The BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival 41st anniversary edition, presented by Nanny Cay Marina, first day of racing started on schedule, 15 knots of solid breeze intensified during the morning, peaking at 18 knots to provide some fantastic racing conditions. Many classes enjoyed the fantastic vista of the southeasterly face of Salt Island today. With knarled rock formations and spectacular reefs, the windward side of Salt Island is one of the most hauntingly beautiful areas of the BVI.
Class 1 was first away, beating up the Sir Francis Drake Channel heading for Cooper Island. Bill Alcott's STP65, Equation led the charge, heading in close to Nanny Cay, giving the spectators on the beach a full and frank demonstration of the awesome Mini Maxi. Equation was first to round Cooper Island hoisting their enormous asymmetric spinnaker to spear off downwind in the Caribbean swell. However, around the back of Cooper Island, Equation found a hole in the wind and was slowed for some time. Passion 4C, steered by Admiral's Cup winner, Stefan Lehnert looked to have got their tactics spot on by choosing the right hand side of the course on the beat, benefiting from less current and corrected out to win Race 1 by two minutes. However, Equation came back with a strong challenge to win the next two races, both by over seven minutes to lead the class after the first day with Passion 4C, just one point behind in second place.
In Class 2, there was an intense battle with three boats scoring wins today. Doug Baker's Farr 400 VI400 Magnitude is the class leader after three races, but only on count back from their nemesis Michael Shlens' Farr 400 Blade. Willem Wester's Dutch Grand Soleil 46, Antilope won the first race of the day, making significant gains on the beat up to Salt Island, but Trinidadian Reichel Pugh 37, Peake Yacht Services Slippery, corrected out to win Race 2 by just 29 seconds from Blade. Magnitude won the last race of the day by some margin to take the class lead, but a solitary point separates the top four boats.
The two Farr 400s had a tremendous battle today, especially during the first race around the back of Salt Island. They hoisted spinnakers almost instantaneously and Blade stayed high, attempting to steal Magnitude's breeze. With a gybe to finish imminent, Magnitude were being hustled by Blade but pulled off the maneuver expertly to hold on to beat their rivals by just 23 seconds. These two ballistic yachts are expected to match race all week; electrifying stuff.
In Class 3, Richard Wesslund's J/120, El Ocaso had a very successful day on the water, winning two races and coming third in the last race of the day to lead the class by a three point margin. There was a bad start to the regatta for First 40, Smile and Wave steered by Jaime Torres, which was called OCS on the first start, but the Puerto Rican yacht staged a fantastic comeback to take second place in the race. Third after the first day's racing is another Puerto Rican yacht, Luis Juarbe's Henderson 30, Soca that planed down the run in the last race of the day to score a bullet, securing the third podium spot.
Class 5 is a very competitive class, but today Ian Hope-Ross' First 36.7 Kick 'em Jenny has all the bragging rights, winning both of today's races. Right from the start it became clear that a battle royale is on the cards between several local boats, whose crews have known these magnificent sailing grounds for many years.
For the first start of the day, virtually the entire class was jostling for position at the Committee Boat end of the line in an attempt to control the favoured right hand side of the course. Peter Haycraft's Sirena 38, Pipedream judged the line to perfection, hitting the line with height and speed, but Pipedream was not the only one to nail the start line. Kevin Rowlette's Olson 30, Rushin' Rowlette and Ian Hope-Ross' First 36.7 Kick'em Jenny got away well. Lawrence Aqui's Dufour 40, Wild T'ing enjoyed the beat better than most. Rounding Salt Island the local knowledge really paid off with all the local boats happily sailing closer to the jagged shoreline. Amongst the local boats, Puerto Rican First 35, Bonne Chance, steered by Bernado Gonzalez, was also going well and J/27 MAG 7 was very much in contention. MAG 7 is one of the smallest boats in the regatta but she is in magnificent condition, a tribute to the TLC of her owner, Paul Davis.
In Class 7, Herny van Melle J/46, Jent had an outstanding day, winning both of today's races, but the Dutch team was pushed all the way. In Race 1, Jent won by just 40 seconds from Andy Middleton's First 47.7, Global Yacht Racing and the second race was even closer. Jent secured the win from Stephen Schmidt's Santa Cruz 70, Hotel California Too by just 13 seconds. Jent are the overnight leaders with Global Yacht Racing second. Christian Reynolds Swan 51, Northern Child is in third place, thanks in part to a great recovery from a horror spinnaker hoist. It all went wrong for Northern Child around the back of Salt Island in Race 1. The spinnaker ended up dragging behind the boat but the crew jumped into action quickly rectifying the problem and making a great recovery.
Class 8 produced two close races today between two vintage J Boats. Boston (USA) owner, Thomas Mullen's Shamrock VII won the first race of the day by under a minute, but St.Croix's Antonio Sanpere came back to win the second race with Cayennita Grande, by just 16 seconds. These two yachts tied for first in Class for the Nanny Cay Cup this week, a close battle is bound to resume tomorrow.
In Class 9, Keith Smith LiGreci is all smiles this afternoon, his Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 40, Girasoli took third place in the a close encounter for the first race of the day, but an emphatic win in the last race puts Girasoli top of the leader board. Bill Bailey's Hughes 38, Second Nature had a consistent day scoring two second place finishes to claim second place, but only by count back. Jon Charlton and Claude Bonanni's CandC 41, Team Red Stripe are third in the class overnight, but Class 9 also produced one of the most spectacular sights of the day, two of the crew sporting bikinis on board Salt.
In Bareboat 1, Christine Joseph's Beneteau 50, Sexy and We Know It, chartered from The Moorings, will be celebrating tonight having won both of today's races. John Messersmith's Beneteau 473, If By Sea, is second overnight with Nanny Cay Cup Class winner, Tijmen van Elst's BK Grondlogistiek taking third in class.
In Bareboat 2, Neil Harvey's Acadia has some talented sailors on board and it was evident today with two straight bullets, but a young man was spotted driving today. Justin Putsley is just 13 years old and he was at the wheel of the Dufour 425 grinning from ear to ear. Jason is used to winning, he was the bowman on the winning IC24 in yesterday's Gill BVI Match Racing Championship. And he has won a string of Optimist Regattas. Avalon Racing and Team Trolly Car share five points each and are in joint second place.
The IC24s enjoyed some great boat to boat combat today, right in front of Nanny Cay Marina. Battling out six races, Frits Bus' Coors Light leads the class by just two points from David Irwin's, Grey Ghost, with Andrew Waters' Conch-Querer in third overall.
Tonight, VIPs will enjoy a cocktail reception hosted at Governor's House, as guests of the Governor Boyd McCleary of the British Virgin Islands and Mrs Jenny McCleary. The grand occasion is to celebrate the start of the BVI Spring Regatta where Director, Judy Petz will accept on behalf of the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival, a Gold Certificate for green initiatives at the regatta from Sailors for the Sea.
Meanwhile, in the Regatta Village, Nanny Cay Marina, competitors are set for a night of music from Third Dimension and Eric Stone and probably a few drinks courtesy of Gold Sponsors, Mount Gay Rum and Heineken.
Racing at the BVI Spring Regatta is set to resume at tomorrow at 1000. Weather forecasts are predicting possibly more breeze with waves across the wind direction, kicking up some waves to surf down in the beautiful sailors playground; the British Virgin Islands.
BVI Spring Regatta website
by Louay Habib
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9:22 AM Sat 31 Mar 2012GMT
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