Monday, April 9, 2012

Fast Sailing EL OCASO Dominates BVI

J/120 El Ocaso sailing BVI Spring Regatta (Tortola, British Virgin Islands)- The BVI Regatta & Sailing Festival is famed for gorgeous sailing conditions, hot racing and a friendly atmosphere- it didn't disappoint.  With nearly postcard-perfect sailing conditions for all three days, the fleet was treated to yet another "classic BVI" regatta.

Coming out on top of the all the racing fleets with the best overall performance of the regatta was Rick Wesslund's renowned J/120 EL OCASO in Class 3 Racing, previous Caribbean Champion in a number of events as well as a former Key West Race Week Regatta winner.  Rick and crew won the toughest offshore handicap class by a wide margin, beating some highly publicized teams like the Beneteau First 40 Smile & Wave from Puerto Rico along with a slew of other 40 footers for overall honors.  Rick and crew had a 1-1-3-1-1-1-2-2-1 record for 13 pts over 9 races-- an average of 1.44 and a dominant advantage by five points over the second place finisher.  Fifth was the J/105 DARK STAR, winner of the previous week's Rolex Cup Regatta in St Thomas, US Virgin Islands, just 5 pts shy of 3rd place on the podium-- what wouldn't they give to have a "redux" of their last two races!

J/80 OtraKosa sailing BVI Spring RegattaOver in Class 5 Racing, the 28-32 foot crowd of J's were having a tough go of it for a variety of reasons.  Nevertheless, the J/27 MAG 7 sailed by Paul Davis managed a 5th overall, followed by the J/80 OTRAKOSA skippered by Kike Gonzalez in 6th place, the J/33 BOOMERANG (Sistership?) sailed by Patrick Nolan in 7th and the J/80 SUNBUM 2 sailed by Angel Ayala in 10th.  There was no question this group of boats had a fun time sailing against one another.

The Class 7 Non-Spinnaker competition could best be described as a "tale of two regattas".  In the beginning of time, there was a J/46 called JENT sailed by Henry van Melle that dominated the Sailing Planet Earth with a 1-1-3.  Then.  As time wore on.  A few asteroids hit Earth in a time warp. And, after celebrating their extraordinary good Fortune.  Father Time passed by and determined it was Time to make a Change.  That Change was Not Good.  In the end, Henry and crew sailed their J/46 JENT very well, starting out strong, but finishing with a whimper.  Nevertheless, it's understood all had a wonderful time in the limelight!

J/36 offshore cruiser racer sailboat- sailing BVI Spring RegattaClass 8 Non-spinnaker was an incredibly tough class for being one of the smaller fleets in the regatta.  In the end, the J/36 CAYENNITA GRANDE sailed by Steve Joines and Antonio Sanpere from Christiansted, St. Croix took class honors counting just 1's and 2's for just 7 pts.  Second was another stellar outing for the J/95 SHAMROCK VII team led by Tom Mullen from New Hampshire finishing with just 1's, 2's and 3's for 11 pts.  Good show for both teams.

How did the regatta go?  Here are the daily reports.

DAY 1- the regatta started off spectacularly.  Racing started on schedule, 15 knots of solid breeze intensified during the morning, peaking at 18 knots to provide some fantastic racing conditions for the opening day. Many classes enjoyed the fantastic vista of the southeasterly face of Salt Island today. With gnarled rock formations and spectacular reefs, the windward side of Salt Island is one of the most hauntingly beautiful areas of the BVI.

In Class 3, Richard Wesslund’s J/120, EL OCASO had a very successful day on the water, winning two races and coming third in the last race of the day to lead the class by a three point margin.

J/27 offshore racer cruiser sailboat- sailing BVI Spring RegattaClass 5 is a very competitive class. Right from the start it became clear that a battle royale is on the cards between several local boats, whose crews have known these magnificent sailing grounds for many years.  For the first start of the day, virtually the entire class was jostling for position at the Committee Boat end of the line in an attempt to control the favoured right hand side of the course. Rounding Salt Island the local knowledge really paid off with all the local boats happily sailing closer to the jagged shoreline. Amongst the local boats, the J/27 MAG 7 was very much in contention. MAG 7 is one of the smallest boats in the regatta but she is in magnificent condition, a tribute to the TLC of her owner, Paul Davis.

J/46 cruiser racer sailboat "JENT"- sailing BVI Spring RegattaIn Class 7, Henry van Melle's J/46, JENT had an outstanding day, winning both of today’s races, but the Dutch team was pushed all the way. In Race 1, JENT won by just 40 seconds and the second race was even closer, with JENT securing the win by just 13 seconds. JENT were the overnight leaders.

Class 8 produced two close races today between two J/Boats. Thomas Mullen’s new J/95 SHAMROCK VII won the first race of the day by under a minute, but St. Croix’s Antonio Sanpere came back to win the second race with the classic J/36 CAYENNITA GRANDE, by just 16 seconds. These two yachts tied for first in Class for the Nanny Cay Cup this week, a close battle is bound to resume tomorrow.

DAY 2- on this day, competitors had the amazing opportunity of experiencing the western extent of the British Virgin Islands.  Virtually all racing and cruising classes were sent through The Cut, a narrow gap between Tortola and St. John, what's more there were a multitude of downwind starts, resulting in some fantastic action from the get go.  As the fleet came up on the wind at Soper's Hole, the scenery was nothing short of spectacular; Little Thatch and Great Thatch Islands offer some of the most outstanding vistas anywhere in the Caribbean.

In Class 3, the J/120 EL OCASO stamped their authority on the class with three consecutive wins today and now lead the class by a healthy six points.

J/95 shoal-draft sailboat- SHAMROCK VII- sailing BVI Spring RegattaIn Class 8, it was a memorable day for some. However, Antonio Sanpere's St. Croix team on the J/36 CAYENNITA GRANDE had the best of today's racing scoring a first and a second to open up a two point lead over nearest rivals; Thomas Mullen's SHAMROCK VII.

Last night, by invitation of His Excellency the Governor, Mr Boyd McCleary and Mrs Jenny McCleary held a reception at Governor's House for the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival, marking the 41st regatta.  Guests received a very warm BVI welcome as a magnificent steel band played to celebrate the 41st regatta. Governor McCleary thanked volunteers, sponsors and all those associated with the regatta, including press from around the world, hosted by the BVI Tourist Board.

At the reception, the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival was the first regatta in the Caribbean to be awarded a Gold Certificate for taking part in the Sailors for the Sea's Clean Regatta Program in its fourth year of participation. The Regatta has been fully committed to the program after being the first in the world to receive a Silver Certification after its first year.  Regatta Director, Judy Petz was overjoyed when accepting the highly prized Gold Certificate from Annie Brett, Program Lead and Dan Pingaro, CEO from Sailors for the Sea. Sailors for the Sea, based in Newport, RI are an international organization that protects the sea and works with regattas and yacht clubs around the world to educate and promote best practices for the environment.

As it was Governor McCleary's birthday, guests at the reception sang a tuneful 'Happy Birthday' as he was also presented with one of the magnificent awards that will be awarded to this year's winners. Recycled glass from 15,000 bottles from previous regattas and designed locally by Glass Studio Project Apprentices, Cisne Benjamin and Pedro Samuel, a Green VI initiative from Director, Charlotte McDevitt.  "Two years ago when we realized we had the opportunity to make awards for competitors from recycled glass used at the regatta, we started a campaign using the slogan: 'The drink you were holding last year may be the award you hold this year,' says Judy Petz, Regatta Director.

After racing today, the highlight was the Ranifly Bikini swimwear fashion show held by the poolside at Nanny Cay. Calendar models from this "teeny handmade bikini company" based in St John, US Virgin Islands, and some Regatta competitors, showed off a nautical collection specifically designed for the regatta as well as metallic, beachside and other swimwear collections to the delight of competitors. Owner Rani makes her swimwear out of natural bamboo and all are handmade in the Virgin Islands.

BVI Spring Regatta sailing around the islandsDAY 3- The final day of racing provided shifty conditions, a southeasterly breeze of about 12-15 knots emanating from Dead Chest Island.  Today all classes raced in the Sir Francis Drake Channel outside Nanny Cay and there was a lot of traffic to contend with. Probably the most important factor was staying in clear air and spotting the shifts as they whipped over and around the chain of islands on the south side of the Channel.

Regatta Chairman, Bob Phillips has been on the water every day during the regatta and he is rightly proud of the 2012 edition: 'Above all, sailors love sailing and the BVI Spring Regatta has an excellent race area. In the present economic climate an entry of 100 boats has got to be seen as a success. This year the event celebrates its 41st year and it has always been about providing good racing for a wide variety of people on the race course and great entertainment back on the shore.'

In Class 3, Rick Wesslund's J/120 EL OCASO put in another solid performance, scoring a win in the first race and two second places to clinch the class win. EL OCASO has not scored out of the top three in the nine race series.

In Class 7, there was a dramatic change to the overnight standings. Class leader, Henry van Melle's J/46 JENT went from first overall to third. Some attributed this change to the extraordinary festivities the crew were enjoying the night before?

In Class 8, Antonio Sanpere's J/36, CAYENNITA GRANDE won the first race today by a huge margin to secure the class win.   For more BVI Spring Regatta sailing results