Light winds yesterday made for a slow start at the opening day of the British Virgin Islands' annual sailing festival

Festival – the three-day, low-pressure warm up for the BVI Spring Regatta to take place this weekend (April 2-4) – got off to a slower than hoped for start yesterday as light winds dogged the competitors attempting to race to the Bitter End Yacht Club in Virgin Gorda’s North Sound.

Only 18 boats out of the 60 entered recorded finish times: some took a lie in after the kick off party at Nanny Cay the previous night; others took a look at the startline and turned on their engines; and others took the bit between their teeth and crossed the line only to run out of time on the course.

Only Roy E. Disney’s maxZ86 Pyewacket and Bill Alcott’s Andrews 68 Equation finished in Racing A. Pyewacket took three hours and fifteen minutes to complete the course. While Clay Deutsch’s Chippewa made it to the line she was out of time.

As the wind died and became more fickle the course was shortened for all the other classes with the race to finish at The Baths.

In Racing B, Martin Jacobson’s Swan 48 Crescendo – first in class at this year’s Swan American Regatta – gained line honours as well as the win on corrected time. Mick Schlens who has returned to the BVI for the third time and the second time with his chartered Express 37 Cosmic Warlord was second and Beneteau 40.7 First Home with Mort Weintraub at the helm was third.

Chris White’s Atlantic 55 Javelin was the only boat to finish in the Multihull class.

Dot Com, a Moorings 463 topped Bareboat A with Big Ben, a Moorings 494 second and Beneteau 50 Sea-duction third. Frevo, aka Team Germany from the German office of the BVI Tourist Board won Bareboat B. Bavaria 36 Durley Dene with Sarah Kafetz, winner of the charter with Horizon Yacht Charters at Cowes Week last year was second and Baronesse, another German entry third.

With only seven of the 20 boats in the bareboat division finishing, competition will be hot on the race back to Nanny Cay on Thursday for The Moorings Sailing Festival Cup which will be awarded to the best performing bareboat in the Sailing Festival.

Wednesday is Lay Day Bitter End-style with as much – or as little – as people want to do.

However with wind, eight teams will be battling it out on the waters of the North Sound for top honours in the first annual Nations’ Challenge Cup with teams from the USA, the UK, Italy, France, Puerto Rico, the BVI, the USVI and Germany flying their national flags.

The event will be sailed in the Bitter End Yacht Club’s fleet of Hunter 216s. With two flights, the ‘B’ teams will race in the morning, and the ‘A’ teams will race in the afternoon. Four races will be sailed in each flight with the boats swapped after each race.

The Around Virgin Gorda Race is also planned. The course is approximately 24 miles, and will provide for some stunning spinnaker runs down the back of the island.

The best performing bareboat in the Sailing Festival will earn The Moorings Sailing Festival Cup while the best performing Swan that competes in both the Sailing Festival and the BVI Spring Regatta will get its name on a perpetual trophy presented by the Bitter End.

The expanded seven-day format has turned the traditional three days of racing action into a week-long sailing festival that takes participants throughout the British Virgin Islands. The inaugural Sailing Festival introduced last year saw 38 boats compete.

The three-day BVI Spring Regatta takes place on the south side of Tortola in the Sir Francis Drake Channel on three different courses. The largest ever BVI Spring Regatta concluded last year with 138 boats.