Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Warm Water, Hot Racing, Cool Parties!

J/88 sailing BVIJ/Crews Prevail @ BVI Spring Regatta/Festival
(Tortola, British Virgin Islands)– This year’s BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival featured eighty-four boats from seventeen countries (Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, UK, Italy, Netherlands, USA, St Maarten, Antigua, Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, Curacao, BVI, USVI, Jamaica) and crews from many more countries, too.  The event has two parts, the first is the Sailing Festival that is the annual Round Tortola Race and the second is the Spring Regatta over three days.

With the breeze looking light for Tuesday’s annual Round Tortola Race, Bob Phillips, Regatta Chairman recommended a shorter course to ensure racers have an opportunity to get out on the water.  “The breeze is supposed to be out of the south so it looks like the perfect race is likely to be around Norman and Peter Islands, a 7-8nm course, as we want to get racers out AND back,” Phillips said. “People are here to race and we want to be sure that they have some good racing rather than parked on the north side of the island. The beauty of the BVI is that we have lots of islands we can send them around – it might not be around Tortola, but it will be around an island somewhere!”

A tauntingly light breeze of 5-7 kts out of the south was enough to get 50+ boats starting in the Nanny Cay Cup, the first event of the 2017 BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival. Rather than the usual Round Tortola race, conditions favored a 16nm course starting in the channel off Nanny Cay and taking the fleet around Pelican and Flanagan Islands. The breeze built a little around the islands offering up a fairly steady 7-8 knots throughout racing.

Racing in the CSA Racing division, the J/111 SPIKE helmed by Sam Talbot (BVI) took second in division.  Racing on his home turf in the challenging breeze had its benefits for Talbot, a BVI local. “We sailed really well actually and were flying upwind. It was the final run that really got us, but overall we were really happy with our race,” Talbot said, all smiles. “Local knowledge was handy with the laylines, knowing exactly how close we could get to the rocks and deciding where we could hold, it definitely came in handy. Second time around Pelican, there were a lot of worried people on board,” Talbot joked.  Talbot was racing with mostly his regular crew on board with a few extras along for the ride until the more serious racing began later in the week. When asked whom he’s watching out for this week, Talbot didn’t hesitate for a second, “EL OCASO, the J/122!”

In addition to SPIKE’s great performance, Pamala Baldwin’s J/122 LIQUID from Antigua took fifth place in class.

J/122 Liquid sailed BVI- Pamala BaldwinBVI SPRING REGATTA
Next up for the fleet was the Spring Regatta.  There was no question the amplitude of seriousness increased a few magnitudes for this event as all kinds of all-star crews came flying back in from around the world to help various teams improve their chances for some silverware.  Here is how it all went down..

Day 1- Classic Virgin Gorda Sound Sailing
In CSA Racing on Day 1, the fleet leaders were established early.  The sailors enjoyed great conditions, starting in a 12 kts easterly that built to 15 kts throughout the day. Boats raced a combination of two long and one short windward-leeward race.

“Racing was really fantastic,” said Dave Brennan, Principal Race Officer, “We were able to start off Nanny Cay and I sent my committee boats on three different race courses which worked out really well. The racing was good, conditions couldn’t have been better and racers got to enjoy a lot of the real beauty here with courses that took them around the scenic rocks, Deadman’s chest, Salt and Ginger Islands.”

CSA Racing 1 class saw three good races.  At the end of the day, Chris Body’s family team from the United Kingdom had a great outing on their chartered J/122 EL OCASO, posting a 2-4-2 to hold on to 2nd place in the standings. Just off the mark was Sam Talbot’s J/111 SPIKE from the BVI with an uncharacteristically slow start of 8-2-6, but still good enough for 4th place in class.

In CSA Racing 2 class, a wildly eclectic mixture of boats, it was Rob Butler’s J/88 TOUCH2PLAY that posted a rather sobering 7-3-6 to hang in to the top five.

J/122 El Ocaso sailing BVIDay 2- Challenging Light Airs
More light air challenged the fleet on the second day. Racing started at 1000 in an 8-10 knot easterly. One of the more amusing scenarios was a top J/24 team sailing in the CSA Bareboat 1 class. Team BYRA was racing on La Bella Vita, a Sunsail 51. The team of 9 sailing friends from Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, took a second and first to end the day with 12 points. Team BYRA normally race J-24s so are finding their BVI ride quite a step up.

“This boat does not react like a J-24!” John Fourqueen said of Team BYRA. “We’re really just a bunch of misfits and are definitely the worst-dressed crew on the race course, but we’re sharing the fun and changing out skippers for each race so we had two different helmsmen today.” Fourqueen noted that they’re keeping a wary eye out for rocks around the islands but otherwise their biggest issue was that the store ran out of beer cans (cases!) in the morning.

Another all J/105 team from Marblehead, MA was enjoying their 4th BVI Spring Regatta. Team Merlin took two line honors, correcting out as two second places.  The friends usually sail together in Marblehead’s beer-can races on their J/105. “We love it here!” skipper Alec Torrie said. “The first race was a great tactical battle between two islands on a nice beat, then around Norman Island. We lost the start so it was a battle two thirds of the way around when we were able to cross and hold off a couple of very competitive challenges boat for boat. The second race was pretty unique with a downwind start, we got off the line ok but one of our competitors got a great start so we tangled with them all way around the course which was tough in a dying breeze.”

After three more races in CSA Racing 1 class, Body’s family crew on EL OCASO posted a 2-6-6 to slowly slide from 2nd to 3rd in the overall standings.  Talbot’s SPIKE had a variable day, their 7-3-5 kept them in the hunt and at a stable 4th position.

J/88 Touch2Play wins silver at BVI SpringDay 3- A Light Air Finale
Competitors were only too happy to call it quits after one final race when extremely light air made for very shifty and challenging conditions. Little breeze translated to a very hot day, so a swim and a cold beer was the perfect race substitute for most of the 86-strong fleet.

Chris Haycraft, Commodore of the Royal BVI Yacht Club said, “The beauty of this Regatta is that you are racing against boats you don’t know, so you don’t know how they are going to perform which makes it all the more interesting. I love meeting all the new people who come to BVI Spring Regatta; it’s just a great atmosphere. It’s also been enjoyable to see more of our local ex-pats visiting the event village to see what it is all about.”

Final results in several classes came down to the wire in the last race.  The shifty winds produced some crazy results across all classes.  In CSA Racing 1 class, Body’s J/122 EL OCASO crew posted another 6th place to hang on for third in class, preserving EL OCASO’s extraordinary record of finishing on the podium in every Caribbean regatta it has ever sailed!  Meanwhile, Talbot’s J/111 SPIKE closed fast in the finale, adding a 3rd to their totals to hold on to 4th place overall.

In CSA Racing 2 class, Butler’s J/88 TOUCH2PLAY Racing had a rough ride early, but made the most of the lighter airs in the last two days of the event.  They closed their last four races with a regatta-winning tally of 2-3.5-1-3, but not enough to close the gap for the gold. Consequently, they had to settle for the bronze on the podium.   Sailing photo credits- Ingrid Abery   For more BVI Spring Regatta sailing information Add to Flipboard Magazine.