Thrill filled BVI Spring Regatta returns after 2-year absence

The spinnaker on David Christopher and Michael Axford’s “Wings,” separated on one of Saturday’s downwind legs in the Sir Francis Drake’s Channel  

By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway

A thrill filled BVI Spring Regatta returned for its 49th edition for the first time after being cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, with 68 entries from 16 different countries competing in 11 divisions over three days, testing their skills against each other and the wind.

While San Diego, California resident Victor Wild was competing a sweep of the three races after  winning the Sailing Festival’s Scrub Island Invitational and Foxy Race legs, three divisions were decided during the last race and BVI boats were in the mix.

 Wild, who won the Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA) 1 division on his Boltin 52 “Fox,” just as he won the same division in the St. Thomas International Regatta a week ago, matched Belgium’s Phillippe Moortgat’s Swan 45 “Samantaga” who pulled off the same Virgin Islands sweep in 2018.

“We had an awesome week, we love it here and after every race, we stopped and looked around. It’s so beautiful, the water, the sun, so we had a good week,” Fox’s tactician Andy Horton said. “The group of people on the boat is just amazing.”

A razor thin two points lead separated the top four boats in the Jib and Main Class, entering Sunday’s racing. The BVI duo of John Teixidor’s Hansen 455 “Portomar” and Walter Kennan’s Benetau 45 “Libertas” were tied on seven points, with Jerome O’Neil’s J39 “Crystal”on eight and  St. Thomas’ Lawrence Aqui’s “Wild T’ing” one point behind O’Neil. Kennan used a first and second to win the division with 10 points to finish one ahead of O’Neil’s 11. Texidor was third with 13, while Aqui didn’t start the last race and was fifth after a fourth place in St. Thomas.

Niall and Olivia Downing’s Cape 31 “Arabella” used a first and second to win the division by three points over Oivind Lorentzen’s JPK 11.8  “The Hawk-Sunrise 3,” after nursing a one point 10-11 edge in the competitive CSA 2 St. Thomas’ Peter Corr’s Summit 40 “Blitz,” moved into second with a first in the penultimate race but dropped to third after ending the regatta with a fourth place finish.

“The class was very close, seconds between each racer in the class, it was very close,” Corr said. “There’s a great balance in the class. You can go from first to fifth, that’s what happened.”  

Florian Lineau’s Moorings 45, “Sea’s the Daze” sat on a one point splinter over Andrew Friedman’s Dafour 460 GL “Papillon” after a see saw battle in Bareboat 2, but won the division with six points after two first place finishes.  

Saturday’s racing on windward-leeward courses in the Sir Francis Drake’s channel while the other classes sailed around Virgin Gorda and Tortola, saw four of five boats in the drama-filled CSA 3 division at some point having spinnaker issues. Pamela Baldwin’s J-122 “Liquid” and David Christopher/Michael Axford’s J121 “Wings” retiring for the day, after losing their spinnaker that eventually fell in the water. The BVI’s Sam Talbot J-111 “Spike” recovered from his issues to finish second while Baldwin got a second and third in her last race to overhaul Donald Nicholson’s J-122, to third with 24 points, one ahead of Donaldson, in the class won by Tony Mack’s J-122 “McFly on El Ocaso” with eight points.

“The was an unexpected increase in breeze out there, a pretty substantial increase in breeze,” Talbot said. “And it just reeked havoc throughout the fleet. Everywhere you looked there were spinnakers going down and boats rounding up, but it was exciting though.”

BVI two times Olympian, Los Angeles 1984 and Barcelona 1992, Dr. Robin Tattersall—the oldest competitor in the regatta who has sailed in over 40 regattas since the inaugural event in 1972— put up four bullets and a third to claim Bareboat 3, on the Sunsail 41 “Moon Rainbow.”

“I just love sailing. I’ve raced since I was probably seven years old, so that’s a long 80-something years,” he said. “It’s no point going on if I can’t get a sail in. I’ve done pretty much all the regattas unless I’ve been away or something. It (winning) means a lot to me. I have some good people, I can still drive the boat and they tell me where to go.”

Regatta Director Judy Petz said that it has just been an amazing race week. “God listened and brought us a little more wind than I anticipated but the sailors loved it. The waters were filled with the most fabulous boats from around the world,” she said. “The participants were just ecstatic to come—some of them had never been here before—so within five races, we gave them a true vision of our beautiful country and they’re just so overwhelmed and said they’re coming back for next year’s 50th Anniversary.”

Reflecting on the return of the event during Sunday’s awards ceremony, Regatta Chairman Bob Phillips told Island Sun Sports: “It’s really easy to sum it up, just look out over this crowd here, all the smiling faces, everybody had a wonderful time,” he noted. “We were smiling from above with the great breeze, lots of sun, great racing, everybody is heaving and the place is having a great time.”

Phillips said next year’s 50th Anniversary is going to be a milestone and an “incredible celebration” and the whole territory benefits from it. “We run the numbers every year and it’s a $3-$4 million hit on the economy for the 10 days of the event. All the villas are rented. The taxi drivers, everybody is benefitting from this and it’s direct money into the pockets of the people.”