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Sweethearts & More Race Off Tortola in Classic Regatta

The Sweethearts heads out of Nanny Cay
The Sweethearts heads out of Nanny Cay

Seeing schooner crews wrestle with multiple sails while balanced on long bowsprits is like being in a time warp back to yesteryear. Yet this, plus the excitement of watching multiple classes of classics and all-comers, makes the BVI’s West End Yacht Club’s (WEYC) Sweethearts of the Caribbean Regatta, a one-of-a-kind event. In total, a fleet of 48 yachts came out for the 35th running of this February 16th -17th regatta.

The first day a fleet of four schooners and a dozen single-handers made short work of the 14-mile course from Nanny Cay and out around Peter, Pelican and Flanagan Islands in winds gusting to 26 knots. John Hayes’ 35ft Edlecat, Wildfire, took first prize in the single-handed class in the pursuit-style race.

“The weather was perfect for my little catamaran,” says Hayes. “That, and the fact we fitted a new mainsail the week before, is what I’d credit with our win.”

On day two, 18 classics and wannabe classics, followed by a fleet of five double-handed Sweetheart Couples’ boats, raced the same course as the previous day. Although the breeze dropped to 15 to 18 knots, a wind shift just before the horn made for an interesting port-start situation. The 25 to 34ft classics managed to make a mix of port and starboard starts without incident. However, the 45 to 60-footers started ten minutes later and didn’t see the shift. There was one tense moment when the newly re-launched S&S 52, Mah Jong, rocketed starboard off the start on the committee boat end while Ginger, a Morgan 461 built in 1980, found itself in a slow port tack position. Disaster was averted when Mah Jong astutely tacked and Ginger dipped behind Mah Jong’s stern just in the nick of time. In the end, Ginger’s luck held when she won the class.

“It’s nice to race among other classics, rather than kissing the pack of racers goodbye after the start,” says Ginger’s owner, Bruce Fletcher. “Our biggest handicap is that we’re not allowed to spill the champagne during races. Yet, we have a captive crew with my wife and kids.”

Sweethearts’ was conceived as a unique schooner regatta. Along the way, as the schooners began to dwindle in number, other classes were added. Next year, says WEYC’s Mike Kirk, “We may add an Optimist race for youth sailing—it’s a Classic!”

The WEYC hosts a number of regattas annually. In addition to Sweethearts’, the Club hosts the six-event Gosling’s Regatta Series which starts in May with Foxy’s Wooden & Classic Boat Race and concludes with the Dark’n Stormy Regatta in March. For information, Email: martin@sailsistership.com

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

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