The British Virgin Islands Dinghy Championships, sponsored this year by Highland Spring Natural Mineral Water, has grown over the last six years into an event that attracts up-and-coming Optimist juniors as well as adults who enjoy an athletic weekend on a dinghy. Yet it the end, it was the juniors who ruled on the scoreboard.
“This was the largest BVI dinghy champs to date,” says organizer Chris Watters. “Everyone worked very hard to make sure that everything went smoothly.”
Fifty-nine sailors ranging in age from eight to 59 and hailing from the BVI, USVI, and Florida competed in this two-day event raced May 12 and 13 out of the Royal BVI Yacht Club in Tortola. Classes included Laser Standard, Laser Radial, Laser 4.7, Wayfarers, Pico, and Optimist. There were two courses. Most of the fleets raced off Road Reef in the Sir Frances Drake Channel, while the beginning Green Fleet Optimists and the Picos competed in Road Town Harbour. Winds ranged from 10 to 12 knots throughout the weekend under sunny skies.
The BVI’s Alec Anderson won the Laser Radial and in Lasers overall. About his win, Anderson says, “First I knew I had to keep very consistent because there were no throw-outs. After I realized this, I got great starts as it was a pretty small course and starts are important in a small course. I have been training hard and managed to get all bullets, a second and a fifth in the 11 races we raced."
St. Croix’s Morgan Bryan took second in Radials, while St. Thomas’ Rian Bareuther won third in class. Laser and Laser Radial sailors raced on the same course, with the same start, but were scored separately.
The BVI’s James Woods led Laser Standards and placed second overall to Anderson. Meanwhile, the BVI’s Andrew Waters, who is best known in bigger boat regattas for being at the helm of his IC24, MIO Roaming, took second to Woods in Laser Standard. The BVI’s Jamie Bibby, an ex-KATS (Kids And The Sea) and current part-time RBVIYC instructor, finished third in Standards.
There was only one sailor in Laser 4.7s, St. Thomas’ Joyce McKenzie. Yet, McKenzie sailed every race all weekend long, even though she had won the class before she started. McKenzie also enjoyed a nice Mother’s Day with son, Scott who placed 5th out of a competitive 17 in the Green Fleet Optimists.
Second to Laser 4.7’s, the Wayfarer was the smallest class with two competitors. The Wayfarer is a 2-man, 16-foot-long dinghy. Guy Eldridge, who winningly skippers his Melges 24, Mistress Quickly, in big boat events, won the class, with the BVI’s Alison Knights Bramble second.
The Pico class saw a rivalry between BVI sisters Holly and Kitty Hasted, with Holly handily triumphing over her sister. The BVI’s Jasmin Boni-Ball took third. The Pico is a one or two man, nearly 12-foot long dinghy.
The Optimist dinghy class proved one of the largest and one of the most exciting to watch, with all five of the USVI Optimist World’s Team members competing. St. Thomas’ Ian Barrows won the Overall in the advanced classes, coming back from a third place finish on the first day.
Barrows explains, “It’s all about boat speed. That, and getting a good start.”
St. Croix’s Billy Gibbons was online to win the Optimist overall until a protest in race seven by team member, Nikki Barnes, prevailed and Gibbons had to accept a 20th as score in that race. Gibbons did take third in the Optimist Red Fleet (13- to 15-year-olds), while Barnes was second, and St. John sailor, Alex Coyle, took first. Barrows won the Optimist Blue Fleet (11- to 13-year-olds), while St. Thomas’ Addison Hackstaff took first in the Optimist White Fleet (10 and under).
Watters was heartened to see such large participation from beginners. “The large ‘feeder’ group in the Optimist Green Fleet will go on to help develop the class, as well as later feed into the Laser and Laser Radial classes. The talent in the Green Fleet grows every regatta.”
This event was the BVI’s Erin Anderson first major regatta – and she won the Optimist Green Fleet. Anderson, who is Alec’s sister, explains, "I liked sailing in this regatta because of our new boats. They go really fast. I got great starts and was always in the right place. It was fun being on the water with lots of kids and I made new friends."
Next year, says Watters, “We look forward to seeing more of the islands in the area send teams. Our goal is to get 100-plus sailors to compete.”