Swan 45 Samantaga Win ABSOLUT.® Full Moon Race – Welcome Breeze & Sunny Skies for BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival Island Invitational  

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Tortola, British Virgin Islands – March 28, 2018 – A fun reach in 15+ knots under sunny skies to the finish of the inaugural ABSOLUT.® Full Moon Race was welcomed by race winners, Belgian team Samantaga, especially after toughing out a night of big breeze and plenty of rain. Samantaga finished the 165 NM around the BVI race in 24 hours, 35 minutes and 4 seconds, taking the Best Overall Trophy for the race. 

Philippe Moortgat & Patrick van Heurch’s Belgian Swan 45, Samantaga win the inaugural Absolut Full Moon Race © Event Media

“The first six hours were very difficult – we were comfortable until Beef Island, making good advances, but after rounding Beef we missed the wind,” said Philippe Moortgat who is a co-partner/skipper in the Swan 45 with Patrick Van Heurch. “We stopped at West End for an hour – we didn’t throw out the anchor but thought about it as it felt like we were going backwards!”  

Around 5pm Tuesday, the breeze suddenly picked up in front of a storm that came through bringing wind and rain – lots of it. Within minutes, Samantaga was flying along in 17 knots which held steady to Anegada where they hit breeze over 22 knots. They worked hard on sail changes throughout the race using all sails on board: an asymmetrical 1.5 kite, a S2 spinnaker and three jibs.  

“After the rain blew through, it was really an almost perfect sail… and almost a full moon,” Moortgat smiled. “Everyone did a great job and we’re glad to be here.” 

Moortgat and Van Heurch have owned and campaigned Samantaga throughout Europe for the past 15 years. Every year, the pair along with family and friends have vacationed at Anegada in the BVI but they’ve never actually sailed in the area. They finally decided to bring their boat to the Caribbean to race this season in part to support the recovery following Hurricane Irma. They won division at the recent St. Thomas International Regatta, and will be a force to contend with during the BVI Spring Regatta which starts on Friday. 

Philippe Moortgat & Patrick van Heurch’s Belgian Swan 45 Samantaga finished the Absolut Full Moon Race around the BVI islands in 24 hours, 35 minutes and 4 seconds © Event Press

Tatonka, a Beneteau Cyclades 50 with plenty of local Tortola knowledge on board completed the around the BVI race in 25 hours, 21 minutes and 22 seconds. “It was the race from hell!” Bob Phillips, Regatta Chair and longtime Tortola resident joked. “The first part which should have taken 4 hours took 8, then when we finally got to Nanny Cay around 6:15pm Tuesday night, it was like someone turned a switch. By the time we got to Dead Chest we were in 30 knots and sheets of rain. We spent a good 4 hours soaking-ass wet and cold!” 

Don Makowiecki, crew on Tatonka, said it all became worthwhile around the west end of Anegada. “Usually it’s a bunch of guys in the middle of the night bs’ing but suddenly it was very quiet on board. We were mesmerized by the moon reflecting off the surf and the Southern Cross as we reached parallel to the breakers along the Anegada shore …it was awesome.” 

Today’s hearty breeze was also much appreciated by the fleet who raced the Island Invitational which took boats on a challenging 12 NM course around Ginger and Peter islands. Taking first in CSA Racing was Tony Mack on the J/122 Team McFly/El Ocaso. Second went to Spike, the J/111 skippered by Sam Talbot, and in third Liquid, the J/122 owned by Pamela Baldwin. Girls For Sail, racing Hot Stuff, a Beneteau First 40.7, took first in CSA Cruising, while Maissa, a Sunsail 47, skippered by Petr Kochnev, took first in CSA Bareboat. WOW, the Stealth 14GT skippered by David Liddell, took first in Multihull.  

Yachts enjoyed great sailing conditions for the Island Invitational Race on the second day of the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival © Alastair Abrehart

“Today was a jolly good antidote to yesterday,” Mack laughed. “The race got very exciting at the end. Taz and Liquid got ahead of us at the first and second marks, then we got ahead of Liquid. At the end we got into a tussle with Spike who just beat us at the finish. We were always close to someone which makes for great racing especially in conditions like today. The breeze was between 10-18, generally from the NE, with quite big shifts. It was a lovely day!” 

The crew on board Spike made an executive decision around 6pm last night to bail from the Absolut Full Moon Race as they sat at Steele Pointe doing zero knots in zero breeze right in front of a massive thunderstorm. That decision paid off today as they were able to compete instead in the Island Invitational, where they hit superb racing conditions. 

“We figured we didn’t have enough food given the rate we were going to complete the Full Moon Race!” Talbot laughed. “Today was great fun and great racing. We threw a couple of Hail Mary’s which paid off – we didn’t have a great start, we wanted to be where Team McFly/El Ocaso was but got a massive knock, then with a straight fetch up to the first mark and nowhere to go, we decided to go the inside of Peter Island whereas the others went between Peter and Norman – it paid off. We had a great battle with the other J/111 and the J/122s on the way back to Nanny Cay. The NE changes things up a bit even if you are a local – it makes everyone think a bit more.” 

Governor Gus Jaspert thanked sailors from 14 countries for choosing to race at the 47th BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival and for helping with the recovery of the territory by doing so © Alastair Abrehart

Cameron McColl, Nanny Cay Chairman presented awards from Tuesday’s Round Tortola Race to the British team on David Liddell & Helen Ruud’s Stealth 14gt WOW © Alastair Abrehart

At today’s prize giving, Cameron McColl, Nanny Cay Chairman, offered his gratitude to the sailors and guests visiting the BVI this week. “We were determined that the Regatta would go ahead, although, to be honest, it’s been a pretty brutal six months. We plan to take this opportunity to improve the infrastructure at Nanny Cay as well and there are hundreds of boats that are being fixed. Things are looking brighter and we’re so glad that you are here.” 

ABSOLUT.® Full Moon Regatta winners were presented with prizes from ABSOLUT®. Susana Arguello, Regional Marketing Manager at Pernod-Ricard, commented, “To create a more sustainable environment around the world it all comes down to the actions of passionate people who want to make a difference for the better. Innovative improvements are just one part. Our day-to-day work is equally important. Supporting events which are forward-thinking and have vision to reduce environmental impact, such as the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival, go hand-in-hand with ABSOLUT.® brand vision.”  


Report by Michelle Slade