The 2013 BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival Banner

The 2013 BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival


by Jan Crithcley

Last year I was lucky enough to be invited along to take part in the 40th Annual BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival. I am not new to boats and have been in races before, normally as "ballast" or "rail meat" where you shimmy from one side to the other as the boat tacks or jibes, providing much needed weight on the "up side" to try and balance the boat and increase speed. This is a lot of fun and you get to watch all of the racing action. It can get hairy though as the boats can come perilously close to each other – always trying to get that all important edge, so you always need to keep on your toes and be ready to move quickly when it looks like a competing boat is getting a little too close for comfort!

One thing about regattas that I have always experienced is the amazing camaraderie between the crews, competing boats and the organizers. Although the aim is to win in your class, it is the light-hearted banter that always follows over a few beers at the bar after the day's event that is almost as fun as the race itself. Every aspect of the day's race is examined in great detail. Literally every tack and jibe is discussed, who sailed best, where mistakes were made and of course, who were the ones suspected of foul play!

Last year was a real treat as I was invited to go out on one of the Spring Regatta's media boats and mine was full of photographers from across the globe. Some were on assignment for international yachting magazines, others were from the USVI and there were also freelancers – all of them vying for the perfect shot.

The one thing they had in common was that they all wanted to get as close to the racing action as possible. Constant communication was vital to this and I had to take my hat off to the crew as they stayed cool and calm whilst trying to accommodate the many and varied requests!

The 2013 BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing FestivalAfter Day One, though, it became intuitive: the freelancers favored close-up shots as they had either been commissioned by a particular boat or would be trying to sell good shots of individual boats to the crews after the race. The magazine and newspaper photographers wanted close-ups as well but also distance shots to get the glorious images of all the boats competing together as they raced up and down the Sir Francis Drake Channel.

Not being a photographer myself, I found myself a niche as the "go-between" for the snappers and the boat crew. Clearly as some of the photographers were not from the BVI, and not familiar with the islands, they sometimes had trouble explaining where they wanted to be positioned. I also became the roving photographer's assistant, holding lenses as they juggled them for differing shots!

After much discussion, though, we did find the ideal spot, tucked in close to the west side of Dead Man's Chest. The photographers were all delighted to get the shots of the boats rounding the island as they hoisted their vast, colorful spinnakers with the rocks in the foreground and Peter Island providing a magnificent backdrop – it was perfect.

After a day on the water, there was always time for a beer at the Beach Bar, so after the last day of sailing, I enjoyed a few drinks around the pool with the photographers and then joined some friends who had come down for the prize-giving. The atmosphere was electric as the crews from over 90 boats gathered around the podium eagerly awaiting the name of their boat to be called and then heading off to collect their awards. After this, the crowd was ready to party and Al, "The Singing Chef" and his band were there to oblige. Before long everyone was dancing and happy to have been part of this special anniversary regatta.

But that was last year. Spring Regatta Director, Judy Petz, said that there are several changes for the 41st Annual Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival. For one thing, the date has moved forward to the end of March to try and make the regatta fit in better with the overall Caribbean sailing schedule. Still a significant change as it has been held on the first week of April for over 20 years.


The second big change is to have the sailing festival (the regatta's first phase) based out of Nanny Cay instead of having boats sail up to the Bitter End on Virgin Gorda.

There will be a Round Tortola race on the Tuesday; Wednesday is a fun day both on and off the water, where sailors will race over to Norman Island to Pirates Bar and Restaurant where there will be a beach bash, live bands, Stand Up Paddleboard racing in the Bight as well as beach games and a race back. Judy adds, "Thursday is turning into a fun and interesting day, where people can explore Tortola on land and on sea." People can also experience a bit of local culture," she says. "We are bringing in wooden sloops that back in the day, used to move cattle, and people will have an opportunity to sail on these old beauties."

Because so many regatta participants bring along family and friends, there will not only be activities for people who are sailing but also for those who are not. Many of the non-sailors will rent a car or a villa or hotel for the week, Judy explains, emphasizing that there will be something for everyone: "We will have spectator boats for people who want to get on the course and see the action and, of course, you can just stand at Nanny Cay beach and see a lot of it. There will be great food every night, live music and the beach bar – a toes in the sand, stars in the sky kind of party."

The event runs from Monday, March 26th through to Sunday, March 31st. Monday is registration for the Sailing Festival, which starts on Tuesday and runs through Thursday. Registration for the Spring Regatta starts from noon on Thursday before the competitive racing action, which starts on the Friday and runs through to Sunday, finishing with the awards ceremony and legendary party afterwards. Other key events are the Annual Mount Gay Welcome Party on the Thursday evening and the ever popular pool side fashion show on Saturday afternoon. There will be live entertainment throughout the event.

So jump on a sailboat for some hot racing action, or just relax and enjoy Tortola. This year the BVI Spring Regatta literally has something for everyone.

For more information call Judy Petz on 541-6732 or visit