The BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival celebrated its 45th anniversary at the end of March, and for the most part the event stayed true to itself with around island racing and late night entertainment on the beach all situated in one venue: Nanny Cay Resort and Marina.
However, organizers made new additions to celebrate the milestone anniversary.
One of those additions was on the one-design course. The VX One Class competed for the first time at the BVISR. They shared the same windward/leeward course as the IC24s. The fleet of 11 boats was shipped to the BVI in two containers. Once in the BVI, the fleet raced to St. Thomas to compete in the St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR), before returning to the BVISR. The two-regatta series was coined the, ‘Caribbean Cup’.
Hayden Bennett, the son of the VX One creator, raced in St. Thomas and helped out the fleet with any “break downs or repairs.”
“The St. Thomas regatta was a big breeze event,” Mr. Bennett said. “We didn’t expect that.”
After the STIR, the VX One boats were towed back to the BVI and the sailors had some down time to enjoy the BVI while waiting for the start of the BVISR.
“With a new event there are always challenges, but by the end of the regatta the vibe was really, really good. Everyone was happy with the event,” Mr. Bennett said. “Given the opportunity, I think people are going to want to come back again.”
Hayden’s mom, Rachel, said some of the biggest challenges were moving the boats around, but added that the sailors in the class had no complaints about the racing or the committee boat.
“Everyone had a fantastic time,” Ms. Bennett said.
On the Saturday of the BVISR, one of the annual traditions of the one-design course is breaking away from the normal windward/leeward course and racing to a floating bar — the Willy-T — in The Bight near Norman Island.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go, but I heard it was a blast and was told it was one of the best parts of the trip,” Mr. Bennett said.
Aside from the debauchery on land and aboard floating bars, the Caribbean racing conditions were also in stark contrast to what the VX One sailors are used to. The fleet does a lot of racing in the Midwest and Florida.
“A lot of these guys are not used to sailing in the big swells and seas,” Mr. Bennett said. “The Gulf coast is pretty protected and the lakes are flat. The water here is a lot warmer.”
Mr. Bennett said the fleet hopes to return to the BVI next year to continue the Caribbean Cup. However, he said the fleet is exploring ways of streamlining the logistics and making it more cost effective. He added that a few sailors chartered a catamaran for the week, which served as their accommodations and proved to be a good way to attend the regatta.
Instead of shipping the boats back to the United States, Mr. Bennett was hopeful that some would be sold in the BVI. Not only would this defray shipping costs, but it would help build a VX One fleet in the BVI. However, he said it might take a few more trips to the BVI to get the ‘locals’ more interested in the fleet.
“Talking with a lot of the locals, the biggest problem with starting a fleet down here is they are not allowed to race CSA if they don’t have life lines, they need to make sure they can race one-design,” Mr. Bennett said. “So, what we’ll do with further trips down here is market more the sale of the boats. They only need five to have a one-design start. Realistically, that is pretty easy to do.”
In the mid 1990s, the patriarch of the Bennett family, Brian, designed the Viper 640. It had its success, but it also had its limitations. For one, it was 21 feet long, which made it too big to fit in a container. So, he looked to the next design: the VX One.
“With the Viper, it was actually something he didn’t think about — making it easier to transport worldwide,” Ms. Bennett said. “That stunted its growth.”
So, when he designed the VX One Class he kept in mind the size, so that it could be transported easily.
“We now have fleets in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South America,” Ms. Bennett said. “We learned heaps from the [Viper].”
Another factor was speed. During the BVISR, the VX One boats zipped around the course as the IC24s made their way to the finish line slow and steady.
“At the end of the day everyone enjoys going fast,” Mr. Bennett said. “As with every boat as it progresses you don’t see it going slower.”
All told, the BVISR attracted more than 100 boats over several classes. BVISR Director Judy Petz said the VX One Class was a nice addition to this year’s event, which she described as a success overall.
“I call them little pocket rockets,” Ms. Petz said. “I think they had a great time. To be able to race here and St. Thomas for ten days is so worth it.”
For full results, photos and more, visit: www.bvispringregatta.org/
Todd VanSickle is a journalist living and working in the Virgin Islands.