El Ocaso rounds Salt Island with spinnaker flying. Photo by Todd VanSickle
El Ocaso rounds Salt Island with spinnaker flying. Photo by Todd VanSickle

British Virgin Islands Spring Regatta

The 44th annual BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival at Nanny Cay stayed true to form with varied sailing conditions, exciting nightlife and happy sailors.

The event attracted 78 boats, which raced three days in and around the Sir Francis Drake Channel.

Despite a smaller turnout, organizers deemed the regatta a success due to the high-caliber of sailors who competed.

“We may not have had quantity, but we did have quality sailors,” BVISR Director Judy Petz said.

Among the top competitors were Olympic and America’s Cup sailors, such as Peter Holmberg, Steve Benjamin and Marc Lagesse. According to the BVISR director, the top sailors helped result in less disputes.

“We only had two protests for the entire regatta,” Petz said.

On Friday, the regatta started out with rainy and blustery conditions. It wasn’t uncommon to see boats broaching and sails ripping. Among the carnage was Magnificent 7 in CSA Racing 3, which busted its mast and retired for the rest of the regatta.

However, conditions improved on Saturday and Sunday with sunny skies and winds ranging between 12-19 knots.

Just like the weather, the BVISR featured a wide spectrum of competitors ranging from professional to novice sailors. In CSA Performance Cruising One, Shine took second place with a very young crew, while Zafara in CSA Racing 3 competed with a very inexperienced crew.

Will Roome was one of five sailors on Zafara who are currently serving in The Royal Dragoon Guards, a British armored regiment that has seen action in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The sailors took part in the St. Thomas International Regatta prior to competing in the BVI. Throughout the sailing season, the boat’s owner Peter Schofield competes in as many regattas as he can in the region, while rotating out crews of servicemen who are on leave. Some of the crewmembers do not have any sailing experience, including the four who were sailing with Roome.

“I have been sailing since I was knee-high to a grasshopper,” Roome said. “So, when this option came up to sail in the Caribbean, I knew I could find some others who were interested — no matter how much sailing experience they had.”

Roome added that there are many similarities between sailing and the military.

“People are probably wondering why people in the army are sailing,” he said. “But the teamwork, the sense of humor and competitiveness is the stuff that works well in the army to build better soldiers. And it is a nice way to reward the guys by saying, ‘nice job guys, lets go have a couple weeks off in the Caribbean’. They work hard during the week, they deserve it.”

Zarafa finished in seventh place, a disappointing result for its crew.

“They have improved by leaps and bounds,” Roome said. “The fact that we are disappointed for not coming in the top three shows how much they have improved and enjoyed it.”

Overall, he said the regatta was a perfect introduction to sailing with great sailing conditions and an entertaining venue.

“Hopefully we will be back next year,” Roome said.

Oliver Rook was doing main trim on El Ocaso, which won the CSA Racing 2 Class. Although the boat is no stranger to the regatta, it had a new crew onboard who was chartering the boat. It was Rook’s first time competing at the BVISR.

“I have cruised the BVI a couple of times and enjoyed it,” Rook said. “I regard it as probably the best sailing area in the world that I have discovered so far. I really wanted to come back and target this regatta. I have enjoyed it. It has been fantastic.”

The London native and his girlfriend took a year off to ‘enjoy life’ by competing in the Caribbean racing season. Their next stop is Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta.

Back in the UK, Rook and his girlfriend sail in several regattas, but have been impressed with the Caribbean scene, especially the BVISR.

“The race committee is really organized and the shoreside entertainment has been great,” Rook said. “And the conditions have been fantastic.”

The regatta director said plans for the 45th BVISR are now under way, which will include “top music acts and fireworks.” On the racing side, the regatta has partnered with the St. Thomas International Regatta to host the VX One Caribbean Cup. At least 12 boats are scheduled to make the trip. The BVISR has helped arrange transportation and accommodations for the visiting boats.

For full results and more, visit: www.bvispringregatta.org 

 

Todd VanSickle is a journalist living and working in the Virgin Islands.

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