From left, M2, Flying Jenny, and ShotGunn vie for the lead on the opening day of racing Friday at the 2024 Spring Regatta. Michael and Helen Wilson ended up racing their Cape 31 Shotgunn to victory. (Photo: Rushton Skinner)

Light winds put sailors’ skills to the test during the 51st year of the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival. But they didn’t let that stop them from racing.

“Everyone came with game and [was] really amazing to be around,” said Regatta Director Cayley Smit. “The wind didn’t play the game, but I would say everyone else did.”

The regatta was Ms. Smit’s first in the leadership role, which she took over last year following the 21-year legacy of former director Judy Petz. A total of 64 vessels attended, split between 10 classes, according to Ms. Smit.

“As far as I know, it went really well,” she said. “We are very happy with the boats that came. We’re very happy with the crews and everyone who decided to join us this year. We are completely stoked that they were here.”

The sport multihull class lines up before the airhorn sounds to start their race, April 5. (Photo: Rushton Skinner)
Early races

In the weekdays leading up to the Spring Regatta, sails were taut against winds up to 24 knots seen at points during the April 2 Round Tortola Race, which was followed the next day by the Scrub Island Invitational. But as the weekend neared and the three-day Spring Regatta got under way on Friday, winds slowly decreased.

By Sunday, the gusts were so light that two vessels didn’t race at all, according to Ms. Smit.

But despite the conditions, most of the sailors continued to battle it out on the water.

They also found plenty of reasons to celebrate when the Regatta Village opened each day at 2 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

During the village’s official opening ceremony last Thursday, paintings on sails reminded attendees of sailing’s longstanding history in the territory.

“I think the sails with our local artists’ artwork in the [regatta] village was really special,” Ms. Smit said. “Just seeing those on the morning of the regatta just changed the feel of the village.”

Following a cultural lesson from Culture Director Dr. Katherine Smith, Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley declared the regatta to have begun.

“To all our participants, I wish you good luck and Godspeed. Have a safe and enjoyable BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival 2024,” Dr. Wheatley said at exactly 7 p.m. last Thursday. “I now declare the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival 2024 officially open.”

Friday had the best winds of the regatta, and the evening ended with the Mount Gay Race Day awards.

A crowd, above, gathers on the beach at Nanny Cay for the awards ceremony on the final day of the BVI Spring Regatta. Below, Chris Haycraft and crew are presented the Best BVI Boat award. (Photos: Rushton Skinner)

Local participation

Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour Manager Alejandro Chometowski sailed aboard a 52-foot Alubat Sigale 16.

“Because of the wind conditions and everything, probably the Round Tortola Race was one that was nicer to experience and to see the island from all points of view,” Mr. Chometowski said. “And as regards the BVI Spring Regatta specifically, we had a very challenging day.”

On Saturday, Mr. Chometowski said, his crew suffered an injury.

“With three races run and in the middle of one of the races, we had one of our crew miss his step and fall down through a hatch and had a big hit in his rib side,” Mr. Chometowski said. “He was really bad and very painful, but we managed to encourage him to keep going and cross the finish line.”

Immediately after finishing, the crew commandeered a rigid inflatable boat to transport their injured teammate to the hospital.

“We managed to run the following two races without one of our crews,” Mr. Chometowski said. “I was very happy and proud of our team because we managed to manoeuvre the boat with less hands.”

Above, two sailors aboard Convexity 2 work to make sure their Gunboat 68 continues to slice through the water. Below, A sailor on Adrian Keller’s custom 82-foot-plus Allegra hoists in the spinnaker to make the turn upwind. (Photos: Rushton Skinner)

‘A great time’

Other sailors offered positive reports as well.

“Obviously everyone I think would like a bit more breeze, but we had a chance to race on Sunday, whereas not all fleets did,” said Christian Cabral, a jib trimmer aboard the Beneteau First 40.7 Lady M.

The Lady M was successful, taking first in the Performance Cruising A category for the second year in a row.

“Tactics and consistency worked for us,” Mr. Cabral said in a press release from organisers. “In the light breeze, we were patient with all our manoeuvres and had no errors. We’ve absolutely had a great time this week.”

Frits Bus’s 24-foot Melges 24 Island Water World dwarfed by Tom Slyngstad’s 66-foot HH66 Nemo, April 5. (Photo: Rushton Skinner)
Next year

Asked for insider tips for participating in next year’s regatta, early registration was the first thing that popped into Ms. Smit’s mind.

“The marina fills up pretty quickly: the hotels, everything. But yeah, just do it — it’s a regatta for everyone,” she said. “Find your friends, your family, or anyone you know who even remotely wants to sail and organise a boat and get together.”

She added, “I’d love to encourage more people to get involved in the sport. And you don’t have to be a hardcore competitive sailor. You can just come and enjoy the courses.”