Just over a week ago, Mr. Clean called and asked me if I could go on a press tour to Tortola. I flabbergasted and simply chuckled. Scot couldn’t go, Clean couldn’t go, and I’m not quite sure how far down the list he went, but I got the call and rearranged a few things to make it happen.
Without much time to prepare (how very SA) I hopped on a plane on Tuesday and arrived here Wednesday night. The invitation to come here was from the BVI tourist board was to bring journalist from well read travel and sailing magazines from around the world to the BVI Spring Regatta. They met us at the airport, arranged transport to Tortola, took us to the front of the line at customs and provisioned a 4 bedroom villa for us overlooking the Caribbean and Yost Van Dyke. I sent this photo to Clean, who couldn’t come because of Charleston Race Week: Regrets?
And our villa isn’t too far from The Bomba Shack, which every sailor worth his salt seems to know (note the gal’s underthings hanging from the sign). Nanny Cay is race central for the BVI Spring Regatta, which is held in several parts. The entire regatta, which includes distance races around the islands, to the Bitter End Yacht Club and off of Tortola in the Sir Frances Drake Channel has been around since 1972 and last year had over 150 boats. They just closed registration earlier Thursday and expect the number to be slightly less, but there are some gorgeous big boats here, which I’ll have more on next week.
These mountainous islands, deep waters, and true attention to care of the water and the land make it an unmistakably exceptional place to sail. I can see now the attraction for owners to bring their teams here. It’s spectacular at nearly every turn.
Our racing starts today and we are not on a Wally or an Oyster, but instead on IC24s. Our crew of journos is a mixed bag of sailors and non-sailors so I don’t know how well we’re gonna do against some of the crews on the other ICs. Ken Batzer, the organizer for the Jaguar Series is running our circle, so it’ll be nice to hear a familiar voice on the radio even if we’re bringing up the rear.
I was hesitant about the IC24s because they are related to J24s and aside from driving a J24, I’m not that boat’s biggest fan (flame away). As it turned out, we found that the IC24s are like the beautiful cousin to the J. They cleared out the boat from the pit aft and it’s now a comfortable day sailor for the Caribbean or really anywhere. The class is built on growing sailing. In fact, each owner signs an oath to do all they can to promote sailing, even ensuring that the boats that are re-sold are kept locally.
The skipper on our boat of 4 is a 15-year old sailor named Dante. He has won several laser regattas in the Caribbean, regularly races in the IC fleet and was brought through the ranks in a program in Tortola called KATS…but more on him, the KATS program, and the racing next week. -Paige Brooks.