BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival day 1 and forty boats congregated on the Sir Francis Drake Channel this morning, just off of Tortola’s Nanny Cay Resort, for the start of the Bitter End Cup.
This 21-mile Corinthian-spirited race to Virgin Gorda’s Bitter End Yacht Club (BEYC) marks the official kick-off for the 40th Anniversary BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival (March 28-April 3, 2011).
Lucky sailors in four classes enjoyed 10-15 knots, flat seas, and clean starts as the fleet of cats, cruisers, bareboats and serious raceboats pointed towards their fairy-tale destination. Once there, sailors can enjoy the club’s well-populated dinghy and beach-cat fleet and unwind before Thursday’s reverse-course Nanny Cay Cup.
'The destination is perfect!' said Vladimir 'Kuli' Kulinichenko, the tactician/driver of Three Harkoms, Christopher Lloyd’s modified Beneteau Oceanis 440. 'The race takes us through beautiful islands, zigzagging through the BVIs. It’s upwind so there’s not a lot of work except for the drivers and the trimmers. Mostly, we’re looking forward to being there!' As part of her modification program, Three Harkoms received a taller stick, a Farr 40-like cockpit and a new keel; the investments paid dividends as Three Harkoms has enjoyed a winsome racing history in the Caribbean, including knockout performances at the last two editions of the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival.
While Lloyd, Kuli and company are multi-year veterans, Dominik Ondrej (age four), the regatta’s youngest racer, was just taking his nascent steps when Three Harkoms started earning bullets here. While young Ondrej has plenty of miles under his small seaboots (he lives aboard five months a year), today marked his first race, a proud point for father and son alike. 'It’s a social event for us,' said Georg Ondrej, Dominik’s father and the owner of the Austrian-flagged Beneteau 50 Happy Hour. Interestingly, the elder Ondrej sailed transatlantic to race and cruise in the Caribbean. Because of this, Happy Hour is loaded up with cruising amenities, wind generators and crew provisions. 'For us, the Sailing Festival is more like training. We’ll hopefully do better in the BVI Spring Regatta than the festival!'
While young Dominik is the youngest racer, he’s not the only newcomer to this legendary regatta. 'This is my first time at this event and my first time sailing on this boat,' said Karen Kennedy, a crewmember aboard Tony Sanpere’s J/36, Cayennita Grande. 'It’s a long tack up there, so I’ll be looking forward to getting off the rail!' While there might be a few creaky backs at the end of the day, racers can count on the mixologists at the BEYC’s legendary bar to concoct their antidotes. As for the racing, Kay Acott of Coyote II, a Beneteau 40.7, perfectly summed up the day’s race: 'Good spirit, well-organized, great parties—it’s my favorite regatta. We’ve done seven [BVI Spring Regattas and Sailing Festivals] and this is our fifth consecutive year. We always love coming back here!' www.bvispringregatta.org