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Slow Start but a Hot Finish for Day One of the BVI Spring Regatta

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Although no complaints were heard, it was hard to be excited about the day’s weather conditions early on.  It was cloudy, rained threatened and it appeared as though what little wind there was might be sucked up by the clouds.  Oh ye of little faith.  Although the clouds hung over all morning, there was wind from the north ranging from a low of 5 to a high of about 20 and later in the day, the sun came shining brightly over the 103 boat fleet on the first day of racing the 2010 BVI Spring Regatta.

On each of the three racecourses, there was a short postponement before the first race to remember Guy Eldridge, owner of Luxury Girl, who died last weekend in a tragic accident.  Some of his crew, Liza Appleby, Phil Prevo, Brian Edmond and Guy Phoenix, explained that this weekend they have invited all the past crew members to race on the Beneteau 10R in Guy’s honour. For this regatta, eleven or twelve different people will sail on the boat although through the years there have been many other crewmembers.  Brian explained, ”Some have moved away but a lot of the crew that he trained are now on other boats and sailing against us.  It is great and is a testimony to how generous he was in training people.”  Phil went on to say, “I guess we decided that it was a fitting memorial to him and his dedication to the sport of sailing,” Liza added, “And he would have wanted us to race; he would not have wanted us to just sit and watch.”

Only on the SOL Racing Course was there any rain of consequence and the fleet started the day soaking wet.  By the time the A class left the gates for the first race, the rain quit and before long, everyone and everything dried out.  In the two races today, Tom Hill’s Titan XV and Richard Oland’s Vela Veloce swapped spots scoring both a first and a second.  At one point during the second race, Vela Veloce was the only boat that managed to get their kite up on one of the reaches and as described by Bob Phillips who was driving a photo boat at the time, “They were cooking.  We were following them in our new power cat, Innovation, and they were doing 18.”

White Heat, owned by Michael Williamson, is finally showing her stuff.  With unremarkable finishes in the BVI Sailing Festival, some of us could not help and wonder what all the hype was about.  After today’s racing it is apparent.  In Racing B, after two races, the IRC champion hold’s the top spot with a first and second place finish, two points ahead of Oystercatcher XXVI.

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Michael Williamson, who divides his time between England and New England, has sailed the BVI Spring Regatta for the past two years on a J/105. Last October, Williamson took delivery of his new Summit 40, White Heat. He raced her in the IRC East Coast Series and Key West Race Week, and then traveled to the Caribbean for the International Rolex Regatta and now BVI Spring Regatta. Next up are Antigua Sailing Week and then a transatlantic to compete on the racing circuit in the UK and Mediterranean.  "We like the windward-leewards," says captain, Luke Cross, from the UK. "That’s the type of course the boat performs best in, rather than around the islands like we did in the second race today."

On the Norman course the day’s racing was off to a contentious start when a mark placement confused part of the fleet.  Although Frank Mavronicolas, sailing his Swan 57 Boonasta in Jib and Main A, remarked this morning that they would only be ‘cruising’, after finding the mark with less difficulty than the rest of the fleet and placing second in the first race, he told me, “I had this hot shot crew, what was I going to do with them.”

Placement of that same mark was much more of an issue for Performance Cruising and the jury decided it was in the class’ best interest to throw out that race and re-sail it.  As explained by Robin Tattersall, “We’re really sorry it was thrown out because it was our best race.  The mark was not exactly where it was drawn in the diagram but the wind was different.  By the time the next class came they had seen our class find the mark.  The bigger boats were the ones that suffered most because by they had gone further.”

Regardless of the shifty conditions and wear and tear on the mark layers as they moved the marks around on the one design course, the IC’s managed to get eight races in today.  The fleet is very tight at the top end with Faito Lugo’s Orion currently only three points ahead of Tortola’s Lime, owned by Fred Ruebeck. 

Seventeen-year-old BVI sailor, DonTae’ Hodge, is no stranger to sailing IC-24s. He’s crewed aboard the modified J/24-design since he was a pre-teen and last year took first as a skipper in the Premier’s Cup and third in the Nation’s Cup, two events raced out of Tortola. What was different about sailing today is that Hodge met his crew for the first time this morning on the dock before the races started.   "I started communicating more as the day went on and I got my confidence and we all worked in sync together," says Hodge, who raced aboard Latitude 18.

This year, members of the press were invited to sail in the IC-24 fleet. Two journalists, San Francisco’s Paige Brooks from Sailing Anarchy and Efrain Rivera from the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, were among Hodge’s crew.  "This is the first time I’ve seen the boat," says Brooks. "I don’t like the J/24, but I love the open cockpit in the IC24."  Rivera added, "It’s my first time sailing an IC-24. DonTae’ is an excellent driver, so it was fun. It’s real hands on. You’re in the whirlwind of everything. It’s a great idea to put the press on these boats."

Hacksaws, straps and gorilla tape were what St. Croix’s Joe San Martin, who skippers his Newick 23, Piglet, in the Multihull Class, used to repair the spinnaker bow sprit that broke in the day’s first race. "It was pretty windy," says San Martin. "We buried the bow several times and recovered."  The repair, however, was sturdy enough to hold through the second race. "We were close to Richard (Wooldridge on Team Nanny Cay) at the second mark and I know we would have beat him if we could have flown our spinnaker. He better watch out tomorrow."   Team Nanny Cay leads the class by three points over Piglet.

Windsurfers must be fickle.  Supposedly there were a number who were going to race but this morning when it looked like there would be very little air, only two came out to play.  Owen Waters, winner of two races sailed today, looked worn out after racing but was still quite enthusiastic. “It looked grim this morning but the conditions were great.  We had everything between 5 and 17 knots of breeze.”

There are winners on and off the racecourses today at BVI Spring Regatta.  Gerald Kuehler, sailing in Bareboat B, was chosen randomly from all pre-registered boats.  As he registered for both the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival, his prize is $450 (the registration fee) refunded in the form of drink tickets.  Although he and his crew are currently in seventh place in their division they just may win the party.

It’s party central at the BVI Spring Regatta Village tonight with music from CP4 and then out on the water tomorrow for the second day of the BVI Spring Regatta.

For complete results, go to http://bvisr.result.vg/

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So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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