The first BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival in three years is shaping up to be promising, with at least 68 boats preparing to go head to head in the main events this weekend.
“It’s beautiful to see that many sailboats back out in the water again,” Regatta Director Judy Petz said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Nanny Cay Marina filled up with sailboats as volunteers on land set up stalls where vendors and local businesses will showcase their goods and services.
“Conditions … through the week are going to be near perfect,” Regatta Chairman Bob Phillips said. “We are expecting winds in the mid-teens with temperatures in the mid-80s and sunny skies.”
Perfect sailing conditions also graced the Race to Scrub Island as the Sailing Festival kicked off Wednesday, organisers said.
Boats were expected to register up until Thursday for the Spring Regatta, which begins today and continues until Sunday.
The Race to Foxy’s centred around Jost Van Dyke and the iconic restaurant and bar on the sister island. Today is the Mount Gay Race, followed by the Round Tortola Race on Saturday, weather permitting.
Another race day is scheduled for Sunday, and an awards ceremony will end the festivities that night.
Organising the event — which was cancelled for the last two years because of Covid-19 — was no easy feat.
Ms. Petz said the team usually begins preparing in November. But with a spike in Covid-19 cases in December and financial strains limiting the number of hours organisers could work, challenges mounted in the weeks leading up to the event.
“The volunteers have stepped up and are helping us with all the small details that make the event as special as it is,” Ms. Petz said. “There are a lot of people that have come to help.”
With Covid-19 protocols still in place, the events for the week haven’t been advertised to the local community.
“As much as I want to promote it, as we always have the full community come and enjoy, we can’t do that this year because of social distancing and Covid-19 protocols,” Ms. Petz said. “So we’ve really limited the participation to just the sailors. We’ll see how things are by Sunday.”
She added that all partici- pants coming for the festival and regatta have been fully vaccinated and were required to submit a negative Covid-19 test within 48 hours of travel.
“And then we are outside,” she added. “One of the great parts about sailing: It’s all about the breeze and being outside on the water. That part is in our favour.”
Besides the Covid-19 restrictions, the yachting sector took a hit in recent weeks after government seized charter vesels for noncompliance with various laws.
This month, nearly 200 boats were detained across at least three charter companies
for alleged safety violations and other issues.
Though Customs Commissioner Wade Smith said last week that the move wouldn’t affect the regatta and festival, organisers told a different story.
Ms. Petz said that prior to the crackdown, 85 boats were signed up for the festival and regatta. That number dropped to less than 70 after the seizures.
More boats are supposed to be released from government custody this week, but Ms. Petz said it’s a waiting game for now.
“We’ve been in touch with The Moorings and Customs,” she said. “They’re working within the team that they have as diligently as they could. They actually got boats released at the end of last week.”
Some sailors who planned to attend the event had to cancel their trips last minute, and others arrived in the territory only to learn that their boats were seized.
“Some people were already booked to fly and came,” Ms. Petz said. “They’re sort of hanging out a little bit and just waiting to see.”
She added that a group of people planning to crew six boats dropped out entirely.
“It’s very sad. That group in particular were huge supporters of the event and were also huge supporters for us after Irma,” she said. “They came with supplies and donations and all kinds of things. We awarded them with our ‘Spirit of Enthusiasm’ award.”
She noted that the yacht seizures would also have a major impact on the territory as a whole since reservations at villas, rentals, and other businesses were also cancelled.