It wasn’t the size of the boat, but the luck of the draw that determined the winner of the fourth annual USVI Stars & Stripes Poker Run, held July 2 and hosted out of IGY’s Yacht Haven Grande, on St. Thomas. In fact, it was one of the smallest of the entrants, a 16-foot Boston Whaler with a St. Thomas-based team creatively named Ice Mocha Fatty that won with a full house.
“I never had entered this event, but had heard about it and had always wanted to do the Poker Run in the BVI but never got a chance to,” says Andrea Tromben, owner of the Whaler and captain of the team Ice Mocha Fatty, which also included Chloe Rosey, Kayla Halliday and Jonathan Turbe. “I’ve done other events over the years like raced on one of the class winning boats at the St. Thomas International Regatta, participated in the HIHO-BVI Windsurfing competition in the BVI and fished in the Bastille Day Kingfish Tournament here in St. Thomas. The Poker Run was a cool, different experience that really rounded out my marine lifestyle.”
The 40-boat fleet, up from 14 boats when the event started in 2014, welcomed some 400 powerboaters from the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. The fleet made five stops: Pizza Pi, a floating pizza parlor in Christmas Cove off Great St. James Island, Cruz Bay, St. John, which was amid its Carnival celebrations; then rounding St. Thomas counterclockwise with stops at Coki Point Beach; Brewer’s Bay Beach and Limetree Bay Beach, before ending at Yacht Haven Grande. At each stop, teams on participating boats picked one card each.
“We had two threes and two sevens going into that last stop and focused all of our mental energy on wishing for another three or seven. Luckily, Jonathan’s draw was a three. Just as exciting as our hand was being on a small boat rafted up to much larger gorgeous Cigarette boats worth several thousand dollars. We were all together and it was fun to be part of the group,” says Tromben.
Team Ice Mocha Fatty won the Top Prize of $4000, followed by the BVI’s Team Gorilla on a 40ft Skater Cat in second with $2000, and Maryanne Browne on a 350 Marlin Center Console in third with $1000. Aaron Roach won the Best Restored Boat prize of $500.
This was the first year that the USVI Stars & Stripes Poker Run was part of the Caribbean Triple Crown Poker Run, which includes the BVI’s Leverick Bay Poker Run and St. Maarten Poker Run. Organizer Guilderoy Sprauve says the jury is still out on the impact to the USVI event as the Triple Crown brand concept is in its infancy. However, Sprauve says in 2018 the USVI event will see new boats in the fleet, more winner’s categories and the addition of a teen/young adult poker run team.
“Every year the responses received from our participants touch us,” says Sprauve. “This year our third-place winner told me that ‘doing the poker run was on my bucket list’. Wow! For the Stars & Stripes Poker Run, this is what it’s all about; building a strong marine community and creating experiences that will last for a lifetime.”
The USVI Stars & Stripes Poker Run benefits the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School’s Marine Vocational Program.
For more info, visit: pokerrunusvi.com
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.