Superseries final event of the year in Cascais, Portugal on the good yacht SPOOKIE. This was our second event after getting the boat and we were anxious to apply all that we learned as rookies in Palma Majorca a month earlier at our first event with the boat. The TP52 class is arguably the highest standard in big boat racing today, so what a fantastic challenge to go in there and measure ourselves against the best. After only one week of racing in this very mature and developed class, there was a tremendous amount of learning opportunities available to us, and that was the impetus for doing the Portugal event.

We opened the event with a 1-2 on the first day which was wonderful, yet daunting, as there is only one direction we could go from there in the remaining four days! But we continued to sail really well and did in fact put all that we learned from the first event into great practice. But unfortunately we were doomed by gear failure that was out of our control, with our new mainsails tearing completely in half in three of the ten races. In the end we borrowed a back-up main from one of our competitors in order to race the final two days, and nearly won a couple of those races. I can honestly say that we would have been in the top 5 at this event had we not been plagued with this gear failure, which is a great testament to our team and making great improvement from our first event in this exciting new class.

My second event was the 50th Anniversary of the E Scow Bluechip Regatta in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. This was a legendary one of a kind regatta. For fifty years they have been following a tradition of inviting a mystery rock star guest to their final championship of the year in the class. It’s a wonderful concept, where a rock star comes in and gets given a boat he has never sailed, and a crew that he has never met, and goes up against the top ranked teams in the class from around the nation at their final event of the year. It has been a huge success, with all the top Olympic, Americas Cup, and Volvo sailors accepting the invitation over the years. So on their 50th anniversary they decided to do something special and invite all the past mystery guests, plus some honorary legends, to a truly one of a kind event. Twenty four skippers accepted, and were randomly paired with 24 teams and their boats, for three days of some of the most memorable racing with the leaders and legends of our sport. Dave Ullman, Jonathan Mackee, Paul Cayard, Dave Perry, Peter Commette, Cam Lewis, Mark Reynolds, and the list goes on. This was probably the greatest gathering of Olympic Medalists and World Champions that have ever been assembled. On top of this was having Buddy Melges, Peter Harken, and Olaf Harken hanging around and sharing in this celebration for the whole weekend. What a truly wonderful experience.
Oh and there was some racing too. Six races over three days, in light, medium, and heavy winds, with all the tricks a small lake can throw at you, in one of the sports trickiest boats to sail. Good stuff. In the end Bora Gulari, two time Moth world champion and currently campaigning a Nacra 17 cat for the Olympics won. I finished second, just a few points behind Bora. But most important, I had a fantastic time racing a small boat again, pulling ropes, hiking out, and just plain sailboat racing against the best sailors in our sport. Reminded me of why I love sailing.

Back home now in the Virgin Islands to enjoy the end of the year, a few big meetings in our Caribbean Sailing Association that I chair, a couple training sessions, and a match race event to wrap up a lovely 2015. And then it will be the start of another year with new races, challenges, and adventures. Life is good.

A quick shout out to my partners Kaenon Polarized, the best sunglasses on the planet, and Horizon Yacht Charters, the only place to go when you want to go cruising on a boat. And a mini shout to a new clothing brand that my second cousin is promoting, called johnnie-O, some really nice simple threads.
All the best, peter

August Update

Just finished racing my first TP 52 SuperSeries event, this one in Palma Majorca Spain at the Copa del Rey. This class is considered the leading edge of our sport in big boat racing and is closest to what the Americas Cup used to be before it switched to catamarans. All the teams are fully funded, loaded with the best talent in sailing, highly professional, and the racing is close and intense. I was racing on Spookie, a 2011 Botin design just purchased from the previous owners who sailed her as Interlodge. The newer 2015 designed boats have an edge in anything over 12 knots, but we could hold our own in everything under that.

The racing was great. Two windward-leeward races a day, with two mile legs, and a 30 mile/7 leg distance race midweek, for a total of nine races, with no discards. We were the rookies in the 11 boat fleet and came in fully expecting to get our butts kicked, but also to learn heaps from the best, and get up to speed as quickly as possible in this new boat. And that’s exactly what happened. We had moments of brilliance when we were leading races, but also moments of pain and frustration, when a system onboard didn’t work as hoped, or we failed to execute a maneuver well, or we didn’t have the right set up for the conditions, or just weren’t going as fast as the others. In theory we should have finished last, the newbies to the fleet, so we are quite pleased to have finished 8th, only one point out of 7th, and only 15 points out of 5th place. The plan for the boat was to do this one event and then take her back to race in the states and the Caribbean, but the owners had such a good time and learned so much that they have decided to do the next and final 2015 SuperSeries event in Cascais Portugal next month before shipping her over. Now that we have wet our feet and seen the level of play and just what is needed to win at this high level, it gives us a fantastic challenge to learn from our recent event and have another opportunity to learn the boat and improve our game against some fully developed teams.

And that’s what I love about sailing, because it is so complex, diverse and challenging, that there is always room to learn, grow, and improve.

From 30,000 feet somewhere over Europe on my way back to my little island for a few weeks to recharge my race batteries.

Peter

July Update

I’ve just finished racing in the Transpac, a 2250 mile race from Los Angeles to Honolulu, on the Santa Cruz 70 Holua. Held every two years, it’s a downwind race that takes about 8-10 days, and is considered one of the real Classic distance races.

This is one of the rare distance races that I do, as I mainly focus on short course buoy racing. So it’s a bit of an adventure for me, and I absolutely loved it. Not ready to do it full time, but as the occasional race, it’s great.

Our boat sailed with eight crew, doing 3 hour watches at night, and 4 hours during the day. Pre-made frozen diners for the first two nights, then it’s freeze dried for the remainder; just add boiling water, let sit 30 minutes, and then eat. Not bad actually. Sandwiches in the day, and oatmeal or cereal in the mornings, and lots of coffee and snacks.

Here is my list of the highlights and the not-so highlights, of the race.

The Highlights:
– the first night out, no moon because of cloud cover, pitch black, very light air drifting, and then hearing this huge exhale of a whale right next to us
– day 2, blowing 18+, reaching at speed, at night with no moon, doing a sail change, driving with full concentration, and then Dolphins start jumping all around us, playing with the boat
– driving at night in pitch black conditions, blowing 20 knots, A3 spinnaker up, confused waves that you can not see, and processing everything to have the boat sailing at peak speeds. Taking in the wind pressure on your face, seeing the heel angle, seeing the curl of the A3, reading the digital info of True Wind Angle and Boat Speed, and constantly processing it all, and steering the boat on that fine line. Fantastic challenge, and a blast to get right.
– day 3, pitch black at night again, not as windy and rough, and the dolphins are back. But this time they are not jumping, you just see them coming and going like torpedoes, leaving these awesome trails of phosphorescent under water. Never seen anything like it before.
– working together as a team with seven other guys to get it done. Waking up during your off-watch to help with a sail change, taking your turn at packing the kite, working as a team doing a maneuver at night.
– sailing along during the day and seeing nothing, nothing, but endless water and open space, and seeing ourselves in the middle of the ocean on this little boat. Gives you a different perspective on the world, and on life.
– day 4, blowing 20+, 1am, and the call is to do a gybe onto port, drop the kite, back down to get kelp off our rudder, then re-hoist the A2 without repacking it, on a 70 footer, with eight guys, at night. Ok, got it! I’m driving, we transfer pole, call the ease and cut, gybe and fill the kite perfectly. Nice. Now kite down, spin the boat into the wind, strap the main on center, get her going backwards for 2 seconds, then deploy staysail to get the bow down, re-hoist the A2, and back up to speed. Done, in under 2 minutes. Awesome.
– day 5, now on the long port gybe, three different swell directions, but all going with us, blowing 20-25, and it’s a surfing dream. Hours and hours of just carving it up, connecting one surf to the next, finding the rhythm that keeps the boat flying. It’s like a ski slope, down Mount Everest. It’s like eating ice cream, with no calories or fat. It’s just too good to be true. A downwind sailors dream.
– the Santa Cruz 70, designed by Bill Lee of Santa Cruz, for the sole purpose of going downwind fast. Big rudder, big wheel, and a raised steering platform so you have the perfect view of the waves. As old as the design may be, it’s a brilliant boat for this race, and a joy to drive.
– day 6, now with a 1/2 moon, water lit up nicely, blowing 25, get woken for the 1030-130 night watch, main, staysail, and the A2+ flying, 150 true wind angle, 3 guys on deck, me driving, one guy trimming, and one cranking the handles, big swells from the remnants of Hurricane Dolores and TS Enrique, and just ripping along at 15-20 knots, surfing and hauling butt under brilliant moonlight. It does not get any better than this.

Ok, and now for the not-so highlights:
– getting a call at 230am the morning of the race start and being told our navigator is in the hospital and can not race. Yes, that navigator, the most important crew on an offshore race, the one that’s supposed to help you find Hawaii.
– hitting Kelp Island at 1am the first night and having to back down 3 times to clear it all off our keel, strut, and rudder.
– not being able to shower for 9 days. A bucket of salt water and some Dove Dish soap on the transom on day 7 when it was calm was a special treat.
– after not seeing any garbage for the first three days, the amount of plastic in the water on days 4 – 6 was unbelievable. We all need to make noise about this or our oceans will be a dump, and the sea life, and us that eat it, will suffer.
– being half way to Hawaii, and the engine batteries go dead. No engine, no watermaker, no instruments, no good! An hour later, some rope around the flywheel and led up to the winches, and we got the puppy started.
– the night shifts towards the end of the race became a real struggle. Watches were 3 hrs on, 3 off, but not always easy to sleep on your off-watch with all the noise and racket, or the heat below in the day.

Hawaii finally came into view at 6am on our 9th day, and we sailed in to finish 6th overall of some 60 boats, just 15 minutes out of 5th, and 45 minutes out of third, after nine days of racing, all without a navigator to help us better read the weather and play a more tactical race.

A fantastic race and experience that I hope to do again.

Now straight from Hawaii I am in route on a very long flight to Palma Majorca Spain to race on a TP52 in the Copa del Rey. From a 9 day race, to short intense buoy racing in one of the hottest classes should be an interesting transition.

Peter

May Report

I just finished racing the Around Block Island distance race May 22nd on the 100 foot custom designed COMANCHE. We had perfect weather for the race and managed to get 1st in class, 1st in fleet, and break the record. Our final elapsed time for the 186 mile race was 11hrs, 25min, 01sec. Oh, and it was an absolute blast!

The boat and sails are nothing short of incredible. She was custom built in Maine late last year with the sole purpose of speed and breaking records. She’s all carbon and weighs about 32 tons. The keel is 22 feet deep and cants 35 degrees, and she has three water ballast tanks each side with 6 tons total capacity, and twin rudders. All the headsails are free flying with above deck furlers, except for the hank-on jibs on the primary headstay. Masthead backstay, but with three adjustable deflectors to each of the different headstay points so you can load the rig back from any point, depending on which headsail option and combination that you’re using. The rig is placed well aft in the boat, with the boom hanging over the transom, and the multiple headsail options, from the tip of the 15 foot bowsprit, to the headstay at the bow and then three staysail tack points, give you sail, size, and balance options for every windspeed and angle. It is the most well thought-out boat I have ever seen, and performs like an absolute tame monster!

The crew for the race was also great. Ken Read is the skipper and he’s assembled an all-star team of around the world sailors that know how to make the most of something this powerful and fast. Our navigator was Stan Honey who was a real pleasure to work with. And Kenny did an awesome job leading the team.

All in all, one of the coolest sailing experiences I’ve ever had. Sailing in 25-30 knots of wind down Long Island sound, with flat water, the A4, and doing a sustained 28kts in complete control. Reaching back in 10-20 knots, with boatspeeds greater than the windspeed, changing between the J1 and the masthead 0. Other than the 40-50 degree temperatures, it was as near perfect as you could ask for.

Big thanks to Ken and the whole team for the incredible race and the experience of it all.

I now hop straight on a plane to my next event, the 6 Meter Worlds in La Tinite sur Mer in France to sail on the 1936 designed and built NADA. How’s that for being able to experience the full spectrum of yacht design, all in the period of one week! Life is good!

Pete