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Foxy Callwood and the Future of His Wooden Boat Regatta

The yacht Buxom with her traditional tan sails and awesome figurehead

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, a woeful Juliet bemoans Romeo’s name, referencing the famous feud between the two lovers’ families. Waxing poetic over the insignificance of the names that keep the star-crossed lovers apart, Juliet insists that “a rose by any other name would smell so sweet, so Romeo would were he not Romeo called.”

Fast-forward to 2017 and Foxy Callwood, the BVI’s legendary barefoot bar patron, missed the memo from Juliet.

Earlier this year, organizers of Foxy’s namesake: Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta, lamented the lack of participation by local wooden boats in the long-standing event now in its 43rd year. A once thriving regatta with about 80 entrants, participation has dwindled in recent years. Since the presence of wooden boats in the Virgin Islands has almost disappeared this is not entirely surprising. Wooden boats, it seems, are a thing of the past.

In recent years, the race’s organizers—the Loyal West End Yacht club, Foxy’s Bar and the Jost Van Dykes Preservation Society—have opened up participation in the regatta to include all boats. Whether old or new, classic or modern, all boats are welcome to compete.  Despite broadening participation, the event has suffered an identity crisis, as many of those with modern boats hardly give the event a thought. In an effort to overcome this hurdle, event organizers worked to change the name of the event.

And then Foxy Callwood protested.

A bemused Foxy quipped to the race committee, “As long as there is one wooden boat to sail, the name stays the same. The name was, is and always will be “Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta.”

Over from Coral Bay, St. John and giving their all at Foxy’s
Over from Coral Bay, St. John and giving their all at Foxy’s

Foxy Callwood is one of the great icons of the Caribbean sailing world, and is often credited with launching the BVI yachting tourism industry, opening up the first bar to cater specifically to visiting yachtsman.  His now world famous Foxy’s Tamarind Bar has occupied the same corner of the beach in Jost Van Dyke, where he has been serving food and strong rum drinks to sailors and visitors since 1968. In the early 1970s, he even hopped onboard a wooden schooner and sailed across the Atlantic to Gibraltar and met feisty Australian Tessa, to whom he is still married today.

During the early years of his business, Foxy found great friendship and camaraderie with the Caribbean’s wooden boat enthusiasts. Even by the early 1970s, he saw that maritime traditions were quickly fading and, in 1974, he created Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta in an effort to save as much as he could.

Tortola sloops
Tortola sloops

Going into the millennium, Foxy also spearheaded the formation of the Jost Van Dykes Preservation Society, providing space and support to build a tradition-inspired wooden sailing vessel to keep maritime heritage alive, and ensure that there is always at least one wooden boat on Jost Van Dyke.

Although small, Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta draws a spirited crowd from the BVI, US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Like Foxy and Jost Van Dyke, the event is fun and casual. Seventeen boats participated in the 2017 regatta, however, the five wooden boats were still the stars of the event. The bar also threw a great after party, rolling drink prices back to 1974 and charging just $1.

Approaching the finish and time for rum and cold beer
Approaching the finish and time for rum and cold beer

So the name stays the same. For Foxy, resisting the name change is less about resisting the modern and more about continuing on with the spirit of the yachting community that helped him to build a successful family and business, and driving home the message that everyone is always welcome at Foxy’s.

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