By Louay Habib
TORTOLA, BVI -- With less than a week to go until the 43rd edition of the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival, a truly international cast is making ready to take centre stage in the beautiful sailing grounds off Tortola, British Virgin Islands. With 87 yachts entered, not only is the number of entries larger than last year but there is real strength in depth, both in terms of the standard of the yachts and the sailors that will be racing.
Marc Blees brand new Contest 42cs,Beluga Gaastra, Holland, racing in Performance Cruising
Hosted by Nanny Cay Marina, local BVI sailors will be rubbing shoulders with competitors from all over the world including: Australia; Antigua; Canada; Curacao; Germany; Great Britain; Holland; Monaco; Puerto Rico; Russia; St Lucia; St Maarten; Switzerland; USA and the US Virgin Islands.
The allure of racing in some of the most scenic, varied and challenging waters in the Caribbean is the reason that most competitors return each year. Uniquely, the BVI Spring Regatta race course takes place in the Atlantic Ocean, the Sir Francis Drake Channel and the Caribbean Sea.
"The regatta is really spoilt for choices when it comes to course design," commented Bob Phillips, Chairman of the BVI Spring Regatta. "We can provide short, sharp windward leeward for one-design and race tracks for performance cruisers and production yachts. The BVI Spring Regatta really can provide racing that suits just about anybody, all in an outstanding location."
With 20 yachts 50 feet or more in length, this year's BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival has a substantial big boat fleet. However, there are head-turning yachts and highly competitive classes, right through the fleet.
Ready for good competition, Lancelot II looking forward to the regatta
In the CSA Spinnaker Class, First 40, Lancelot II will be crewed by the highly experienced Corr's Light Racing Team; an international group of sailors led by Peter Corr. Charter skipper Chris Jackson is looking forward to the regatta: " I know I speak for all of the team when I say that we are very much looking forward to having Lancelot II back racing in the BVI Spring Regatta. It's always a highlight of my year and the competition this year looks pretty good; especially El Ocaso who were Boat of the Week in St Maarten this year. Hopefully we can give them and other well sailed boats a run for their money. But no matter what, we will enjoy both the racing and shoreside fun and games!"
In Performance Cruising, Marc Blees's brand new Contest 42cs,Beluga Gaastra has come from Holland to compete in the Caribbean. Voted European Yacht of the Year, the Dutch yacht will be making its debut at the BVI Spring Regatta: "We have heard great compliments about the BVI Spring Regatta," commented Marc. "The perfect combination of competitive sailing against each other in one of the best sailing spots in the world and after that, having a drink until sunset on the beach. It doesn't get better than that."
RORC Class Winner Matt Brooks' vintage S&S 52 yawl Dorade
In sharp contrast to Beluga Gaastra, is Matt Brooks' vintage S&S 52 yawl Dorade which was launched in 1930 with a narrow beam, sharp ends and little freeboard, Dorade is a wet ride, but the classic yacht has been extremely succesful. She has been lovingly restored to all her glory by Matt Brooks. Dorade finished off 2013 in dramatic style by winning the 2013 Transpac overall. She last won the 2,225-nautical-mile race from Los Angeles to Honolulu in 1936!
Hannah Jenner will be racing on board for the BVI Spring Regatta: "After a hugely successful 2013, Dorade started this year by winning Class in the RORC 600, the BVI Spring Regatta is our next event and the quality of racing and the style of courses will be an ideal way for us to hone our skills around the inshore courses. The regatta is set in a stunning location and the racing is a great format for the team to warm up for our summer events in the Mediterranean."
Back to defend their Class title - Reba skippered by Jon Charlton
The Jib and Main Class is designed to be suitable for people wishing to race shorthanded. Last year's winner, Red Stripe Reba skippered by Jon Charlton, is back to defend their title and for good reasons, as Jon Charlton explains: "This will be my fourth consecutive year racing at the regatta. The first year we ended up finishing second in class after a hard fought series. The second year, we had a decent lead but lost our steering, which dropped us down into second place. So, last year, we finally broke the ice and won our class and it was very gratifying. This year, the name sake for Reba, Reba Bonanni, was recently diagnosed with a brain tumour. This will definitely be in the back of our minds when on the water; a win would be magical."
The BVI Spring Regatta features a variety of keelboat classes and a Multihull division, as well as one design racing in IC24s and Melges 32s.This year, three teams from Puerto Rico will be racing in the Melges 32 Class, including Sergio Sagramoso's Lazy Dog, which competed last year in their J/122, winning the Spinnaker Racing Class.
"The Lazy Dog Team are really looking forward to the BVI Spring Regatta but this time in our one design Melges 32!" smiled Sergio. "For sure, it's a lot of fun to have three fellow Puerto Rican teams, as we all know each other and it will sure bring a fun Latin flavour to the regatta! Having three identical high performance boats has really made local races here in Puerto Rico a lot more fun. I understand that a fourth Melges 32, Kick em Jenny will also be coming to the BVI from St Maarten, which should add to the fun. As far as the racing itself, the BVI have some of the best sailing grounds in the whole world, so you cannot go wrong! The BVI Spring Regatta is a must in our calendar because of its mixture of excellent sailing, a nice marina as a home base and outstanding organization."