Preparation and the luck of the draw proved the keys to success for Dwight Bryan and Terrance Phillips aboard their 38-foot cigarette boat, Unexpected. The duo and their six friends won the second annual USVI Stars & Stripes Poker Run, which took place in July out of IGY’s Yacht Haven Grand Marina, St. Thomas.
“We placed second last year and wanted to win it this year,” says Bryan, who worked hard to prepare his boat to prevent the chance of any breakdowns on this year’s route, a circumnavigation of St. Thomas. “We played eight hands for all the people on the boat and it was the king-high straight that gave us the win.”
A double seven-high straight led to a tie between Gunnar Watson, on his 25-foot Dusky, Blue Paradise, and Tony Coffelt’s self-built 24-footer, Procrastination. A final single card draw, high card wins, gave Watson second to Coffelt’s third.
“This is our first time and what we really liked was the camaraderie,” says Blue Paradise’s Watson, whose team members included wife Leah and friend Gena McHenry. “For example, we were going from Coki to Magens and the water was rough around Mermaid’s Chair. We saw a boat ahead of us veer off. We had a good GPS fix, ran through the cut and everyone behind us followed safely. It was great fun.”
Coffelt, who competes annually in the neighboring BVI’s Leverick Bay Poker Run, praised the organization as well as the friendship of the other competitors. “We were the first ones to arrive in Magens Bay and we all rafted up and hung out as everyone arrived.”
This year’s USVI Stars & Stripes Poker Run was nothing short of a roaring success. Thirty boats played the game, double the number of last year, and many more boaters casually joined in the fun along the way. Entries came from the USVI, BVI and Puerto Rico.
“People are now aware of what a Poker Run is, families are experiencing the ocean together and we are building a strong marine power boating community,” says organizer Guilderoy Sprauve.
Sprauve and his team have big plans for 2016. These include an aggressive marketing campaign that promotes the event as well as the USVI’s marine-friendly atmosphere, computerized scoring and larger cash prizes. Next year will also see the launch of the Triple Crown Poker Run Series.
The idea is to package the three Poker Runs in the Virgin Islands under one umbrella. That’s the Leverick Bay Poker Run, Stars and Stripes and the St Croix Poker Run, currently in the organizing phase.
“Each would keep its brand identity and uniqueness but the product will be packaged and marketed as a series,” says Sprauve. “This concept poses to a worldwide market that we are unified and serious about attracting the major offshore boating organizations as well as international corporate sponsors.” He adds, “The year 2016 is going to be an awesome year for powerboating in the Virgin Islands.”
For more information, visit: www.usvipokerrun.com
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.