One of the many cool elements of the BVISR is the diversity among the fleet participating – most boats have a story and except for the bareboats rarely are two boats alike. Old boats, new boats, big and small. This year is no exception, it’s as if the past two years of downtime has given people the chance to buy a boat, new or used, and to figure it out. Priorities seem to be in order as heading to the Caribbean to race is at the top of the list for competitors racing this year.
Here, we speak to the owners/skippers of two relatively new boats racing in the BVISR for the first time, as well as one boat that may as well be new given the extensive three-year refit that she recently underwent. It’s great to have these fabulous boats grace this year’s fleet.
Victor Wild, owner of the Botin 52 FOX, is a seasoned racer from San Diego, California, racing the BVISR for the first time on FOX which he’s owned since 2020. He’s owned different boats over the years, including BUD, a TP52 designed by Judel/Vrolijk and built at Hakes Marine in 2006. He took ownership of the first edition of FOX (also a Botin 52) in 2015, which was built at Cookson Boats in Auckland, New Zealand. He and his crew raced the Bay of Islands Race Week in January of 2015 before it was shipped to California. This boat sold in December 2019 and became Natalie J, currently in the Great Lakes. The current FOX was delivered in June 2020 from Longitud Cero Composites S.L. shipyard in Spain.
Wild, enjoying his first foray into Caribbean racing, has already highlighted just how fast FOX is and the skill of his crew has not gone unnoticed, with two wins in class these past two days. He had not previously been to the BVI and his motivation for getting to this part of the world was simply because he had heard it was a beautiful part of the world.
“There’s a high level of racing in the Caribbean and a big fleet for BVI Spring Regatta,” Wild said. “I had heard the BVI was very beautiful, we’ve previously had a very nice time on St John’s, so I thought we’d extend that to the BVI!”
This week he’s racing with five different nationalities racing on board. His current crew have been with him for five years and are mostly his permanent crew. “They’re the best sailors in the world, or to be more honest, they are the best sailors in the world who will sail with me,” Wild laughed. “But seriously, they ARE among the very best sailors in the world, and I’ve been able to maintain them for the past five years and I intend to keep them for the next fifty!”
What does he enjoy most about racing? “I enjoy winning!” he laughed. Wild must be having a great time this week if that’s the case.
Bruce Gates is the owner/skipper of Mustang, the 83’ Camper & Nicholsons cutter rigged sloop. After losing his Dufour 50 Recess to Hurricane Irma in 2017, he purchased Mustang in St Augustine, FL, in May of 2018 which led to a three-year refit of the boat. The first two years of the refit were done in St Augustine then he brought the boat to BVISR in 2019, and while they weren’t ready for racing, they had a lot of fun on the boat. Her refit was completed at Camper & Nicholsons who added three feet to the stern to include a lazarette. Fast forward, Mustang is a stunning boat and Gates and his crew, all sailors he races with on Lake Michigan in the summer, are having fun this week learning how to race her.
“We got line honors on Wednesday’s race but corrected to fifth which was obviously disappointing – we didn’t know how much time we were giving other boats,” Gates said. “We realized that we must go all out and not give up anything. Thursday’s race was mistake-free so we will see!”
A Doug Peterson designed hull, to Gates’ knowledge, Mustang is the only one of three hulls built circa ’86-87 still sailing. The hull was designed for Southern Ocean racing so while she is comfortable, she heavy at seventy tons, with essentially a racing hull but not a racing keel, noted Gates.
The boat was a wreck when Gates found her, but he thought she was a beauty and bought her anyway.
“The previous owner had taken her around the world four times so there was a ton of deferred maintenance,” Gates laughed. “I just loved her lines though, I thought she was beautiful. The pilothouse makes it interesting for racing but she’s so comfortable inside.”
He’s becoming more at ease helming a boat of 83’, citing that it’s all about practice.
“We had some white knuckles at Thursday’s start, we had the door closed on us – I warned the crew ahead of time that somebody may try to come down the line on starboard and turn up and sure enough, FOX did,” Gates noted. “Trust me, I don’t get too flustered but that one…well, it was really tight. We got overpowered and I thought I was going to miss the pin, but I pushed it down and slipped through.”
He plans to keep the boat on the east coast, probably Newport, RI, during the summer and while he’s unlikely to race it there because summer is when he he likes to spend at his home in Montana fly fishing and hiking, he may cruise her there occasionally.
“It was a long three-year-labor-of-love project and she’s now better than new actually,” Gates said. “We are proud to have her out sailing this week for sure. We did the Round Tortola race on her when we were not ready in 2019 – we knew it would be a good race for us when we were ready, and we are ready! We love it here, I have been coming here for almost 30 years, this is a fun regatta, it’s not as fancy as the other ones but the people we meet are very nice, my sailmaker is here, and Judy (Petz, Regatta Director) has been a delight helping us with getting the boat here. And the crew obviously loves it – it’s been than being back in Chicago right now!”
Owner/Skipper of OMII, Shahid Hamid’s sailing passion started in the late nineties in the Ionian Sea many years ago bareboat heaven. He had small children and a wife who didn’t enjoy overnight passages, they liked the fun of being part of the flotillas there, and all the small islands within a few hours sail. One of his past-times was teaching scuba diving which he gave up after two hundred dives and having taught his three sons, now 22, 18 and 16, to dive. After that, he naturally moved onto the water and did a couple of years of dinghy sailing, he sailed on J80s and Harris 200s, and got his boys into dinghy sailing at a young age.
From London, he’s a member of the Lymington Yacht Club and has done plenty of racing on the Solent. He’s now based out of the Port of Nice and from where he does the Med circuit in the summer. He owned charter boats over the years before buying OMI, a Jeanneau 57, in 2014-15.
“She was a beautiful boat and we really enjoyed her, but we are racers, and she wasn’t a racing boat,” Hamid said. “When my son was nine, we did the Atlantic crossing on her with my race crew, he had his 10th birthday in the middle of the Atlantic 1000 miles from anywhere which was awesome. We spec’d the boat up beyond its capabilities and eventually broke her!”
Hamid did a last regatta on OMI in St Maarten in spring 2020 before everything shut down. The boat was left in St Lucia, someone made an offer on her, and he sold it.
“I was without a boat for maybe three months before the itch started,” Hamid said. “The Swan 58, a German Frers design, came out, I placed an order for one in September 2020, and she was delivered last December. We did five thousand miles on the new OMII in 30 days to get here so we are still shaking her down. She’s now 90 days old and what I love about the boat is the polars –– what she can do boat-speed-wise and how she can match wind-speed”.
OMII won the recent St Maarten regatta which Hamid attributes to good crew and lots of training. Before every regatta he pulls the crew in for four/five days of training and to get the boat ready.
“I think our St Maarten result was due to the pent-up energy that we had since the delivery,” Hamid laughed. “But we didn’t make any mistakes and that’s the big thing, plus, older boats don’t react the way that you want them to, and this boat is well-balanced. I’m really pleased with the investment and we’re certainly using it.”
Hamid will race St Barts and Antigua Race Week before shipping the boat back to the Med for four regattas there this summer. Then he’ll do it all again next year. Having not raced the BVISR previously he’s impressed with what he’s experienced so far.
“It’s lovely here, the islands just make it a Caribbean all. We went from Grenada to St Lucia to St Maarten to BVI but when you get here…you could spend a whole season just here.”