Crews from around the world raced 71 sailboats through bright sun and heavy wind during five days of racing at the 50th BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival, which organisers described as one of the most successful in the annual event’s history.
All told, nearly 1,000 sailors from more than a dozen countries competed, Regatta Director Judy Petz said. “I am extremely pleased with the event this year,” she said. “We had so many people who have returned. Many [others] have never been here before. …. The wind Gods were in our favour. We just had a perfect weather week.”
Following the March 29 Scrub Island Invitational, a three-to-four-hour race from Nanny Cay to Scrub Island, official Spring Regatta racing got under way on Friday and continued through Sunday.
The Lombard 46 yacht Pata Negra — owned and skippered by California sailor Dr. Laura Schlessinger — won first place in the Caribbean Sailing Association Racing 1 category. “The racing was fantastic,” Dr. Schlessinger told the regatta press office.
“Yesterday we took a race by one second, and I think the day before we lost a race by a second. It took us a few days to get used to the boat, and as a driver it’s different with the two wheels and rudders and running back and forth.”
The Summit 40 sailboat Blitz — owned by long-time competitor Peter Corr, of St. Thomas — took first in the CSA Racing 2 category. “It feels fantastic to have won. We had a great regatta. The competition was unbelievable: It was seconds and minutes,” Mr. Corr said, adding, “The event is so well organised and put together, it’s really great. It’s important to know that you can’t have these events without so many people giving their time and effort to make it happen.”
On Sunday afternoon, Mr. Corr was amid a packed regatta village crowd of more than 300 people who gathered at Nanny Cay. “This is not an easy thing to do, and every year it’s great,” he said of the annual event.
Similar sentiments came from Jaime Torres, the skipper and owner of the Melges 32 sailboat Smile and Wave, which won the CSA Racing 3 category.
“It felt great to win in class in the 50th anniversary edition,” he said. “We sure worked hard for a long time for this. We feel lucky to get the win, and we’re super stoked.”
As usual, VI sailors also played a big part in the event. In the Sport Multihull Division, skipper Chris Haycraft edged out his son Nathan by just two points to take first place aboard the Corsair F31R Ting-A-Ling 2.
“It was kind of surreal in the beginning to be doing so well against my dad,” Nathan, who skippered the Corsair F27 Ting-A-Ling, told the regatta press office. “It was more of an honour, to be honest, because I have been racing with him for so long, and to finally be on the opposing side was really cool.”
Ms. Petz said she enjoyed the family rivalry, noting that Chris Haycraft’s late father Peter was a regatta founder. Another veteran VI sailor on the water this year was 92- year-old Dr. Robin Tattersall, who competed aboard the sailboat Makin Memories.
“When you are my age, it’s tempting fate to say you are coming back, so I don’t!” joked Dr. Tattersall, who helmed about half the races, according to a regatta press release.
Throughout the weekend, competitors, fans and other attendees were treated to performances including steel pan music and moko jumbies in the volunteer-run regatta village, where an awards ceremony was held on Sunday evening.
Premier Dr Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley said Sunday that the event has been an important aspect of the territory’s tourism product for 50 years. “And it will remain a strong part of our tourism product for the next 50 years,” he told the crowd, which erupted in loud cheers.
Next year, Dr. Wheatley added, the government hopes the event will surpass its 2023 performance. Ms. Petz said the 50th edition of the regatta was delayed by two years because of the Covid-9 pandemic.
“We are happy we made it to the 50th this year, because we were ready to celebrate this in 2021. Finally in 2023 we were able to celebrate,” she said.
One statistic made the event particularly special for her, Ms. Petz said: When the regatta started in 1972, a total of 21 boats competed. “Here we are with 71 boats, so we have gained 50 boats at the 50th anniversary,” she said with a smile. “Very coincidental.”
Ms. Petz added that the regatta contributes significant sums to the VI economy. “Many don’t understand the impact the regatta has on the country. It puts as much as four to five million [dollars] in the economy in a week. The restaurants, hotels and so forth benefit from the event,” she added. “It trickles down and goes into the economy.”
She also noted that most of the money made from the regatta each year is usually spent on its number one expense, which is marketing. That effort, she added, will begin soon for the 2024 edition in order to attract more boats and more sponsors.
However, she won’t be heading it up next year: Along with 25-year regatta Chairman Bob Phillips, Ms. Petz is stepping down from her leadership role.
On Sunday night as the closing ceremony came to an end, attendees were treated to a firework display.