There’s a buzz in the air and it’s mixing with the salty spray of the sea to make a lot of sailors excited about a premier sailing event. The British Virgin Islands are geared up and ready for what may be one of the largest and most publicized regattas in the Caribbean this year. March 28 through April 3 marks the 40th Anniversary of the British Virgin Islands Spring Regatta (BVISR) and every effort has been made to make this event a not-to-be-missed sailing extravaganza.
Director of the BVISR Judy Petz says this year’s event will top anything they have held in years’ past. Petz has worked with a team of writers and photographers to produce a 48-page booklet on the history of the Regatta, a historical tribute with archival photos and interviews with some of the original participants. The booklet captures a unique vision of the history of racing in the Virgin Islands and will be available at the Regatta Village, at Nanny Cay Marina, throughout the event.
New this year is a ‘Classics’ division, which will allow some of the original Squibs, that raced in the first regatta in 1972, to compete again, some even with the original crew. Allison Knight, Co-director of the BVI Water Sports Centre, has been active in this effort. “We have rescued some of these original Squibs (one-design keel boats just under 20ft) and restored them and updated the rigging. We use them daily in the sailing programs we run,” says Knight. “This will allow some of the youth sailors from the Water Sports Centre to compete in a major regatta for the first time along with seasoned pros.”
Miles Southerland-Pilch Manager of Nanny Cay Marina, the presenting sponsor and host venue for the event, is equally excited but with a little trepidation. “There will be many more big boats this year, and that means mother-ships alongside them,” says Southerland-Pilch. “The deeper draft boats can only get in certain slips and many of the classic wood boats have wider beams, so it is really my three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle to solve,” he laughs.
One of the most prominent big boat entries is Virgin Limited Edition’s 105-foot catamaran Necker Belle, the largest yacht ever in terms of square footage to compete in the regatta. Entrepreneur and owner Richard Branson – a well-known adventurer and sports enthusiast – will be on board, as will sports media commentator and Olympic sailor and silver medalist Shirley Robertson, who will be bringing along a CNN crew to film the event for the program ‘Mainsail’. Necker Belle’s Captain, Richard Kellett, said his entire crew was thrilled to be racing for the first time.
What appears to make the BVISR a favored event on the racing circuit is the intimacy of the Regatta Village shore side, and this year lots of day and evening activities are planned. In 2004 Nanny Cay Marina, in an effort to facilitate larger boats, dredged the area offshore extending the breakwater and recycling the sand by creating almost an acre of beach. Instead of changing venues nightly, this meeting spot on the beach is a clear favorite with participants.
Evening entertainment headliners this year include music by Elvis White and Tortola’s own Quito and the Edge. After the Regatta Awards Ceremony, there will be fireworks followed by dancing with music by Bounce. All sailors and non-sailors alike are welcome to join in the festivities that will celebrate this historic 40-year Anniversary of the BVI Spring Regatta.
For the latest updates and the events calendar for the BVISR, visit: bvispringregatta.org
Jane Bakewell is a freelance writer from the US who has made her home in the BVI since 1994. She owned a day charter/snorkeling business in the islands for five years and has a passion and love for the sea and enjoys writing articles about water sports and marine ecology.