This year’s Painkiller Thriller in the British Virgin Islands featured more prize money, high-profile sailors and the same amount of rum and sun.
The 14-mile standup paddleboard race started at Trellis Bay, Beef Island and finished at White Bay, Jost Van Dyke on January 24.
The day before the race, Jimmy Spithill — the winning skipper of the 2013 America’s Cup — could be found surfing off the coast of Virgin Gorda.
“We stayed out until dark,” Spithill said. “It is so rare to get a wave to yourself.”
The sailor was encouraged to compete in the Painkiller Cup by Team Oracle crewmember and friend Shannon Falcone, of Antigua, who raced in the event two years ago.
“We got into standup paddling for training,” Falcone said.
After competing in several paddleboard races ‘out west’, it didn’t take much to convince his friend to come to the Caribbean, where the “conditions and vibes are good,” Falcone said.
“It took about two seconds to convince me,” Spithill said. “[Shannon Falcone] is always moaning and complaining about how cold the water is in San Francisco and how he has to put on a wet suit. He would tell me stories about a place where you could basically live in a pair of board shorts.”
It was Spithill’s second visit to the Caribbean. When he was about 15 years old he sailed in a match race in St. Thomas.
However, this trip was different.
A welcome party for the America’s Cup sailors was held two days before the race at the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda, where they took part in question and answer session. They later spoke at the St. Thomas Yacht Club after the Painkiller Cup, where they gave advice to youth sailors.
“We have been able to cruise around; do some surfing; a lot of kiting; and hang out with some mates,” Spithill said. “I really look forward to something like this so I can recharge. It is very physical, but it is so much fun. It is so much more relaxed.”
Spithill, Falcone and Paula Lenny, a professional standup paddler, took fourth place out of seven teams who competed in the Painkiller Cup.
First place went to Team Tired consisting of Lori Park, Noa Ginelli and Kody Kerbox, of Hawaii, who finished in 2h 30m 30s.
Members of the winning team are friends with 2013 SUP World Champion Kai Lenny, who was scheduled to attend, but changed his plans at the last minute.
“The whole trip started because Kai Lenny was going to come, but then we got the swell-of-a-lifetime in Maui, so he stayed and surfed Jaws instead,” Parker said.
However, the professional paddler’s absence didn’t hinder the team’s success, which also won $750 for reaching Guana Island first.
“It was the first race that I have done this year,” Kerbox said. “Being on the start line you get those butterflies — it feels pretty cool. I wanted to be the first one [to Guana Island]. It was only a half hour, so I sprinted there.”
Kerbox and his teammates compete in about 20 SUP races a year, including the World Tour. They plan to use their prize money to fund their next trip to Oahu where they will compete in their second race of the year.
The Painkiller Cup doled out more than $11,000 to the top five teams, with first place taking home $5,000.
Teams consisted of three paddlers with a minimum one female. Only one paddler from the team was in the water at a time, while the other two competitors followed the race aboard a chase boat. Paddlers rotated every 30 minutes.
“It was great to see such strong teams in the hunt,” organizer Andy Morrell said. “While the Hawaiians ran away with the event, it was so good to see a commanding second-place finish from Team BOGA featuring two Cruzans and a St. John racer.”
Six individual racers took part in the Mini-Painkiller Cup, a three-mile race that started at Sandy Cay and finished at White Bay, Jost Van Dyke. The start of that race got under way once the fleet of Painkiller Cup competitors reached Sandy Cay.
The day started under rainy conditions, but by the time all of the competitors reached the Soggy Dollar Bar on JVD the sun was out and most competitors were drinking Painkillers.
Next year, the organizer is considering a few changes and additions to the event, which could include kite boarding.
“We are always trying to build the event,” Morrell said. “We have a great concept and format and hope to grow the event to include more people and back into a yacht-based event and visiting multiple islands. SUP is a fast-growing sport, so running a good event like this is fun.”
- Team Tired
(Lori Park, Noa Ginelli & Kody Kerbox)
- Team Boga
(Bill Kraft, Isabelle Picard & Nat Ford)
- Caribbean Surf Company
(Colin Butler, Gail Vento & Eric Walker)
(Shannon Falcone, Jimmy Spithill & Paula Lenny)
- Team Riviera
(Helga Goebel, Brian Duff & Lee Donovan)
- No Name
(Terry Stevens, Adam Quandt & Adrianne Baird)
- BVI All-Stars
(Mark Cochran, Mike Hirst & Kim Takeuchi)
- Petra Offerman
- Sam Morrell
- Christine Thompson
- Johnnie Ward
- Liz Wheeler
- Tom Wheeler