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BVI Sailors Catching Up to USVI in IC-24 Class

Just off Nanny Cay on Tortola’s south coast, the hottest
competition in the 34th BVI Spring Regatta was waged between British and U.S.
Virgin Islands sailors in the highly competitive IC-24 class.

After Friday’s opening day, BVI boats occupied the top three
positions, led by Robbie and Mike Hirst’s entry Sea Hawk. Lurking in the
shadows—just three points behind Andrew Waters’ Conch-Querer, was St. Thomas’
John Holmberg, brother of Peter Holmberg, the U.S. Virgin Islands’ 1988 Olympic
Games silver medalist.

At the end of the second day, Holmberg split the top three
BVI positions, vaulted past Waters and pulled within 15 points of Robbie— the
last BVI sailor to compete in the Olympic Games in 1992 and 1996—setting up a
showdown on Sunday’s closing day.

Holmberg however, couldn’t overcome the Hirst’s on the final
day and finished three points ahead of Waters’ Conch-Querer—who got two firsts
on the final day—to make it a close 63-66. The Hirst’s won the division with 43
points and claimed the Chief Minister’s prize for the Best BVI Boat in the
competition.

Holmberg explained that the IC-24s have been in St. Thomas
for 3-years and in the BVI a year and a half. He said the learning curve was
steep in the beginning. “St. Thomas boats are fairly fast. The BVI, with a lot
less time in the boats have been working very hard to come to the same speed,”
Holmberg explained. “The Hirst’s are proving that they are there. Andrew
Waters, he was down in the pack last year and this year fighting for second and
third with me. This shows that the BVI has been working very hard at their
practice as well.”

Robbie said they aimed for consistency—being within the top
five in each race—which leads to a good performance overall as there were
several good competitors in the field. “We are always concerned about John
Holmberg because he’s got a lot of talent and he can always pull off things you
think he can’t pull off,” Robbie noted. “There were so many good sailors out
there, that different boats were winning on the final day. He fell back, but we
kept doing what we were doing all weekend—being in the top five and not taking
many risks, but being clean and consistent.”

The Hirst’s are on their game Holmberg said, nothing that
they won in St. Thomas in November, then came back and won St. Thomas’ Rolex
Regatta. “Last year I was fourth at Rolex and won this regatta,” Holmberg
recalled. “This year I was third in Rolex, so I came here ready to kick some
butt again, and my butt is sore,” he joked. “I got kicked.”

Robbie agreed that the BVI standard has risen noting that
last year, St. Thomas teams were beating up on the BVI. “This year, the BVI has
a lot of boats in the top five,” he pointed out, while explaining the difference
is that BVI sailors have been putting more time on the boats. “We sail every
week and get experience. The more they do it, the better they get—that’s the
key, sailing regularly.”

Waters, who sailed in the IC-24 class for the first time,
said BVI sailors do train hard. “Every Saturday we are out there
working—helping each other actually—and like Robbie said, the standard has
increased an awful lot and we are just glad to be mixing it up with everyone
else,” Waters said.

Holmberg said thing he liked about the class is that it’s
very tight. “If you make a mistake, you suffer right away if somebody makes a
mistake you gain right away. It’s very competitive,” he pointed out. “We had
four and sometimes six boats crossing the line. We did some of out best sailing
this regatta and we did some of our worst sailing this regatta too.”

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