Sailors from around the world come to Caribbean regattas for the superb sailing conditions, keen competition and top rate event management. They, along with family and friends, also race for the fun and rum-and-reggae beach parties. Throwing a party for thousands of people is a big job. It takes a year or more of planning, according to Judy Petz, director of the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival, who has capably handled this task for the past six years.
“We start planning immediately after the current regatta ends,” says Petz.
Nanny Cay Marina and Resort has a long-term contract with the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival to host the event. This, Petz says, “makes it easier to plan for expansion and changes at the venue. However, activities in the village do change each year to better suit the participants and make it more fun.”
The Village is a real focal point of the regatta. It’s the food, drink, entertainment and story-swapping hot spot.
“Planning the Village again is a yearlong process,” says Petz. “We have a Village Manger and coordinator on the committee who oversee all the areas of the village such as food, music, the bar—which is huge, tents, and many more details.”
As for food, Petz says, “We try very hard to have unique vendors and we offer the opportunity locally first. Each food vendor supplies a menu so we can assure having a variety of food for all the participants and guests. We plan so that if you never left the venue you could have something different to eat and drink every day.”
Choosing bands for the coming year is a committee discussion that starts at the conclusion of the prior year’s regatta. “If a band is a good draw and plays music the crowd enjoys, they will be asked to come back. We strive to create a mix of Caribbean/International music. Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to have some headliners that are really great. On occasion we will bring bands in from New York or other countries as well,” Petz says.
Many sailors race as fast on land as on sea to get a front row seat at the regatta’s annual Fashion show.
“We are fortunate to have a local company, HIHO, who specializes in swim, dive and beach attire,” says Petz. “They coordinate the models. We promote the event and provide the music.”
Running the Village and keeping everyone happy takes a small army of volunteers.
“Volunteers are critical to the success of the event,” Petz says. “We are very lucky that the community enjoys helping out, whether on the water for the race committee, which takes about 100 people per day, to those who help bar-tend. We try and make it a fun experience. My quote is always, ‘It can be hard work, but we’ll try to make sure you have a good time doing it.’ Plus, volunteers get free stuff like T-shirts, hats and what ever we can do to make them happy.”
Petz continues, “It takes about three to four months to find all the different groups of volunteers to help. Some are involved in advance of the event. Others coordinate the volunteers on the water, for the bar and for ticket sales. Still others help put up banners, run errands, answer phones, work on registration, set-up and break-down the village. The list is quite long and the Spring Regatta committee and myself personally have been very fortunate to have great support and help. After all, this is an international event and how it’s managed has to be perfect.”
Another source of support is the BVI Tourist Board.
“I’ve been working with the BVI Tourist Board for the last six years,” Petz says. “They have been an incredible support to the regatta. For example, they have helped us extend a marketing arm to all their international offices. The BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival is one of the largest events in the country. When we promote the regatta we are essentially promoting sailing in the BVIs. A lot of our participants come back to sail or vacation on land.”
Petz adds, “I think the most important thing for anyone attending the event to realize is that the majority of people who are helping are volunteers and to respect them for that. Otherwise, it’s to have a great time, enjoy the racing, enjoy all the activities of the Village and to support the regatta as much as possible. The regatta committee donates proceeds from the event to help advance sailing the BVIs. We support the Olympic committee, the local sailing club and the community at large who support all of services we need to run such a successful event.”
For information on 2009’s BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival March 30 to April 5: www.bvispringregatta.org.