Easing the Pace: The VP Bank Tortola Sloop Spring Challenge

Posted in

Enjoying the old & the new at the 46th BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival 

March 30, 2017, Tortola, British Virgin Islands – Participating in the 4th Annual VP Bank Tortola Sloop Spring Challenge today proved to be a tough one for John S. Duncan OBE, Governor of the British Virgin Islands and his crew on Youth Instructor, one of the classic Tortola sloops from the local BVI fleet. The Challenge is part of the BVI Spring Regatta’s Maritime Heritage Day, honoring the timeless historic Tortola Sloops which played an important role in island life more than a hundred years ago.

Teams racing in the 4th VP Bank Tortola Sloop Spring Challenge at the BVI Sailing Festival today © Christophe Courau

Given the tricky light breeze just one race was sailed today with a start off Nanny Cay and a reach over to Peter Island and back. Esmie skippered by Brian Duff took first, with Intrepid, skippered by Martin Van Houten in second. Duncan took third, sailing with Sjoerd Kosted, Head of Banking, VP Bank (BVI) Limited and today’s sponsor.

First place for Esmie skippered by Brian Duff in the VP Bank Tortola Sloop Spring Challenge © Christophe Courau

“The breeze was variable and we had some issues at the start but once we got the team going, we had a lot of fun,” Duncan said. “I had my right-hand man Steve George on board who is from Carriacou where the sloops are also built. It seems Steve was a little rusty, but you can see this kind of racing is in his blood!” Duncan said good-humouredly. He also acknowledged the support of VP Bank for their continued interest and effort toward helping to preserve the local fleet of historic sloops.

To that point, the Virgin Islands Sloop Foundation has been organized this past year to provide the funding necessary to keep these boats well maintained and where possible, out sailing. Geoff Brooks is Curator of the BVI National Maritime Museum at the H.L.Stoutt Community College which owns a number of the traditional sloops. Brooks assists in taking care of the sloops and promoting local maritime heritage.

Enjoying racing the Tortola sloop, Youth Instructor, Governor John S Duncan OBE and Head of Banking, VP Bank (BV), Sjoerd Kosted © Nannycay.com

“We really try to preserve our local culture here,” Brooks said. “But it takes a lot of time and effort and money to keep these boats floating. We’re hoping with the new Foundation that funding will be more readily available to maintain sloops that are in desperate need.” If you love sailing in the BVI and care about its maritime history, donations to the Foundation are welcome!

BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival truly embraces boats and sailors of all abilities, young and old, with elite sailors crewing alongside relative newbies. Volvo Ocean Race veteran, Charlie Enright is on board the C&C 30 Don’t Panic, helping the team get up to speed on the boat which is relatively new to owner / skipper Julian Mann. Likewise, albeit on a different scale, well-known boat designer Gino Morelli of Morrelli & Melvin is sailing on the HH 66 NALA, a project he was intimately involved with during the design phase.

Some Spring Regatta sailing community sailors are recreational racers, here to improve their skills and have a great time doing it. Christian Reynolds (GBR), Director of Performance Yacht Racing (PRY), is back to the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival with two of his boats, Quokka 8 and EH01. Reynolds has a diverse group of sailors on board the two boats this week, a charter with a group of Dutch sailors, and another group who individually signed up to race the event. Sailors on both boats range in age from 30s up 50s with all kinds of skill levels – some are really novice, others are quite experienced, Reynolds explained, yet his crews always get at least two days of sail training prior to racing.

“We try to get in a third day because the first day is always a bit tricky, the second day everyone is really getting it, and if there’s a third day, by the time racing starts, everyone’s pretty good,” Reynolds explained. “We’re racing against a lot of semi-pro crews here and people who race together all the time – we always think if we could start at the end of the week with what our crews learn, they’d be really good!”

Racing in the 46th BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival resumes on Friday. The Regatta Village is buzzing with anticipation, the docks are full with almost 90 boats registered and more than 600 crew from all over the world, and importantly, the beach bars are open! The first gun is at 1000.

The bar is open, the food vendors are ready and the annual Mount Gay Rum Welcome Party kicks off celebrations at the Regatta Village at Nanny Cay before the start of the BVI Spring Regatta tomorrow © www.ingridabery.com