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Historic Yachts Comes Alive at the Sweethearts & Classic Yacht Regatta

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Classic Yachts Dance at the Sweethearts of the Caribbean and Classic Yacht Regatta
Classic Yachts Dance at the Sweethearts of the Caribbean and Classic Yacht Regatta

Wind back the clock

The seas looked like yesteryear when 44 classic yachts, sloops and schooners set sail in the 34th Sweethearts of the Caribbean and 30th Classic Yacht Regatta hosted by the BVI’s West End Yacht Club (WEYC) out of the Jolly Roger Inn, February 18th – 19th.

Winds barely blew 6 knots on the first day of the BVI’s second largest regatta. The race committee duly shortened the course for the schooners and single-handers to a lap around Sandy Cay. In the end, it was gorgeous Heron that won the schooner race and earned the title, Spirit of the Sweethearts, while it was Cayennita Grande that placed first among the single-handers.

“The tactic to winning the single-handed was to round Little Thatch close by and try to get through the cut at Steele Point without tacking,” says St. Croix’s Tony Sanpere, owner and skipper of the 1981-built J/36, Cayennita Grande. “I was the only boat that made it and that gave me the overall lead with still much of the race to go.”

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A small fleet of the BVI’s Squibs, a one-design keelboat first built in 1967, was raced by young crews from the BVI Watersports Center. After two races around Little Thatch, it was Joseph Wells, Delroy Gordon and Mareq Romney aboard Hope that took the title.

The next day, Mother Nature obliged with brisker winds around15 knots. Five different classes set sail on a course that rounded Pelican, Flanagan and Little Thatch Islands. Cayennita Grande’s Sanpere lost in the Classics 34 to 45ft feet class to the BVI’s Robin Tattersall aboard Diva, a 30 Square Meter, yet he says about this type of inter-island racing, “It was fun for us since I refuse to do windward/leeward races.”

In the Wannabe Class, Hotel California Too, a Santa Cruz 70, took the lead.

“Good crew, a good start and sailing conditions favorable to my boat,” is how Hotel California Too’s owner/skipper Steve Schmidt describes his win.

In a spotlight on tradition, all three working Tortola Sloops came out to race crewed by local students from the KATS and the Royal British Virgin Islands Yacht Club’s Youth Sailing program along with adult volunteers to guide them.

“They tend to hook anyone who sails on one,” says Geoffrey Brooks, curator of the Virgin Islands Maritime Museum, located at the Centre for Applied Marine Studies at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College. “They are very different from a deep keel boat. They rely on ballast stone for stability and it takes a special skill to tack them. You have to very carefully back the jib and hold it till you are well across before release. I have seen time after time experienced and successful hot yacht racing captains try to tack one of our sloops and end up stalling and sailing backwards. It can be very embarrassing! Once you’ve understood their characteristics they are fun to sail and surprisingly fast as well.”

It was Sam Morrel, who skippered Youth Instructor, a 25ft Tortola Sloop built in East End in 2000 by the late Osmond Davies that championed the class.

The broad mix of boats competing in this regatta begs the question, what is a Classic?

Mike Kirk, a WEYC officer and regatta organizer, explains: “The WEYC definition is ‘Any boat that’s design is 30 years or older’. If we limited the race to only boats that were literally over 30 years of age we would have a very poor turn out and it’s all about opening things up for maximum participation. If someone builds a new boat but uses a classic style of design, we would accept it. For example, Kate was built about four years ago to an old six- meter rule in St Kitts and has sailed with us twice. She comes all the way from St Kitts (no engine) to compete.”

Upcoming, the WEYC will once again run its Goslings Cup Series. The Series will consist of Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta and Classic Plastic (May), Firecracker Regatta (July), Gustave Wilmerding (December) and Dark and Stormy (March 2013).

For more information, contact Martin Van Houten: martin@sailsistership.com

Other Class Winners

Classics 25 to 34ft:

Zing – George Stuckert

Classics 45 to 60ft:

Castanet – John Ford


Latitude 18 – Giles Wood

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

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

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