Fast new boats rouse racing excitement at BVI Spring Regatta

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Tortola, British Virgin Islands – February 6, 2017 – A highlight of racing BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival is the diversity of boats participating across many classes. This year, racing is expected to take place across 18 classes, including boats who are participating for the very first time, like the newly launched all-carbon HH66 NALA, to the J122 El Ocaso, who will be competing for the 11th consecutive year. Likewise, many of this year’s competitors will be racing BVI Spring Regatta for the first time, whereas others are event old timers, coming back again because they know just how good the racing is.
The newly launched all-carbon racing machine HH66 NALA will turn a few heads at this year’s BVI Spring Regatta© Hudson Yacht Group
The carbon rocket ship NALA, owned by Jim Vos, dinghy sailor and long-time boat owner, is seriously fresh out of the yard in Xiamen, China. The brainchild of renown multihull designers Morelli & Melvin, NALA’s just been unloaded in Fort Lauderdale and boat captain Collin Marshall, who lives in St John, US Virgin Islands, will be spending the next weeks completing the commissioning work on her before setting sail for the Caribbean race series, including BVI Spring Regatta. At 66′-long, she races with a turbo-charged rig, T-foil rudders that assists stability and reduces pitching in heavy seas. Curved daggerboards help create lift at higher boat speeds making her faster on all points of sail, Marshall explained. This all-carbon racing machine is super light and as Marshall described, is designed for racing in every condition.

“While we haven’t had a chance to really put it through her paces yet she seems do pretty well in chop. She’s going to love big breeze – being in the Caribbean is going to be fantastic once we figure the bugs, but she is really designed for light and heavy air regattas.” Marshall expects to race with 10 crew on board who will be coming from all over the east and west coasts.  “We had quite a few Kiwis and Aussies working in China on this project so we’ll also have a Kiwi or two on board – for good luck!” Marshall said, smiling.
Chris Stanmore-Major owner/founder of Spartan Ocean Racing is looking forward to racing in the Caribbean for the first time with his modified Whitbread 60 at BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival © James Mitchell
Also new to BVI Spring Regatta this year is Challenger, a Whitbread 60 built for the ’97 Whitbread Round the World Race but which never made it further than Cape Town due to a financial situation. When Chris Stanmore-Major, owner/founder of Spartan Ocean Racing, bought the boat late 2015, she had just 6,000 miles on her, having been kept in storage for years. He said, “She is the lowest mileage Whitbread 60 in the world. We’ve since put 20,000 miles on her and she’s been modified for the kind of racing we do, with roller furling headsails and a change to the backstays that makes the rig a lot more secure and even to operate for the charter crews.”

Challenger will race Spring Regatta with a crew of 12 sailing guests all new to the boat and two Spartan crew on board. The crew will spend a few days in Tortola pre regatta sail training aboard Challenger. Stanmore-Major, who lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, said the boat has done well in regattas this year, chalking up first, second and third places. He’s confident that with his staff’s collective sail training background, they’ll be able to put together a competitive team for Spring Regatta, although, oddly enough, it’s his first time racing in the Caribbean!
“All my racing has been Asia, Europe, around the world etc. so the idea of going to the Caribbean is very exciting,” Stanmore-Majors laughed.” I’ve heard a lot about it but never had the opportunity. I’m interested to see what goes on…”
Challenger raced across the Atlantic from the Canary Islands with the RORC Transatlantic Race © James Mitchell
Complementing the line-up of new boats and new people are event veterans, like Doug Baker, from Long Beach, California. Baker first raced the event in 2000, took a break for a number of years, but has been back for the past five events. While he’s owned plenty of fast racing boats in his time, these days Baker prefers to charter. This year he’ll be on Runaway, an ultralight sled 70 which will be racing Spring Regatta for the first time. Runaway recently competed in the Cape Town to Rio race and will do several Caribbean events before Baker meets her in Tortola for Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival.

“For the most part chartering works well for me; it’s cost effective, it’s a little more for each regatta but then you don’t have the maintenance of the boat beyond the expense of owning a boat. We try to do our research: I understand the current owner has done a lot of work on the boat and it’s in really good condition so we’re excited.” He’ll need about 15 to race Runaway and will have a mix of pro sailors and “volunteers” on board, some whom he has sailed with for 30-40 years, and others 15-20 years. Ernie Richau will navigate and Chad Hough will call tactics; both are from Southern California. Baker has done all the events in the Caribbean, some more than four or five times.

“I like the Caribbean, and my crew love coming with me,” Baker laughed. “The weather is always great, 99% of the time you have good wind, lots of competition – we get more competition down there than we do back on the West Coast, the parties are great, it’s hard to beat everything that the Caribbean has to offer!”
A team shot from the 2016 regatta. Veteran BVISR acer Doug Baker (centre in red cap) has chartered Runaway, an ultralight sled 70 which will be racing at Spring Regatta for the first time © BVI Spring Regatta
Andrew McIrvine, from the Isle of Wight, UK, is also a Spring Regatta veteran returning to the event for the first time in some 20 years. He’s chartered the Beneteau First 40 Olympia’s Tigress, and will be racing with his crew, Team Larry.
“The boat we have is a sister ship of my own boat in England on which we’ve been very successful; we’ve won a lot of RORC and other European events with my usual gang on board, we won Round St Tropez a couple of years ago and Cowes Week last year in our class. Tony Mack (McFly) won class at Spring Regatta last year on the same boat.” The last time McIrvine sailed Spring Regatta was on a Jeanneau 47 and he’d always wanted to do it again.

 As Admiral of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, McIrvine was involved in the launching of the RORC Caribbean 600 which he has competed in since that race’s inception. This year he wanted to do something different, and will have a team of 12 with him.  “It’s probably too many but everyone wanted to come,” McIrvine laughed. “We’ve hired a young foredeck guy as we’re mostly getting old, so that should keep the front end sorted out. I do have Tasmanians on board – not just Australians, but Tasmanians – so we could be in big trouble there. We expect to be reasonably competitive if only I can only keep them off the rum!”
La reponse
RORC Admiral, Andrew McIrvine at the helm of his First 40, La Réponse competing in the Solent, UK as part of Team GBR in the 2016 Brewin Dolphin Commodores’ Cup. He’s looking forward to coming back to the BVI Spring Regatta in a sister ship, racing as Team Larry © Paul Wyeth/RORC

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ENDS/….  By Michelle Slade