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Caribbean’s Best Raced at BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival

Guiding the spinnaker down the hatch for a rapid repack. Photo by Dean Barnes
Guiding the spinnaker down the hatch for a rapid repack. Photo by Dean Barnes

Round-the-buoy and round-the-islands, long races and short, the 41st BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival offered something for everyone and solidified its reputation as one of the Caribbean regattas with the best racing. That’s no mean feat considering that this year’s three-day main event BVI Spring Regatta (BVISR) boasted 90 yachts in 12 classes. Yachts ranged in size from IC24s to an 80ft Maxi, monohulls and multihulls, plus racing, cruising and bareboat classes.

“The BVI Spring Regatta was even more important to us this year because two other regattas we always race in were canceled,” says St. Thomas’ Paul Davis, who drives his J/27, Magnificent 7, referring to the cancellation of both the St. Croix International Regatta and Puerto Rico Heineken Regatta. “But I’ll tell you, to bullet in a 13-boat class was pretty spectacular. We did that on the second day in spite of blowing our number one chute to shreds on the downwind and having to do a 360 because of a near collision with Otra Kosa. In spite of that, we won by 50 seconds in a four-hour race. We like windward-leewards, but course racing is awesome”

The mix of yacht makes and models competing this year meant that some favored windward-leeward courses while others excelled in courses with lots of reaching legs. It’s a problem the race committee handled astutely by offering both a combination as well as several races. In fact, the racing classes finished between seven and nine races for the regatta – and there were 14 run for the one-design IC-24 Class.

“We sailed six windward-leeward races the first day,” says St. Maarten’s Frits Bus, class winner on Coors Light. “While I prefer windward-leewards, we had a lot of fun course racing to the Willy T on the second day. It’s a tradition in the class that I hope continues.”

St. Croix’s Stan Joines, sharing driving duties with Tony Sanpere at the helm of his J/35, Cayennita Grande, also enjoyed the round-the-islands type of racing. “It’s great to sail by the bluffs, play the headwinds, slide off the swell and feel the spray in your face,” says Joines. “Nothing stays the same in course racing because of how the wind and currents bend around the islands. It takes a lot of team work to win and for my students who were crewing, it teaches meteorology, oceanography, geography, and, because we won, what the taste of success feels like!”

Those helming the sleek racing machines as well as the bareboats reveled in the inter-island racing. Trinidad’s Peter Peake, helming his Reichel Pugh 37, Slippery, says “the race over to Sandy Cay on the second day was spectacular.” Meanwhile, fellow Trinidadian sailor, Peter Bailee, who left his Henderson 35, Enzyme, at home and jumped aboard a Moorings 515 bareboat, dubbed Sexy and We Know It, with friends, also had a blast racing around the islands. “It was certainly a lot simpler for me as the tactician,” says Bailee. “That meant I could sit on the rail and enjoy.”

Perhaps the class that best showed the competitiveness of a mix of courses among hot racing teams was Spinnaker Racing Class 3. There was a battle royal to the finish between Puerto Rico’s Jaime Torres and his Beneteau First 40, Smile and Wave, and the USA’s Richard Wessland’s J/120, El Ocaso. On the last day of racing, conditions were lighter and shiftier than usual in the Sir Frances Drake Channel. The race committee ran three short windward-leeward races for Class 3, a set-up in which Smile and Wave reveled. “We finally had the kind of grand prix courses that our crew enjoys the most,” says Smile and Wave’s mainsheet trimmer, Alan Block. “With tons of action, highly tactical legs, and just as much thinking as there was doing, we couldn’t have asked for a better day.”

The final race also showed that the asymmetric spinnaker boats like the winning El Ocaso were plenty competitive on the conventional race courses, and not just the less tactical reaching-specific races. “All week the racing was tight between El Ocaso and us, and they caught us in the final race by reaching up to a nice wind line and riding it down to the finish,” says Smile and Wave’s Torres. “The bottom line, though, is that we’re in the beautiful British Virgin Islands, racing sailboats, in ideal conditions. That’s definitely better than a day at work.”

For full results, visit: www.bvispringregatta.com
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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