Intensity levels punched up several levels today at the 40th Anniversary BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival (March 28-April 3, 2011) when racing commenced at the inaugural Gill BVI International Match Racing Championship (March 30 and 31).
Eight teams rifled through ten flights of one-on-one match races on evenly tuned IC 24s, with each skipper gunning for the big prize: an invitation to a Grade-Two match-racing event at the Chicago Match Racing Center this August.
'Match racing has become my biggest interest,' said Colin Rathbun, a participating skipper, event measurer and unsung hero of Caribbean match racing. The concept for these modified J/24s (they’re retrofitted with Melges 24-like cockpits) originated locally, so it’s fitting that they’re the horses for the course. 'Each boat has a measurement certificate, and we keep things even [equipment wise].' To ensure fairness, crews rotate boats and everyone uses same-generation sails built from the same template.
In addition to closely matched boats, the Gill BVI International Match Racing Championship is viewer-friendly. Racing transpires just off of the regatta village at Nanny Cay Resort and Marina. Stir in an expert onshore commentator (Denise Holmberg, ace-skipper Peter Holmberg’s better half) and spectators enjoyed to a day of great racing, with all the question marks removed. 'Having a commentator at a Grade-Three event is a unique,' said Mary Anne Ward, of the Chicago Match Racing Center, with a smile. 'The goal is to get in a lot of racing, and to help bring up each sailor’s skill level.'
Ward’s goals are being realized. 'We didn’t put our crew together until this past weekend, so our goal is to have a good time,' said Sandy Hayes, skipper of the only all-female match-racing crew. While Hayes hails from Scituate, Massachusetts, her crew is from nearby St. Thomas. 'I’m helping to seed the team with some match-racing experience, as it’s important to get a St. Thomas team together to sail at some of these Caribbean events. This event should help.'
One St. Thomas-based skipper who doesn’t need an experience boost is William Bailey, age 18, who can be seen sporting a gleaming new Rolex and a huge smile. 'It’s been a good week,' said Bailey with a laugh. 'I won the Rolex International Regatta last weekend and I found out that I got into Boston College on Monday!' While Bailey is certainly on a roll, he’s the first to admit that he’s up against serious talent, including Leo Vasiliev, Peter Holmberg, and Frits Bus. 'It’s going to be a lot of crew work,' admits Bailey, 'but I’ve got a good crew, so I’m happy about that.'
Holmberg finished today’s racing in first place, but the scoreboard is now populated with an extremely interesting three-way tie for second place between Rathbun, Vasiliev and Bailey. Today’s top six boats will sail a round-robin tomorrow to determine who moves into the finals, and, ultimately, who earns the coveted invitation to Chicago.
While the match racers dialed up on the water just outside Nanny Cay Marina and Resort, others were enjoying the one design racing at the Bitter End Yacht Club. Billed as Lay Day, many of the sailors who sailed the Bitter End Cup yesterday raced today on Bitter End's fleet of Hobie Waves and Lasers for the bragging rights at the bar.
Results - www.bvispringregatta.org