The BVI Sailing Festival kicked off yesterday with 34 boats on the startline

Day one of the BVI Sailing Festival – the three-day, low-pressure warm up for the BVI Spring Regatta (April 1-3) was supported by 34 boats in four classes.

Winds of 12-14 knots from an unusual south-easterly direction greeted sailors on the startline off Nanny Cay Marina as they headed up to the North Sound in Virgin Gorda racing for the Bitter End Cup. In the five-boat racing class, Bill Alcott’s Andrews 68 Equation, the scratch boat, developed an early lead and earned line hours with an elapsed time of 2 hours, 35 minutes and 51 seconds.

However, Mick Schlens, back in the BVI for the fourth time and sailing Cosmic Warlord (Express 37), chartered from the Bitter End Yacht Club for the second year, won the race on corrected time. He was followed by Peter Newlands’ Beneteau First 40.7. Equation was third after the number crunching.

Tom Mullen and his J/120 was first in the Cruiser division which saw twelve boats racing. Grand Soleil 43 Aix d’or was second and Big Ben, a Beneteau 50, was third.

Justin Barton’s Justice, recently a class winner in St Maarten’s Heineken Regatta, topped Bareboat A with a solid 10-minute lead on corrected time. Dot Com sailed by Dunbar, last year’s Bareboat A winner and recipient of The Moorings Sailing Festival Cup as the best performing bareboat in the Sailing Festival, was second. Spencer Wilkinson was third on Best Friends.

After leaving Nanny Cay Marina, the presenting sponsor and host marina for the 34th annual BVI Spring Regatta, the course took participants to a mark off The Baths – one of the British Virgin Islands’ most picturesque natural wonders – and then on to the North Sound leaving a group of islands known as ‘the Dogs’ together with Mosquito Island and Mosquito Rock to starboard and entering the North Sound via a channel through Colquhoun Reef. The finish line was off the Bitter End Yacht Club.

Wednesday (30 March) is LayDay Bitter End-style with as much – or as little – as people want to do.

The second annual Nations’ Challenge Cup in which teams take part on a ‘first come first served basis’ to represent their country takes place tomorrow. 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.

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

The expanded seven-day format billed as: “Seven days of fun with two great events in one,” has turned the traditional three days of racing action into a week-long sailing vacation that takes participants throughout the British Virgin Islands. The inaugural Sailing Festival introduced in 2003 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.