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.

June 2014 Report

I have just returned from my first European event of the season, the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta in Sardinia in early June. This event targets the new growth class in our sport, Superyachts. This class started as informal racing amongst big cruising yachts, but as it grew in popularity and wealthy owners naturally started to compete more intensely, the new designs have become more performance oriented. The beauty is that some truly dual-purpose yachts are now being designed and built; a sleek performance design incorporating the latest technology, but with a cruising interior tucked inside that one can enjoy entertaining family and guests on. For this reason, it is now probably the area of the most growth in our sport.

Back to the event. The racing was held in Porto Cervo, which is one of the nicest areas in the world to sail; clear water, lots of small islands to use as marks, and generally good winds and weather. For this event I was sailing with the Highland Fling team on a chartered Southern Wind 100 named Cape Arrow. We had a great series with a close battle right through to the final day, and finished on the podium in 3rd place, which we are content with considering we were racing with a “rental”!

A couple of weeks before this I enjoyed racing in a “fun” event in Antigua during Sailing Week. Eight skippers were invited to compete for a one-week holiday at the Nonsuch Bay Resort in Antigua, sailing in three person RS Elite boats. I had a blast, really enjoying getting back into a small boat, getting to use some of my matchrace skills, and dueling with other teams on a short race track. We did well, making it to the finals from our group, and then winning it with three straight bullets! I was particularly grateful to my crew Kevin Miller, so he gets to take his wife on a one-week holiday!

Next up for me will be Cowes Week in England in late July, where we get to test the latest modifications to the IRC52 Highland Fling.

All for now,
peter

April 2014 Report

I just recently finished doing two more great events here in the Caribbean. First was the St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR), formerly the Rolex Cup Regatta. VI Tourism, Captain Morgan Rum, and Heineken stepped up their sponsorship where Rolex left off and the event continued stronger than ever. I was again racing on the IRC 52 HIGHLAND FLING and we had probably the best class racing that any event will see in the region this year. Our class had four 52’s, a Cookson 50 with a canting keel, and a Kerr 46. We were blessed with three great days of weather, with a squally 5-25 first day, a solid 20 knots on the second day, and then a moderate 15 on the final day. One of the best things about this regatta is the use of islands and rocks as marks, making for a challenging and scenic course through all the islands. The TP52 NEAR MISS from Switzerland dominated for the win, TONNERE, the top IRC boat in Europe the last several years was second, and we stole 3rd.

Next was the BVI Spring Regatta a week later. Three days of 20-25 knot winds and several races a day made for some tough, but fast and exciting, sailing. We only had TONNERE in our class, and they beat us soundly. It was unfortunate we only had one good boat to race against, but we did benefit from having John Reichel, our boats designer, onboard one day to address our performance issues. As we learned from this and the previous event in St. Thomas, our boat was not sailing up to it’s potential and we need to make changes. After analyzing the data and seeing the boat perform, he is convinced that we are lacking stability, so a new heavier bulb has been ordered and we’ll be ready for our next event in England to test this upgrade against a tough fleet of other 52’s.

Next up for me is the RS Elite Challenge in Antigua, which should be good fun.

peter

March 2014 Report

My 2014 season kicked off with the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta on the TP52+ HIGHLAND FLING in early March. This event has grown to over 200 boats, with the full spectrum of classes from big boats to small, multihulls, and a major bareboat class. Our 52 was designed and built in 2011 and we had our first outing at Key West 2012. After working out a few bugs and modifying our twin rudders, we entered the 2012 Rolex in St. Thomas with high hopes of seeing the true performance of the boat which was designed for coastal racing, rather than Windward-Leewards like most of the TP52’s. We took off in race 1 and were leading our division, only to see our mast break at mark #1. What a crying shame. The owner decided to pursue other racing for the next season, and so only now built a replacement rig and started racing the 52 again, with Heineken as our first event. After a few training days and getting all systems working, we had 4 fantastic days of racing. Days 1-3 were 15-20kts, and the final day was a light tricky day. Showing that she loves big breeze and off-wind sailing, we romped around the course on the first 3 days, winning all our races. Top speed I saw was on the around the island race when we were hitting sustained 20-25kts of boatspeed. Now that’s sailboat racing! The final day was like sailing through a minefield, avoiding the clouds and their no-wind zones. We did a really good job, but got nipped by a Kerr 43 by one minute to finish second for the day. So a great event, wining our class, and starting to see the potential of this great boat. Next events for the team are the St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR, formerly the Rolex Cup) and then the BVI Spring Regatta.

I now take a quick diversion to San Diego to race in the 1,000 mile race to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on the Santa Cruz 70 HOLUA. One of my rare distance races, but sailing with the legend Dave Ullman, plus ace naviguesser Wouter Verbak, should make for a great experience.

peter

October 2013 Report

Cruising along at 35,000 feet on my way home from my final big overseas trip of the year. I just finished racing in Long Beach, CA at the Campbell Cup, and prior to that was the Voiles de St. Tropez in France.

The regatta in France was a fantastic experience. This event is as much a celebration of sailing as it is a regatta. The greatest assembly of beautifully restored wooden classics race inside the bay, while the IRC and Wally fleets sail outside. And this year I had my first opportunity to sail in the classics, on a 1929 Fife designed 6 meter named NADA owned by Peter Harrison of the Superyacht SOJANA. I believe the 6 meter class originated in the 1920’s and grew into one of the biggest classes around the world, and might even have been an Olympic class at one point. The class has remained strong over the years, with their own Worlds and other championships held yearly. For this event we were racing amongst a diverse fleet of classics, ranging from ourselves as the smallest boat at 33 feet, up to 8 meter boats at 45 feet plus. And the racing was awesome. Five crew, myself driving, hiking out, and pulling on ropes. I loved it. Three of the crew would hike below to get the weight furthest out, with just me and one other on deck going upwind to look around, make decisions, and pull ropes. The jib comes all the way aft to the helmsman, so the only way to see boats below and not crash, is to have someone peek under the jib every minute or so. With all the big boat racing I do now, getting back onto a small boat was wonderful. I had a great team who helped me learn the boat quickly, do all the maneuvers, and help make decisions. And all this in lovely St. Tropez, amongst the rich and famous. Yes, life is ok! Oh and the racing, it was a blast. We had some exciting starts with 35-40 boats on the line, us being the small fry, trying to have a clean exit and not get run over as the big boats got going. We did well, didn’t die, and usually were ahead on the water or on corrected time at the first weather mark. Unfortunately most of the races are predominantly reaching, which is all about waterline length, so the bigger boats just stretch away and can easily put their handicap time on us. But this little team roared, and managed to punch above our weight, and finish fourth for the series. It was truly a great experience for me and I hope to do more of it again soon.

My next event saw me flying a zillion miles over to California, but luckily I had a few days to get over the jet lag. I raced the Campbell Cup on the Santa Cruz 70 HOLUA with a great team, having two days of windward-leeward racing around the buoys. We had a class of 5 boats, all similar, with only a minute or two of handicap difference per race. This is the only buoy race HOLUA will do, so the boat is moded in light configuration for the rest of the year where they sail all downwind courses, to either Mexico or Hawaii. Accordingly, we lacked stability against most of the fleet, so had our work cut out for us on the upwind legs where stability is king. PAYWACKET had the greatest stability, and sailed away from all of us each race for an easy win. So the race was for the remaining places, and we had a great battle with GRAND ILLUSION for second right up until the final race. Luckily for us we saved our best race for last, took them to the layline, and spanked them into the top mark and pushed them back into the fleet traffic. We then sailed shifts and a loose cover on them to extend and beat them on handicap, for a second place in the regatta. I also had a great time coming to the west coast and racing amongst this fleet and seeing many of my friends which I only see on this side of the country. Sunny weather, building sea breeze each day, in the waters where I sailed my first Olympics, all made for a great time. Thanks to Dave Ullman for inviting me out to help, I really enjoyed it.

Now it’s back home with only a few regional events until the racing season kicks off next March. My next gig is a speaking engagement this week with Dennis Conner, Mr. Americas Cup himself. We are doing a joint presentation at a John Maxwell conference in St. Thomas on October 17 which should be fun. I did the 2000 Cup with DC and look forward to seeing him again.

My next gig after that will be the Caribbean Sailing Association AGM and Regatta Organizers Conference in Puerto Rico at the end of October. I’m currently the president of the CSA and we are trying to make some big changes in the years ahead. This body administers the CSA handicap system for all the Caribbean regattas, plus coordinates the race calendar, promotes dinghy sailing, and fosters sailing throughout the region. The Regatta Organizers conference dovetails the AGM and is a unique event the world over, bringing competing events together to network and share strategy at improving OUR Caribbean events and strengthening our position on the world racing circuit. I believe the Caribbean has huge potential to grow into one of the strongest sailing regions of the world, and this body has the potential to take it there. Huge challenge, but great rewards if we can achieve it.

And my final event of the year is the Carlos Aguilar Match Race in St. Thomas in late November. Match Racing is my favorite, but unless you commit 100% to it, which means fund a team or find a sponsor, it now can only be a fun campaign for me. I will reassemble my team of locals, dust off the cob webs, and give the pros a good ol local effort. We almost won it last year, but got too serious, or tried too hard, and ended up third. This year I intend to keep it fun, sail loose, and be happy with taking any scalps I can.

Stay up!
Peter

September Report

I have just returned from a couple of really good events. First was the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds in Newport, Rhode Island, at the end of August. For many years, the F40 was THE class, attracting all the talent, and having some really big fleets and very close racing. The last few years have seen newer and faster classes emerge, and some of the owners have migrated away. But the die-hard class devotees have stuck with the class, and the racing is great. The boat is a good size, 40 feet, with ten crew, the owners drive, and only four professionals are allowed, the other six being amateurs (non industry pros). The highlights for me is the great tactical racing which takes place, not being an uncomfortable hiking fest like on some of the newer sport boats, and the mature nature of both the owners and tacticians in the class, which plays out on the race course. I served as tactician on the German entry Struntje Light. We finished fourth at last year’s worlds, and had hopes of another top five result. The team decided to introduce some new sails at the last minute, and I have to say it was a mistake, as we never found good speed throughout the event. This is a common mistake, as teams often put a lot of hope into new, fresh sails providing them with the silver bullet. But in all reality, it takes time to settle in and learn how to get the proper (fast) shape in the sail from fine tuning the set up of the rig, and just learning the nuances of new shapes and getting comfortable with them. So in the end we sailed a good regatta and rode our horse as hard as we could, and ended up 9th for the series, about where we belonged.

Next up for me was the Rolex Maxi Cup and Mini Maxi Worlds in Sardinia during the first week of September. This is one of the biggest events of the summer and attracts some of the best sailors from around the world. Classes included the Mini Maxis (72 feet max), Maxi, Super Maxi, and Wally. I was tactician on the Richael/Pugh 82 HIGHLAND FLING racing in the Maxi class. We had 5 days of great racing, doing coastal courses around all the rocks and islands off of Porto Cervo. The wind was on the light side compared to recent years, with only 5-15 knots, and mostly from the East. We started out pretty strong, wining the first two days of racing. Unfortunately our competitors got much better over the following days, and three of us went into the final day virtually tied, so that the winner of the final race, would win the series. We had a great start, and were leading twenty minutes into the race when we had a bit of a set-back. Like most boats our size and bigger, all our systems and winches are hydraulically driven, and powered by an engine or generator. Unfortunately our engine failed, and it took one of our crew about 20 minutes to get it back on line. During this period we sail in a very compromised state, with minimal maneuvers, and all of them being very slow. We calculated that we lost between two and three minutes to our competitors during this period. Once back on line, we sailed a great race, but in the end, we finished third…by 2:30 ! Ouch! Very frustrating, but that is reality on some of these more complex machines we are racing these days. Our team in fact did an incredible job to sail as well as we did while disabled, so we all walked away feeling OK about our final result, considering the circumstances.

So two good regattas back-to- back, and now a couple weeks at home to relax and recharge the batteries before my next event at the end of September in St. Tropez France.

peter

June Report

I’ve just returned from racing in four events in Europe. First up was the Dubois Cup at the beginning of June in Porto Cervo, Sardinia. This event is notable for the size of the yachts, more so than their performance. I was driving the 150 foot Prana, the biggest I’ve ever driven, with a crew of about 25. Although it may not be high performance, it is definitely some of the most challenging racing I have done. It is a big task trying to make these huge yachts perform, and doing so safely with the huge loads, lack of maneuverability, and the power in yachts of this size. We had a great week, with good crew work and very few mistakes, and i enjoyed meeting and working with a new team.

Next up was the Loro Piana Super Yacht Regatta, also in Porto Cervo. I raced P2 in this event, a Briand 125, with a crew of about 20. I have been with this yacht now for almost five years and we have grown into a great team. We have improved the performance tremendously from day one, sailing the boat better each time. The owner has also continuously upgraded the boat and sails every year. Because of all this, we have made it on to the podium at almost every event. Except this one. The organizers chose a different application of the handicapping system, and for some reason, it hammered us, and no matter how well we sailed each day, we could never get a top 3 result. Not good, and not a happy owner or team.

My next event was the Giraglia Rolex Cup in St. Tropez, France. This event is in three stages- a distance race from Sanremo Italy to St. Tropez, a three day in-shore regatta around St. Tropez, and then a distance race to Genoa, Italy that rounds the Giraglia Rock off Corsica on the way. Luckily for me, our owner only wanted to do the inshore portion! We were racing a new Ker 46, a fast grand-prix IRC boat with a crew of 13. We had a great class with over 70 boats, from 30 footers up to TP52’s. The starts were scary as, and a great challenge to get off the line clear (and alive) and then fight for clear lanes going the route you preferred. We managed a 10th on day one, then a 4th, and then on day three the wind completely died one hour into the race. We were in great position, but after drifting for over an hour, we decided that any result would be meaningless after this reshuffle, so we opted to motor in and start packing the boat away. But great event, good hard racing, and a fun boat that gets up and goes with any wind at all.

The final event on my euro tour was the Super Yacht Cup Palma, again on P2. The handicappers got the (heated) message in Sardinia, so they changed their system. For this event, rather than pre-race guessing of the conditions and handicap to apply, they would take data from several yachts to get an accurate read on the conditions, and then calculate the results after the race. A little delay of a couple of hours to get your result, but we were all willing to wait if it meant getting fair results. Bottom line it worked better, but it still needs serious work to make it right. In the end we sailed a really good regatta and finished second, so a podium finish, a great party in a castle with the full moon, and good final event to my tour.

A long trip, but a great time, and now happy to be home for a couple weeks before my next event back in Europe.

Ciao,
peter

April Report

I just finished a busy month of racing in March with three regattas. First up was the Farr 40 Miami Invitational in mid-March where I sailed as tactician onboard STRUNTJE LIGHT. We sailed along the coast, directly in front of South Beach. Conditions were rough and windy the first few days, and then very light for the final day. Very challenging conditions, where you had to trust your instincts. We started off on a blinder, scoring 1-2-1-2, and leading the regatta after the first day of racing. We managed to continue leading the four-day regatta right through to the final day, and finished one point ahead of PLENTY to take the win. Great result for our team as we prepare for the Farr 40 Worlds in August in Newport, RI.

Next up for me was the Loro Piana Super Yacht Regatta in Virgin Gorda, BVI where I sail as helmsman on P2, the Briand 125. This is our fifth season sailing together and we have a full schedule planned for the year, starting with three events in the Caribbean, and then moving over to do four in the Med. The Virgin Gorda event was a great one, with 20 yachts, light to moderate winds, and close racing around all the islands and rocks in the BVI. The setting in North Sound and the 5 star quality of the new Yacht Club Costa Smeralda make this event really special. Hopefully they will keep it this way and not allow their success to grow it too big. The racing was close and we went into the final day with a chance to win, but ended up tied for 3rd with the J Class HANUMAN.

The final event for me was the St. Barths Bucket at the end of March, also on P2. This is the biggest Super Yacht event in the world, with 36 yachts competing. The entries included 5 J Class yachts racing in their own class, the first time since the 1930’s that this many of the classic America’s Cup designs have sailed together. Racing was great, with moderate winds on the first day, followed by solid 20 knot trade winds on the final two days to test the crew and equipment on these huge boats. We went into the final day in a three way tie for first, and ended up tied for first on points with UNFURLED, but finishing second after the tie break system was applied. Tough to be so close and not win it, but we sailed a great regatta and did all we could to pull off a victory.

All good,
peter

Cape Town, South Africa

I’ve just returned from the 2013 Cape Fling regatta in Cape Town. Sailed the new Cape Fling, a Kerr 46 recently built at McConaghy Boats in China. Great boat, well built and finished, nice deck layout and controls, good balance, good upwind performance, and some exciting speeds off wind.

The weather in Cape Town is wild, with some incredibly strong winds. In the week that I was there, it blew between 20-40kts each day! And sailing in Table Bay can be quite tricky, with the wind often fighting between the Southeasterly and Southwesterly, on either side of Table Mountain, and sometimes with a void in between the two winds.

Race one was 20-30 kts and an 8 leg zig zag around Table Bay. Our closest competition was the GP 42 Puma, so we used them as our benchmark. We were able to put our time plus some on them upwind, and just hold on them downwind, and won by 3 minutes. Race two was a lottery, with the two winds fighting each other, and a void in the middle moving around. We sailed a good race, worked out a nice lead, only to have the wind shuffle the fleet on the final leg, giving us a 4th. The final race was a 2 mile windward/leeward, 4 laps, started in the lee of Table Mountain where the RC could anchor, and then a solid 25-35 kts on the race course. We had a great start, hit the wind line, and took off downwind. After 2 laps and building a good lead, we had a crew error and lost our spinnaker over the side, and had to cut everything away to avoid damaging the boat and rig. We deemed it unwise to continue racing with the new boat partially damaged in these extreme conditions, so retired from the race. This dropped us to 4th in the overall standings, but not bad considering. It was a great lesson for a new team and the boat showed it has potential. The team will need to work on some boat handling issues and learn how to drop spinnakers in the extreme high winds they often get. But they have a great boat to challenge them, and reward them with some great rides once they have it tamed.

After traveling for over 2 days to get there, I decided to spend a few extra days exploring and enjoying the country. Wild is the one word I have for the place. Wild weather, scenery, hikes, and animal life were the moments and images I came away with. And I loved it.

2013

Happy New Year! I have a busy and exciting year ahead, so I’m hoping for a great 2013, and wish the same to everyone. I’ve updated my schedule here online and will report as the events unfold.

Following is a welcome letter I recently did as the new president of the Caribbean Sailing Association. Again, best wishes for 2013!
————
Welcome to a new year, and a new slate of officers to the CSA. I write to you as the new president, but also as one who has been involved with the CSA for a long time. I was born in the Virgin Islands, and grew up racing in the “old days” of the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s under the CSA rule. I have also served as a Vice President of CSA for many years, both in the 90’s, and then again these past few years. From this I hope to bring a knowledge and respect for our past at CSA, along with new energy and progress for our future.

Our CSA has evolved into a fantastic organization. My immediate predecessor Cary Byerly and her team of officers did an incredible job these past few years in growing and marketing the CSA into what it is today. She initiated an annual Regatta Organizers conference, where the real stakeholders of the CSA rule get together to share challenges, ideas, and strategies. I know of no other region in the world where this cooperation takes place.

I believe the Caribbean has the potential to become one of the premiere sailing regions of the world, for everything from dinghy sailing to grand prix racing. The CSA is the one organization that unifies us all and can help us reach this potential. Alongside a great team of officers from all the various islands of the region, we look forward to achieving great things for our CSA in the year ahead.

Peter Holmberg

October Report

Finally home from six back-to-back events, covering a full eight weeks on the road.  Longer than I like to be away at one time, and probably more racing than is good for me in a short period.   There were definitely some periods where my performance was inconsistent, which may have been a sign of burn-out.  In the future I will make sure i schedule in enough breaks between events to recharge my battery.

Having said all that, each of the events were quite special.  Starting with a Melges 32 training session with just 12 other boats in Newport in August to help us all prepare for the Worlds.  It is really smart for teams to combine resources and share information in cases like this where we are not sailing full time.  Lots of good information, everyone gains, and us being one of the newer/younger teams, we probably benefited the most.

Next up for me was the Newport Bucket on the Briand 125′ P2.  We are in our third year campaigning this large boat and it is amazing how we continue to modify and improve every time we race.  It was a light air event, so it tested us in conditions we had not had in a while.  We learned heaps, and sailed better each day, eventually finishing 2nd to INDIO, a higher performance Wally 100.

Next up was the Rolex Maxi Worlds in Sardina on the RP 82 Highland Fling.  There is a separate report below on this event, but basically we finished tied for 1st, and had a super time as usual.

Following this event was the Farr 40 Worlds in Chicago, where I did tactics on a German boat named Struntje Light.  It was a great regatta, with everything from 0-30 knot winds, huge steep seas, and really good racing.  In the tough and very talented 20 boat fleet, we had a score line of 18,1,1,21,2,1,2,12,4.  Most events allow one or two discards, but this one didn’t.  Needless to say, we would have done pretty darn good IF we could have thrown out our deep results.  I should also say that we should have tried harder to avoid having pbad results, meaning take less risk at times.  The boat that won the worlds, never won an actual race, but also never had a score worse than 7th!  Pretty interesting lessons learned from this event.

Two hours after the last race I was on a plane to Newport for the Melges 32 worlds.   Arguably the hottest class around these days, with professional teams and all the best talent in the game.  I was sailing as tactician on INTAC, for an owner from the BVI.  Our team have been together for about eight months leading up to the Worlds, so still on the learning curve and realistic about our chances, but hoping to sail well and get a descent result.  The conditions turned out to be extremely challenging, both light and shifty, and strong wind and waves.  On the light days you really needed to have speed and manage the shifts and fleet.  And on the windy days, boat handling became king.  But bottom line, in a tough fleet like this, if i could have one thing, it would be speed.  If you had speed,  your options opened up, and you could choose where to go.  But if you were average or slower than others, you got dictated to.  We were often wanting for more speed, so this hurt us, but I also could have adjusted my strategy and done a better job positioning us given this fact.  But in the end our team felt good, that we sailed hard, learned a lot, and had a good time together.  Our final result was 17th, so more to shoot for in the coming year.

My final event of this tour was the Campbell Cup in Long Beach, CA.  I was calling tactics on the Santa Cruz 70 HOLUA.  We had 5 nearly identical boats in our class, so some really fun close racing.  I raced the 1984 Olympics in these same waters and it really is one of the best places to sail, with a building breeze each day starting at noon, giving you a range of wind speeds over the course of the afternoon.  Our team did a great job and we managed to win the event by 3 points, so a nice final result to my eight week tour!

I now have a few weeks to rest and recover, and then my next events will be a series of Match Races here in the Caribbean.  This will be good fun, getting to do some of my favorite style of sailing with my local crew, in my home waters.

All good,
Peter