Spring Regatta Time
Story by Dean Greenaway
BVI Sailing Festival
Monday, March 30th:
Sailing Festival Registration and
Welcome Party. DJ and Beach BBQ;
Tuesday, March 31:
Round Tortola Race;
Wednesday, April 1:
Island Invitational from Nanny Cay to Foxy's;
Thursday, April 2:
Maritime Heritage Day (Tortola classic sloop racing beginning at 10am).
BVI Spring Regatta
Thursday, April 2:
Registration; Annual Mount Gay Welcome Party; food, live music.
Friday, April 3:
Day 1 of racing; 8pm live music.
Saturday, April 4:
Day 2 of racing; Swimwear Fashion Show at 5:30; 8pm live music.
Sunday, April 5:
Day 3 of racing;
5:30 Awards Ceremony; 8pm live music
Held this year from March 30th to April 5th, the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival is the BVI's biggest international event attracting yachtsmen from around the world. Taking full advantage of the Virgin Island's stunning array of islands and perfect sailing conditions, the Regatta offers unforgettable racing and courses suited to every sailor. Post racing fun continues with entertainment, food and drink nightly at Regatta Village at Nanny Cay on Tortola's scenic south shore.
A Regatta with a difference, the event prides itself on running a clean and green event, and will once again recognize environmentally conscious participants with the 2nd Annual Most Green Boat Award. Whether a sailor or landlubber, The BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival is not to be missed.
On the Job with Volunteer Pam Fuller
Throughout its storied history, the BVI Spring Regatta – which attracts sailors of all walks of life from around the globe including America's Cup champions and Olympic Games medalists – has relied heavily on dedicated and committed volunteers.
While the sailors compete for top honors on the water, approximately 200 volunteers toil unnoticed behind the scenes completing a variety of important tasks – from registration and setting race course markers to working on the committee boat, or in the bar and collating and posting results. All of this contributes to the successful execution of the event.
While Bob Phillips is the BVI Spring Regatta Chairman and Judy Petz the Director, Pam Fuller can be considered the pulse of the regatta when the action starts.
Regatta Director Petz, recalled the first time she was put in charge of organizing the BVI Spring Regatta in 2004.
"Once in a while when you throw your arms up to the universe it hears you. I was at the VISAR white sale in February and Pam Fuller introduced herself and asks if I needed some help with the regatta," Petz recalled. "I literally fell on my knees and said 'yes, absolutely.' Pam showed up to help almost everyday leading up to the regatta and has been a huge part of it ever since."
"I started coming over, appearing in the office, helping set things up and just kept on from there," said Fuller, who was born in California but grew up in New England. She has been coming to the BVI since the mid '60s and has lived here full-time since 2003.
"During the regatta, my day includes getting all of the water staff equipped and off in a timely fashion – that means signal boats, mark boats, press boats—then once they're gone, I answer a lot of questions from passersby," said Fuller, who is entering her 12th year in the role.
If people are late to meet the race boat and need to get out on the water, she finds a way; she watches race results, helps to enter results as they are called in when they can't be entered on the water, and deals with the measurers and the scorers.
"I'm also in the village all day, so I'm working with Lou (Schwartz) who runs the village and Bill (Young) who runs the bar," she explained.
Fuller's job begins before the actual racing. On the Friday before the Sailing Festival kicks off she spends the weekend setting up, making sure the equipment is working, ensuring there is electricity and phones, Wifi and DSL.
"Registration is on Monday afternoon for the Sailing Festival and I'm here taking everybody's registration, collecting the money, making sure we have all the information we need and repeat that on Thursday for the BVI Spring Regatta," she pointed out. "So it's a long process."
On race days her morning begins at 6:30 or 7am when she gets the water staff organized. When racing ends she helps the protest secretary with any protests coming in off the water. That, she says, usually ends around "6:30-ish". If racers want results printed or have a question or a query, she helps them out as well. By the time she closes the booth, it may be around 8:30 at night.
Fuller said she's just one of many puzzle pieces that all have to work together. And, she loves it.
She has been sailing all her life and raced while living in the US. And once, she had a chance to go out when several people couldn't and filled in on one of the signal boats.
"I love going out," she said, "but I'm needed here on shore to support."
To Judy Petz, what's most special about the Spring Regatta is not all the boats that come to race in the BVI. "The real answer," she said, "is how blessed I am to have so many dedicated volunteers who spend hours and days to create and ensure the BVI Spring Regatta is one of the best in the world," she stated. "It wouldn't be what it is without them."
Luiz Kahl: Yacht Scoring Innovator
The BVI Spring Regatta, which takes place in the turquoise waters of the picturesque Sir Francis Drakes Channel, has thrived on innovations.
Five years after the event started in 1972, innovations began. In 1977 officials moved away from destination racing coupled with a series of parties on different islands, and introduced round the mark and more formal racing.
Multiple races with rolling starts in each division on the racing course was introduced in 1999. Then in 2004, the event went online with real time entry and results developed by Paul and Deborah Miller of Carib Data, a UK-based IT and database programming consultancy.
In addition to radio and cell phones, internet is now on all committee boats and everything is integrated with smart phones, noted BVI Spring Regatta Chairman Bob Phillips.
For the last few years, Yacht Scoring, a full web based race management program has been keeping race score.
"You can pretty much get the results in real time through your smart phone," Yacht Scoring's creator Luiz Kahl said. "You just go to the mobile version of Yacht Scoring and check on the results as soon as the race committee puts in their finish times and everything is updated. The guys nowadays get used to it. They'll cross the finish line, they'll start pulling the main down and you can see one of them running down to get their smart phone to go check the results – they want to know how they did."
Kahl wrote the program at the end of 2005 and used it in St. Thomas' Rolex Regatta in 2006 for the first time. The Yacht Scoring system has also been adopted by Puerto Rico, Colombia and all the major events in the United States – 260 events ran the program in 2013. Before the program, it would take hours and hours to compile and collate the results because they were done on stand-alone computers. Competitors wouldn't know the results until whoever was doing the scoring at the time was happy with the scores and decided to post them.
"You could get out of the water at 3 o'clock and wouldn't have results posted until 9, 10 o'clock at night," Kahl noted. "Now the guys get it on the water after the finish. So they do enjoy it. If you don't get the results out, they're on your case. And if you make a mistake, they're the first ones who are going to tell you, which is good."
Although the first version of the program was created in November 2005, Kahl said the program is under continuous development. He said, new features, new functions and new reports are being added. "It's a never ending process," he stated. "It's a living creature. We can run multiple courses, multiple handicaps, one design, the program will handle all of that."