The ability to offer something for everyone is what sets the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival—sailed March 26 to April 1 out of Tortola’s Nanny Cay Marina—apart from many other yachting events and attracts a wide range of sailors and boats. Witness a record 145 entries this year, from an ocean going 70-footer to a Laser dinghy. Continuous starts and courses that offered both buoy and round-the-island racing kept sailors captivated and competitive. This diversity also created a great platform for innovation, another hallmark of this regatta, seen this year in the form of on-the-water judging in the IC24 class.
From a winning first-timer to a winning Volvo Ocean Racer: Seventeen-year-old Trinidadian sailor, Ryan Rocke, hadn’t sailed anywhere else than his home waters until he, his friends, and coach flew to the BVI this year for Spring Regatta. His newbie status at international competition didn’t show. In fact, he rocked the Laser classes. “I got good starts, even though the wind would shift two or three times while we were in start sequence. Then I played the shifts. I played every single one of them to advantage,” he said. Indeed, he finished with four bullets out of 10 races, and scored a first overall – 24 points ahead of his second place competitor – out of the Laser Standards, Radials and 4.7s.
Meanwhile rum and reggae in the village was a long way away from freeze-dried foods and the drone of the ocean on your keel 24/7 for two to three weeks at a time. Even so, skipper Brad Jackson, aboard the 2005-06 Volvo Ocean winner, ABN AMRO One, said, “Anytime there’s a race, we always want to sail as well as we can. It was a lot of hard work, though. The boat has a lot of load and we had to be careful in the kind of heavy breeze we had this weekend. If it had been light, under 10 knots, we would have had to really worry about Titan XII.” (Puerto Rico’s Tom Hill, Sr.’s Reichel-Pugh 75).
Where have all the cats gone? Three beach cats. Two large multihulls. That was the sum total of two and three-hulled yachts competing. As for the beach cats, the usual Hobie 16 contingent from Puerto Rico didn’t materialize due to a conflict with another major event. Other beach cat sailors may have bailed out last minute to the high winds, rough seas, and presumed hour or more between races. But, that’s not what materialized in the BVI.
St. Croix’s Tom Ainger, who skippers his Inter 20, Caribbean Auto Mart, and won the class, says, “We really liked those rolling starts. Five races for the day, that’s what we like. I think if you had more racing like this, rather than to go out on the big boat course in the heavy chop and sit and wait an hour or more in between races, you’d get more beach cats back out sailing regularly. This regatta does the best job of getting off lots of races.”
The reason for dwindling numbers in the Large Multihull Class was less clear. “It was just Piglet and us this year,” said the BVI’s Richard Wooldridge, who skippered his Kelsall One Off 45, Triple Jack, against St. Croix’s Joe San Martin’s Newick 23. “And, there wasn’t much competition. We’d see Joe at the start and that was is. We gave him 11 minutes an hour on time handicap.”
Yet, on the really blustery final day, San Martin pulled a win over Wooldridge. “Now they know they can be beat. So, no more Mr. Nice Guy next year,” said San Martin.
On-the-water judging gets judged: Taking a cue from some of the well-established one design classes such as the Farr 40s and Mumm 30s, and using ISAF’s ‘Experimental Appendix Q’, regatta chair Bob Phillips instituted on-water umpiring this year for the very competitive one-design IC24 class.
Why? Too often in the past, boats would purposely violate the rules to improve their position, quickly knock off penalty turns and still end up ahead. Phillips said, “On-water umpires define the line you can’t cross on the water, not in a room well after the fact; you cross that line and the umpire either lets you exonerate with a penalty turn or, in the case of a serious breech of the rules, immediately disqualifies you from that race.”
How did the racers like this change? “It didn’t make a lot of difference for us,” said Robbie Hirst, who with brother Michael and their wives won the event in their Mio Broadband.
Puerto Rico’s Fraito Lugo, sailing Orion, agreed. “It was like someone was watching you. No big deal. We did hear five or six whistles at the windward mark. And one day, there was an incident at the windward mark and no judges in sight. So, the boat protesting eventually took down their flag.”
The problem of judging not being everywhere all the time was recognized by St. Thomas’ Chris Rosenberg, sailing second place finisher, Bambooshay. “It’s a good format for small fleets, for match racing where there are just two boats, but it’s not applicable to big fleets.”
St. Maarten’s David DeVries was one of the judges and did recognize this logistical problem. “We had three judge boats for a fleet of 17 IC24s. That’s not bad, considering in big fleets, like Melges 24 regattas, you might have three judge boats for 100 boat fleets. Sure, you’re going to miss a few calls. But the advantage is that judges make decisions right away and on what they see, not hours later in a protest room and relying on witnesses.”
Phillips says, “The recommendation by ISAF is for one umpire for every six boats, and we decided to have three teams of two.”
For regatta organizers thinking of implementing on-water judging, Phillips says, “The hardest part is finding suitable umpire boats as they need to be comfortable enough for a full day on the water, fast enough to outpace the boats and not create any more wake than necessary; ideally, 15-foot to 18-foot RIB’s with center consoles and at least a 50 hp engines.”
Will there be on-water judging for the ICs next year? “You bet,” says Phillips.
SPINNAKER RACING A
1. ABM AMRO ONE, Volvo Ocean 70, (8)
2. Titan XII, Reichel-Pugh 75, Tom Hill, Sr., Puerto Rico (16)
3. Noonmark VI, Swan 56, Geoffrey Mulchy, UK (28)
SPINNAKER RACING B
1. Devil 3, Melges 24, Chris Stanton, St. Croix, USVI (13)
2. Crash Test Dummies, Melges 32, Tim Kimpton, Trinidad (19)
3. Chippewa, Melges 32, Dave West, Wisconsin, USA (24)
SPINNAKER RACING C
1. J-Bird III, Olson 30, Doug Baker, California, USA (23.5)
2. El Ocaso, J/120, Rick Wesslund, USA (24)
3. Team Paul Mitchell, Beneteau First 40.7, Louisiana, USV (24.5)
SPINNAKER RACING D
1. J-Walker, J-27, Chris Thompson, St. Thomas, USVI (12.5)
2. The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, Kirby 25, John Foster, St. Thomas, USVI (21.5)
3. Magnificent 7, J-27, Paul Davis, St. Thomas, USVI (25)
1. Pipedream, Sirena 38, Peter Haycraft, BVI (17)
2. Umakua, J-105, Julio Reguero, Puerto Rico (22)
3. Abracadabra, J-105, Carlos Camacho, PR (23)
PERFORMANCE CRUISING A
1. Affinity, Swan 48, Jack Desmond, USA (8)
2. Advantage, Grand Soleil 50, Brian Bennett, USA (13)
3. Black Hole, Beneteau First 40.7, Patrick Kroll, UK (15)
PERFORMANCE CRUISING B
1. Three Harkoms, Modified Beneteau 445, Christopher Lloyd, Tortola, BVI (5)
2. Diva, Modified 30 Square Meter, Robin Tattersall, BVI (13)
3. Elmo, Grand Soleil 43, Robert Eggleton, USA (18)
JIB & MAIN
1. Mary Jane, Moorings 515, David Huester, UK (8)
2. Hotel California Too, Santa Cruz 70, Steve Schmidt, USA (11.5)
3. Second Nature, Hughes 38, Bill Bailey, BVI (11.5)
1. Triple Jack, Kelsall One Off, Richard Wooldridge, BVI (6)
2. Piglet, Newick, Joe San Martin, St. Croix, USVI (9)
1. Caribbean Auto Mart, Inter 20, Tom Ainger, St. Croix, USVI (6)
2. XO Bistro, Hobie 16, Tom Kozyn, St. Thomas, USVI (16)
3. TBD, Prindle 19, Davis Murray, St. Thomas, USVI (21)
1. MIO Broadband, Robbie Hirst, BVI (53)
2. Bambooshay, Chris Rosenberg, St. Thomas, USVI (57)
3. MIO Roaming, Andrew Waters, BVI (84)
1. Ryan Rocke, Trinidad (28)
2. Stewart Leighton, Trinidad (52)
3. Tyler Rice, St. Thomas, USVI (65)