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.

December 2023 Update

The year 2023 seems to have flown by.  I’ve had some great trips, keen racing, and a few really nice life events.

The highlight of my year by far was being inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame.  The induction ceremony was held in November in Newport Beach, CA.  Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is incredible, and the ceremony itself was also really special, with so many great sailors attending.  To be selected by my peers for this award is truly amazing, and humbling.  I am so grateful, and to all those that made it possible, from my parents who made sailing a central part of our lives, to the Virgin Islands that have the best sailing conditions in the world, and to my crew and friends that helped along the way.  Thank you to everyone that made this life journey possible for me.

My racing this year was quite challenging.  We made several major upgrades to the J Class TOPAZ that I’ve been campaigning for the past 5 years.  With new sails, new crew, and some nice upgrades we were hopeful for some good results.  Unfortunately our handicap was not kind to us this year and we did not place well against the other J’s. All the J’s are slightly different and we rely upon a handicapping system to try and equalize the boats, so that the best sailed boat wins.  Sometimes these handicap systems are very accurate and fair, and sometimes they are not.  But we had a great team, our owner is wonderful, and we put up a good fight.

Looking ahead to 2024, my first event will be the St. Barths Bucket in March.  This is the biggest event of the year for Superyachts (100 ft + yachts) and all takes place on the idyllic little French island of St. Barths, which is what makes the whole show so special.  I’ll be racing the 150ft Frers HYPERION and have some good friends also racing aboard with me, so it should be good fun.

A couple weeks later I’ll be racing in the BVI Spring Regatta on a friends boat from Puerto Rico.  It might be a serious event for him, but for me it will mostly be about seeing all my old friends from the BVI again.  After the 2017 Hurricanes and the Covid lock-downs, our inter-island friendships and racing have all been lacking.  So I set my intention of racing there this year and seeing old friends and supporting their event.  Really looking forward to it.

Here’s to wishing all of us a happy and healthy holiday season and a wonderful new year ahead.

peter

August 2023 Update

On July 12th I received word that I was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame.  Along with 10 others, this was the 13th class of inductees into the Hall of Fame.  The two day ceremony will take place in early November in Newport Beach, CA. The website with lots of information is https://nshof.org

I am absolutely shocked and overwhelmed by this award.  To be so recognized by my peers, there is no greater honor.  A feeling of utter accomplishment has slowly swept over me.  Like I have reached the biggest weather mark, and can now just surf downwind for the rest of my sailing days.

And it made me think of everyone that helped get me here, beginning with my parents, who taught me to sail at 4yrs, and let my brother and i just go mess about in boats, and fall in love with sailing.  Next were the larger than life elders at our little club in St. Thomas that I looked up to as a kid, and made me believe that anything is possible.  Then my crew, the ones who did all the heavy lifting along the way.  The friends that I raced against and pushed me.  My supporters and sponsors that helped me adventure off island.  And my Virgin Islands, where i was born and raised, that gave me the best sailing conditions in the world, and the island mentality that made me want, and believe, that i could achieve my dreams.  These honors are for all-a-we.

And two weeks before this national award I also received a huge honor here at home in the Virgin Islands.  As part of the 175th Virgin Islands Emancipation Celebrations, I was nominated as one of 15 Living Legends of Culture on my island of St. Thomas.  The emancipation of slavery in 1848 in the then Danish Virgin Islands is a very proud part of our history, when slaves rose up and won their freedom.  And I am truely honored to be considered a part of this culture and the celebration.

So some wonderful unexpected awards,  and a great time of reflection and gratitude.

Next up is my racing season in Europe, where we will be racing the mighty J Class yacht TOPAZ in Sardinia at the Rolex Maxi Worlds at the beginning of September (https://www.yccs.it/en/regattas-2023/maxi_yacht_rolex_cup-3303.html ) and then the Ibiza Regatta at the end of September (https://ibizajoysail.com).  We have some new crew, new sails, and have done some nice work on the boat in the off-season, so we’re looking forward to lining up against the other J’s.  

Peter

June 2023 Update

After a nice winter break, my racing resumed with the Bucket in St. Barth in March.  The Bucket is the largest regatta for Superyachts, defined as yachts over 100 feet, and it has become an annual must-do event for all the top superyachts and sailors in the world.  Being held on the quaint French island of St. Barths doesn’t hurt either.  Unless you are the owner and picking up the tab!  This year I was invited to fill-in as tactician onboard WISP, a 58m Hoek design.  I knew a few of the crew so it was a pretty easy adjustment to get familiarized with the team and the boat.  We were in a tough class with some other very well sailed boats, the tradewinds were blowing 20+, so the racing was exciting.  Unique to this event is that we race in a pursuit format, where they calculate handicaps in advance based on the conditions and course length, and then start the lowest rated boats first, and the faster/higher rating boats later, and theoretically all should finish at the same time.  It therefore becomes a pursuit by the faster boats to catch and pass the smaller/slower boats.  Fun stuff!  There is different strategy and tactics to this style of racing, so it can be quite challenging.  It can also be quite exciting since all the boats tend to converge as the race progresses and the finishes can be very close.  We sailed well and scored two 1st and a 2nd and ended up winning our class.  I really enjoyed the event- a great team, a very nice boat, and the regatta organizers did a first-rate job.

My next event was a training session on the J Class TOPAZ in Palma Majorca in the Mediterranean.  This session was to look at some new sails, trial some new crew, and test our speed in advance of our first event of the season, which is the Rolex Maxi Worlds in Sardinia in late August.  Joining us for this session was SVEA, who won all three J Class regattas in 2022, so an excellent reference and training partner.  It turned out to be one of the best training sessions I’ve ever had; SVEA was a great team to work with, we got the full range of conditions, the new North Sails looked great, and we were pleased with all the changes we made during the off-season.  We will now study a few possible modifications to the boat and then will have several days of training there in Sardinia just prior to our first event.

Next year will be a big one for the J Class, with several events leading up to our World Championships in Barcelona that coincides with the start of the Americas Cup.  And so in addition to aiming for good results this year, we are also looking to refine our boat and team with next year in mind, to be at our very best for the Worlds.  

Peter  

November Update

September was a busy month, with the Rolex Maxi Regatta in Sardinia followed by the Ibiza Joysail in Ibiza. The Maxi Worlds, as we call it, was sailed out of the YCCS in Porto Cervo. This is considered by all as the premier event of the summer in Europe, with all the best teams competing, one of the best Yacht Clubs in the world hosting it, and some of the greatest sailing waters anywhere. I was racing on the J Class Topaz against 3 other J’s in our own class. Unfortunately we had some equipment issues which hurt us in a couple races and we also did not sail our best regatta, so we will have to look to this one as a learning event mainly. No excuses, but the fact is that you should learn a great deal from your setbacks, and we intend to, and so will be making changes and taking several steps going forward into next year with Topaz.

My next event was the Ibiza Joysail Regatta. This is only the second year for the event, but it seems to be headed in a great direction. The event is positioned at the end of the European racing season, and is located next to Palma where most boats are based these days. A very competitor oriented committee ensured that smart decisions were being made on format, courses, race times, etc. I was racing on Hyperion, which is a Frers 145 that I have raced with several times before. This is a Superyacht event, not a strict Grand Prix event, and so a nice balance of racing, but with enjoyment at heart. We got the racing part down pretty well, winning every race, and that added to our enjoyment, so we think we got the balance part ok. 🙂

Next up for me is a series of season ending meetings in November with the J Class in Amsterdam where we will try to sort out our new rating system and our race schedule for the coming years. We will first try to confirm our events for 2023 and then make tentative plans for the following two years. A highlight for the class is a World Championships in 2024 that will be held in Barcelona just before, and as part of, the Americas Cup activities. We hope to have as many as 8 J’s racing at the Worlds. These J’s are replicas of Americas Cup yachts from the 1930’s, utilizing todays technology, yet preserving some of the true yachting from bygone times. They may not be the fastest boats on the water, but what they are is the most difficult boats I have ever raced, and that to me is what is so rewarding.

Superyacht Cup Palma

I am just back from racing the J Class yacht TOPAZ at the Superyacht Cup Palma.  This event is one of the longest running Superyacht events in the world, and is held each summer in Palma, Majorca, the biggest of the Spanish Balearic islands in the Mediterranean.  Palma has become the European base for a majority of racing boats so it is conveniently located and also offers some of the most reliable winds in the Med, making it a good place for racing.

This was our first event of the year on TOPAZ and we had made several changes to the boat over the off-season, plus a few new crew, so several big challenges to insure the yacht was fully prepared and all systems working properly, plus then getting a crew of 30 all back in sync and working smoothly.  And up against us was a very competitive field of other J boats:  SVEA who was recently purchased by a Swedish group and is now raced by a highly skilled team that had just spent many days training there; RANGER that had won the most recent J Class event in St. Barths and is led by an all-star crew; and VELSHEDA which is the longest running team and the fastest boat on the water.  SVEA is the most recent built J Class and has always looked to have the potential to be special.  They recently moved their headstay 1 meter aft to improve their balance, and this may have given them what they needed to better sail their boat to its full potential.  Because at this event, even when they made mistakes on the course, they always managed to get back into the leading pack.  In a good sign of how close it all was, it all came down to the final race of the series after 2 windward/leeward races on day 1, and 3 coastal races over the next 3 days.  In the end it was SVEA 1st, TOPAZ 2nd, RANGER 3rd, and VELSHEDA 4th.  SVEA is now a very fast J, but their team deserves full credit for sailing smart and fast.

I am also fully satisfied with our 2nd place finish.  We did some things really well.  And we made some mistakes.  And seeing them is the great opportunity to learn, and the challenge to improve at our next event.

I also come away from this event with a reminder and awareness of how great this TOPAZ yacht and team are. These two components is what makes this campaign one of the most enjoyable programs I’ve ever been involved with.

Why do I love this boat so much?  It is a J Class yacht, a new-build of a 1930 Americas Cup design.  Beautiful and traditional lines, combined with the latest carbon and computer technology, resulting is a magical balance in our ever-advancing sport (and world!!). It is possibly the most difficult boat in the world to sail; to steer, sail it safely, coordinate 30 crew through each maneuver, and find optimum performance, sail trim ,and balance in such a huge boat.  Trying to get this “right”, is a wonderful challenge, process, and reward.

And what is it about this team that I enjoy so much.  It starts with the owners, two of the most wonderful and trusting people I have ever worked with.  They have allowed us to help them create a healthy, fun, and rewarding race program for the boat.  Together with them and my good friend Timmy, we have assembled a team of good people first and foremost, who also have the talents needed to perform.  All of this has allowed us to build a wonderful team culture over the past 5 years together.  It is first about working together as a team, enjoying the racing and the sport.  And then it is about performing our best, and achieving the best result possible against our competitors.  And it is all of this that makes this project so enjoyable, and ultimately, reasonably successful in competition.

We now have several weeks to prepare and make some changes before our next event, which is the Rolex Maxi Cup in Sardinia.  We all still call this event the Maxi Worlds, because it is the biggest show-down of the year where all the top teams assemble at the end of the Med summer.  

Following this regatta I will hop over to Ibiza (another of the Spanish Balearic Islands) for another event while I am in Europe.  I will be sailing on HYPERION which is a 130ft Frers design that I really enjoy racing with.  It is the first design that the father/son team of German and Manny Frers collaborated on, and they did a really nice job of building a cruising yacht, with a performance DNA, making it quite enjoyable to race.  And on top of this, a great owner, captain, and team make for good racing no matter the result.  

Peter

L-R: Ranger, Topaz, Velsheda, Svea; start of race 5

Hello 2022!

And let’s hope this new year allows us all to continue resuming more of our sport, travel, and normal living.

My final event of 2021 was the Les Voiles de St. Tropez on TOPAZ. It was one month after the Rolex Maxi, and another chance to go up against our rivals on the J Velsheda. Our team did an incredible job of identifying issues we had in the previous regatta and making improvements. We sailed a solid regatta, in everything from light to scary winds, and beat Velsheda in every race and also won first in our Class. So a fantastic way to end the year and a season of racing.

Now looking ahead at 2022, my first event will be here in the Caribbean onboard the Superyacht Hyperion at the St. Barths Bucket. This is one totally unique event, combining luxury and glamor on the best administered island in the Caribbean, with the incredible task of trying to race a 50meter yacht around a bunch of unmarked rocks and amongst 25 other difficult-to-maneuver yachts trying to do the same thing. As fun as this event can be, it has also been some of the scariest racing I have ever done!

Next on my latest calendar is a summer of racing in the Mediterranean on the J Class Topaz. This year marks the return of two more J’s back to the racing fleet, Hanuman and Ranger, so we could see up to four of the mighty J’s dueling at a few regattas in Europe. I regard the J’s, with their 30 crew and 43m length, as one of the most difficult boats in the world to sail, and that challenge and the reward is what makes it one of my all-time favorite boats to sail. In a world where everything is going faster, it is incredibly satisfying to race these beautiful yachts.

Wishing everyone a healthy and enjoyable year ahead, peter

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

Just finished racing the 2021 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup (better known as the Rolex Maxi Worlds) in Porto Cervo, Sardinia. This was the first event that I’ve sailed since the Covid shut-down in March 2020, and it was really wonderful to get sailing again. Just as great was to be back together with my team on Topaz and see all my fellow sailors from around the world. This also counts as one of the most wonderful places in the world to sail, so a perfect place to resume racing.

I was racing on the J Class yacht TOPAZ in the Super Maxi division. Our chief rival was the other J VELSHEDA, and we had a fantastic time dueling with them over 4 days of racing. We still consider them the fastest J Class yacht afloat, so we could not have a greater challenge than pushing ourselves to beat them. In the end we sailed a really good regatta, but not a perfect one, which was needed to beat them, and so ended up finishing a very close 2nd.

We now have a couple weeks before our next event in St. Tropez, France where we will have another chance to go head to head against our friendly rivals on VELSHEDA.

August 3, 2021

Finally. Hopefully! After a year+ of waiting and wondering, it now looks like my international racing will resume this summer in Europe. I have opted to focus on just my primary racing program for this short season, which is the J Class TOPAZ that i have been sailing with for almost 5 years now. We will have a training session in Palma in late August and then compete in two of the biggest and best events in Europe- the Rolex Maxi Cup in Sardinia and Voiles de St. Tropez in France.

We are really looking forward to getting back out there with our team and trying to resume where we left off in the performance development of this ultra complicated and wonderful racing yacht. Hopefully the world will continue to recover and we can return to a full racing schedule for 2022.

Here’s wishing all of us a healthy and happy rest of the year!

May 2020 Report

Well so much for that plan!

The year started out well, but that all came to a crashing halt on March 13.  

My year started in Cape Town South Africa in January with a training session on the TP52 Phoenix.  I had signed on with this two-boat program to do a training session and then the first two events of the 52 Super Series in February and March.  It is a great program, led by Hasso Platner of SAP driving one boat and his daughter Tina driving the other.  A great team, mostly South Africans, but also plenty of good veterans from around the world.  I was tactician onboard, but getting plenty of good help from our strategist Andy Horton, main trimmer Paul Wilcox, and several others. 

The first event went well.  We opened up with a 1-3-1, which surprised many people, including ourselves!  It was a challenging place to sail, with one course very close to shore, and some serious local effects.  The wind was also highly unpredictable and went through the full range from 0 to 30knots.  We sailed well, had our fair share of lucky breaks and bad luck, and a few breakdowns that cost us points.  But in the end we sailed smart, avoided big mistakes, and managed 2nd place.  We were very happy with this in what is arguably the hottest grand prix class in the world.  Capetown is also one of the cooler places on the planet to visit, with whales, amazing sea & bird life, so that made it all quite special.

There was a two week gap until the second event in Cape Town, and fitting perfectly between these 52 events were my next regattas in the Caribbean on the J Class Topaz.  After a long flight from Cape Town via England to Antigua, we had several good days of crew training and confirming sails and systems before racing started.  

First up was the Antigua Super Yacht Challenge and then the St. Barths Bucket.  This was going to be a big year for the J Class as we rolled out a new handicap system, several J’s that had taken a year off were returning to the circuit, and everyone was then heading down to New Zealand for our J Worlds just preceding the Americas Cup.

As we were lining up for the start of Race #1, well positioned on starboard with 1:30 to go, another J approaching on port tack crashed into us.  It was a horrific incident, with serious damage to both boats, and two of our crew injured.  These yachts are 135 feet long, 175 tons+, with 30+ crew onboard.  Any crash is bad, but with the magnitude of these yachts, it was a particularly sad and scary day.  Luckily neither rig came down, and no one was killed.  The other boat was disqualified, but we were out for the event with too much damage- broken boom, mainsheet, runners, backstay, runner winch, etc.

Then two days later the world started to go into lock-down, so the racing schedule would have been interrupted anyway.   We have since shipped Topaz back to the yard in Holland and will now use this period to repair the damage.  Hopefully by the time we complete repairs in August, sporting events will resume and we might be able to compete in a regatta or two in Europe.

So what looked to be another exciting year of racing has turned into a time-out and re-set for our planet.  Personally I will focus on being extra healthy, and living safe and smart.  And hopefully people and societies will find the positive lessons from this and we will emerge on a better path in the end.

Hello 2020 !

Exciting times. The start of a new year, a new decade, and a new chapter in life.

My year starts with an exciting return to the 52 Super Series. This is the hottest class of sailboat racing currently in the world. I mention sailboats, because it is not flying, like so much of our sport is now doing with foils. I still love the challenge of harnessing the wind and water to sail as fast and smart as you possibly can. These 52 foot speed machines with 13 crew race in a tightly controlled class that rewards good design, crew work, speed, and smarts. I will be doing three events with my new team in Cape Town, South Africa, which also happens to be a really cool part of the world, with wild weather, and animals! We will do a training session in late January, and then 2 events in February and March. So an exciting new challenge to start my year, with a new team of great guys and girls.(https://www.52superseries.com)

I will also continue racing in the majestic J Class onboard TOPAZ. The class is now seeing a full revival as new and old teams return to class racing. The impetus for many is the exciting plan to travel and race in New Zealand along side of the Americas Cup in 2021. Our race circuit begins in Antigua in March, followed by the Bucket a week later in St. Barths. After this, all the boats will begin the journey to New Zealand, with most boats enjoying some stops along the way to explore the islands of the Pacific. The race series will then kick off in early 2021 with two events, followed by the J Class Worlds’, which end one day before the Americas Cup starts on March 6th. Pretty awesome! These 135ft majestic machines, designed in the 1930’s, upgraded with the latest technology and materials, and now raced by some of the best sailors around, are the most difficult, and rewarding, boats to sail. And it is really cool that the organizers of the next America’s Cup, which will be sailing new complex flying boats, have decided to showcase our class at their event. It will be an incredible display of just how far our sport has gone within the Americas Cup arena. For sailors and the public, it will be amazing to have such classic sailboats racing alongside possibly the biggest leap in design that the sport has ever made. (https://www.jclassyachts.com)

Also looming large on my schedule for 2020 are some further adventures on my Outremer 45 catamaran in the Med. I will launch her in Menorca in April after a winter haul out and some fresh bottom paint. Then a couple weeks later I will sail across to Cagliari, Sardinia and make that my base for the following year. And it just so happens that the first race of the America’s Cup World Series will be in Cagliari April 23-26. My, what a coincidence! ☺ After watching some wild racing, where the next generation of flying boats race head to head for the first time, I will cruise and explore Sardinia over the following months between races and trips back home to the Virgin Islands.

I also have some great new Partners to announce for 2020. First up is Pedro’s Boat. No seriously, that’s the name of this great team in Mahon, Menorca that is taking care of my cat. A great bunch of people, providing all the services and supplies a boat owner needs in Menorca. They have been an absolute joy to work with, and I will be proud to fly the Pedro’s Boat flag! ☺

My other new partner is CYOA Yacht Charters here in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. John Jacobs and his team provide the only full service chartering in the USVI, with a full fleet of cats and monohulls. The advantages of the USVI for chartering are direct flights, greater provisioning options, uncrowded anchorages, and an immediate start to your precious few days of cruising. CYOA has supported sailing in the VI for many years, and I am proud to support them now.

The year 2020 looms huge for us all, a blank sheet of paper. We only live once, so let’s all commit to making the most of every single day, and do our part to help make the world around us a better place along the way.

Stay up!