The earth shook, the lightning flashed, the thunder roared – it must be time for the annual Virgin’s Cup race to the Willy T. It seemed only appropriate on Saturday, October 11 that the Racing Class was won by a boat exhumed from the grave and bedecked with dancing skeletons. Becky Paull-Rowlette steered a Willy-T logo’d Olson 30 between rainsqualls and past the opposition to win line honours and on corrected time, while in Cruising Class Susan Demers teamed up with Ulla Gotfredsen aboard the Hughes 38 Second Nature to defeat a varied field.
The race is sponsored every year by the William Thornton floating bar/restaurant in honour of the Territory’s patron saint, Saint Ursula, who according to legend perished with 11,000 virginal handmaidens at the hands of the Huns at the siege of Cologne in the 4th Century. It is a requirement that each boat be captained by a woman.
The event traditionally marks the beginning of sailing season in the islands, and is often accompanied by rainy squally weather. It lived up to its reputation as a thunderstorm rumbled past prior to the start and sucked out all the wind, necessitating a brief postponement by Royal BVI Yacht Club Race Officer Dick Schoonover and his team aboard the committee boat, kindly donated by King Charters. The wind rapidly filled back in, building to a stiff 20 knot plus southeasterly and Schoonover wasted no time in sending the fleet on their way.
The start of the cruising class saw some confusion with a number of new entrants unused to racing, but Demers & Gotfredsen got away cleanly as did Mary Stoof at the helm of the Cal 40 Rascal. Five minutes later the racing fleet started, with Jules Deakin aboard the IC 24 Latitude 19 and Liza Appleby/Jennifer Deacon at the helm of the First 10R Luxury Girl taking the pin end on port tack crossing the fleet. Both fleets raced to Dead Chest and separated, with the cruisers taking a more direct route along Peter Island to Pelican and the finish while the racers set off on a long spinnaker reach back towards Sea Cow’s Bay before being able to turn for their destination.
Luxury Girl led the racing fleet to Dead Chest, with the Willy T race boat (Becky Paull-Rowlette) hot on her heels. Paull-Rowlette was able to steer a closer line around the island and caught the wind at the edge of a passing squall to build an insurmountable lead on the next leg, pushing Luxury Girl back to second place. Pam Nolan at the helm of the J33 Boomerang gamely chased but were unable to recover from a flawed start to catch the leaders. In the cruising class Jacqueline Weeks aboard a Moorings Leopard 45 Cat showed great speed to take line honours but dropped to third after the handicaps were applied, with Second Nature claiming the win followed by Rascal.
At the prizegiving aboard the William Thornton, proprietor Ewan Anderson handed out Goslings Black Seal rum to the winners and noted that it had been the best attended Yacht Club race of 2008. Dr. Robin Tattersall made a special presentation to Pam Edwards, whose husband Anthony had recently passed away and who was racing for the first time since both had lost their boats in Hurricane Hugo.
Race report submitted by Guy Eldridge