A Passion for Sailing

BVI Spring Regatta Director Judy Petz has organized the BVI’s most prestigious sailing event for over a decade

Director Judy Petz
For 14 years Judy Petz, the Director of the BVI Spring Regatta, has taken on the Virgin Islands’ biggest sailing event with the efficiency of a military commander, the dexterity of a juggler and the heart of a true sailor.

This year’s Regatta will take place from March 27th to April 2nd, offering sailors a week of exciting racing and unparalleled sailing. Over 100 boats and several hundred crew members from throughout the world are expected to compete in 18 classes, a high stakes competition that’s geared to all sailing types from the novice to the professional. With the help of 200 indispensable volunteers (some of whom fly in from around the world to help out), Judy makes sure that that the entire event goes to plan – from organizing committee boats to making sure the bar at Regatta Village is manned and stocked. “It’s all about delegating,” she says. “I couldn’t do it without them”.

Sailing has been a way of life for Judy. A marketing and PR professional, she had been a charter broker in Annapolis, Maryland when she came to the BVI in 1997 to join her husband Keith LiGreci, who at the time was working for a local charter firm (he is now the Nanny Cay Boat Yard Manager).

Judy first became involved with the Spring Regatta as a volunteer but took on a larger role after she filled in for a crucial committee member who had fallen ill. “Don’t worry, I can do this,” she recalls saying to Bob Phillips the Regatta chairman. In 2003 she was appointed the Royal BVI Yacht Club’s Executive Director and soon after was named Spring Regatta Director. She has never looked back. Searching for new ways to move the regatta forward and ensure its place as one of the Virgin Islands’ most prestigious events on sea, and land, has continued to be her primary mission.

The BVI Spring Regatta has come a long way since it was first held in April of 1972. Jointly sponsored by the Royal BVI Yacht Club and the BVI Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association, the event has morphed from a destination race to Peter Island to a full week of sailing events. The event now kicks off with a Sailing Festival, held this year from Monday, March 27th through Wednesday, the 29th. A warm up to the Spring Regatta, the Sailing Festival includes activities and events for both racers and their families. The Nanny Cay Round Tortola Race, a challenging circuit of the BVI’s main island, will be held during this period, along with Maritime Heritage Day which salutes the classic Tortola sloops that once plied these waters. A number of these vessels will be on display at the marina, and a race of the classic beauties (both the Governor and the Premier traditionally take part) will be a highlight of the day.

The Spring Regatta, the competition’s main event, crosses the starting line on Friday, March 31st and culminates with an awards ceremony following the last race on Sunday, April 3rd. Landside activities are held at “Regatta Village” a festive series of white tents, food booths and, of course, a very busy bar. Live entertainment provided by popular local bands, can be heard nightly from the stage and television screens provide coverage of the day’s on-the-water action. The swimsuit fashion show held on Saturday afternoon, and hosted by local fashion designers, is one of the highlights of the shore-based activities.

With its broad lawns and ample dock space, Nanny Cay has provided an ideal venue for the event, says Judy. An additional marina area on Nanny Cay’s south shore will accommodate larger vessels for the 2017 event, including the new “Gunboat” class. Judy is excited about the introduction of these impressive catamarans, billed as the “ultimate performance cat.” Attracting these 55 footers – which Judy deems the “most luxurious cats” of the sailing world – has been the culmination of several years of work, she explains.

The program that she is most proud of, though, is the “Green Initiative.” Sailors for the Sea, a leading ocean conservation organization, which has launched conservation programs worldwide, considers the Spring Regatta its signature event.

“By trying to create different ways to protect the environment surrounding the regatta, we are protecting our playground,” she says. Eliminating the use of plastic is one of the ways that the Regatta has made a difference, and as part of this initiative participants must purchase a reusable plastic bottle which can be refilled at water stations throughout the village.

Food and drink vendors are required to only use compostable containers, cups and cutlery. Glass beer bottles, one of the biggest source of waste at a regatta, are not only collected but have been fashioned by the locally based environmental organization, Green VI, into elegant glass trophies. The irony of this doesn’t escape Judy who wryly points out, “the beer you are holding this year might be the award you hold next year.”

Organizing this multi-faceted event is a year-long pursuit which starts the day after the Regatta ends. But it is a challenge that she could not do alone, she points out. Running a successful regatta is “all about the people,” she explains. They are the ones who make it all go off smoothly. “Each brings energy, passion and a love of sailing to the event. There’s an absolute regatta family.”

For registration forms and further information on the Spring Regatta, go to www.bvispringregatta.org

What the Racers Say about the Regatta

“It was absolutely perfect, we enjoyed everything from the weather, to the conditions, the hospitality here was just great.”

– Tim Pitts from the US, third place overall racing on Cruzan Rhode at the 2016 Regatta.

“They did an awesome job here with the starts, the lines and moving things around. We had great courses, windward leewards and the one fun race yesterday. And, the parties are always fun!”

– Jens Hookanson, skipper of IC 24 Stinger, 2016 Regatta.

“It’s been fantastic racing against some really good crews, really high standard and we’ve really enjoyed it,”

– Larry Caillouet, third in the 16-strong class aboard a Sunsail 50, 2016 Regatta.

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