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BVI Spring Regatta Forty Years and Going Strong

There’s one thing you always have to admire about the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival, held this year March 29th to April 3rd, out of Nanny Cay Marina on Tortola. That is, there’s always something new. This year, for example, welcomed the inaugural two-day Gill BVI International Match Racing Championship in the run up to the Spring Regatta and a new Classics class to the regatta itself. Yet, on this ruby anniversary regatta, there was a keen sense of tradition too. This combination of innovation and tradition made for an extremely winning mix if the near-record 122 boat registration and a nightly packed regatta village was any indication.

Match Racing

Eight teams with skippers hailing from the Caribbean and U.S. mainland sailed ten flights of one-on-one match races in IC24s on the first day of the Gill BVI International Match Race. This was followed by a half-day of semifinals and finals that saw St. Thomas’ America’s Cup winning helmsman, Peter Holmberg, soundly win. This victory scored his team an invite to the Chicago Match Racing Center’s Grade Two event this August.

“Match racing added another element to the BVI Spring Regatta,” says Holmberg. “I look forward to seeing more.”

Holmberg didn’t just walk away with the prize.
“Racing was fairly close,” says Sandy Hayes, three-time Rolex Women’s Match Racing champion and Massachusetts-based sailor, who skipped with a crew of novice lady match racers from St. Thomas. “Three teams were tied for second place after the first day.”

One team that gave Holmberg a run for his money was skippered by St. Thomas’ William Bailey, who
had an all-star crew that included both Thomas and Ian Barrows.

“I’ve match raced with Peter before, so I know what he would try at the start,” says Bailey, whose team finished second.

Ultimately, says the BVI’s Mark Plaxton, who trimmed spinnaker and jib for Holmberg, “the theme of this event was the chance to learn from the best and become proficient at match racing. My hat’s off to Gill for sponsoring the event and making it a Grade 3, which didn’t attract the pros, but gave us all a chance to learn. I learned more in two days of match racing than double that amount of time fleet racing. It’s intense.”

Classics & Cutting Edge Yachts
Classic yachts – full keeled, of heavy to moderate displacement, built of wood or steel and of traditional rig – were given their own class at the regatta this year. Four yachts entered.

“We lobbied for our own class for a long time,” says St. Croix’s Stan Joines, who helmed his 1965-built Alberg 35 Windflower, which doubles as his home and is crewed by high school students. “Many regattas have done away with us. But, there are many of us that like to really cruise and sail heavy rather than papier-mâché boats.”

Windflower won the class in a tie-breaker with the BVI’s Todd Patterson’s Veritas by having more first place finishes.

“We’ve done Antigua Classics, but it was nice to race in our home waters,” says Patterson, who skippered Veritas, a 1962-built 55-foot Abeking and Rasmussen ketch.

This year’s regatta also saw several swift racing yachts, including two sleek Swans.

Newport, Rhode Island’s Phillip Lotz brought his Swan 42 Arethusa, down to race in St. Thomas’ International Rolex Regatta, the Sailing Festival and BVI Spring Regatta. “The attraction is ten days of sailing and the back-to-back racing,” says Lotz, who finished second in class to the Grand Soleil 52 Antilope, on which Volvo Ocean Race veteran, Bouwe Bekking, was calling tactics.

Cameron McColl, one of the Nanny Cay Marina owners, hopes to see more Swans in the future. Plans call for doubling capacity with the addition of 220 slips with a depth of 14 feet by May 2013. “We already host the Oyster Rendezvous. We’ll be able to host the Swan Rendezvous with the new addition to the slips and depth at the slips,” says McColl.

Forty Years Ago

What did the BVI look like forty years ago?

“Deserted,” says Peter Haycraft, the only sailor to compete all 40 years and serve as the event’s chairman for the first 25. “There were less houses, less cars, less boats. We only had 25 boats back then, and we thought that was a big event. Squibs were one of our first one-design classes.”

Destination racing was big for the regatta’s first decade, says the BVI’s Dr. Robin Tattersall, who raced in many regattas but couldn’t this year due a broken mast on his Modified 30 Square Meter, Diva. “We’d race over to Peter Island or up to Virgin Gorda and have parties each night at the different locations. It was a lot of fun, but not something you could easily do now.”

For full results, visit: http://www.bvispringregatta.org/

Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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