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Racing the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival: Checking off the bucket list

by Michelle Slade / BVISR 24 Jan 17:14 GMT April 1-7, 2024
Checking off the bucket list - racing at the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival © Ingrid Abery /

An exhilarating aspect of BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival (BVISR) is the opportunity that the regatta presents for a wide variety of boats to participate.

This year's diverse entry list includes three boats new to racing BVISR; Salacia 1, a Beneteau First 44.7 owned by Chris Chart, Rikki, a RP42 owned by Bruce Chafee, and Final Final, a Mills 41 owned by Jon Desmond. Each was purchased with the goal of someday racing in the Caribbean and this year, all three boats will participate in the BVISR for the first time.

Chris Chart lives near a lake in Proctor in eastern British Columbia, Canada, where he sails in the summer. He started looking for a boat to buy during Covid, which proved a difficult market at the time given all that was going on back then. He finally found Salacia 1, a cruiser racer, in the BVI two years ago and other than needing to install a new rig for insurance purposes, the boat was ready to go. Chart's been making the most of his time aboard; he's cruised from the Caribbean up to Annapolis and Long Island Sound, then back to the Caribbean for the 2023 Heineken Regatta. This year he plans to do the Heineken Regatta again with a group of friends from his sailing club in Canada - the Kootenay Lake Sailing Association - before heading to the BVI where he has local friends who are helping him put together a scratch team.

"This will be an experimental run at BVISR as we'll be a group of people who haven't raced together previously," Chart smiled. "We're looking forward to it. We're very much enjoying the Caribbean so far, it's pretty nice to be there especially given the weather back home!"

It's fair to say that Bruce Chafee, from Boston, Mass, USA, loves his boat, and he's particularly excited to be checking off bucket list items starting with a second run at the RORC Caribbean 600 this year, before making it over to the BVISR in late March. This is his sixth season with Rikki, which he found in New Zealand after an exhaustive search for just the right boat. Built in 2011, she was purpose-built for offshore racing and in recent years he's successfully finished the Newport to Bermuda race, Annapolis to Newport, and the Pineapple Cup (Miami to Jamaica). The boat now lives near Newport, Rhode Island.

"It was only one of two boats we found that fit my criteria - it's odd to say but I'm in it just for the racing!" Chafee laughed. "The boat is an offshore machine and I like to race offshore 70% of the time, although it does have a head with a door and habitable bunks... We're excited for the variety of racing that we will get in the BVI - the courses look great and we're looking forward to the Round Tortola race." Chafee will race with his core crew of 10-12 from home.

The Mills 41 Final owned by Jon Desmond from Cohasset, Mass, USA, is also relatively new to Desmond who has owned the boat for two years and while he will be racing this boat in the BVI for the first time, Desmond is no stranger to Caribbean racing. His dad Jack Desmond owned a Swan 48 called Affinity which he raced for many years in the Caribbean and which the young Desmond grew up with. Since purchasing Final Final, which sails out of Newport, RI, Desmond has put the boat through its paces: last winter he did the RORC Caribbean 600, St Thomas International Regatta, Heineken, and the Voile. This summer they raced on the Great Lakes, competing in the Chicago-Mac and others before trucking the boat to Florida. This year they are taking a second shot at the Caribbean 600 before heading over to the BVISR, noted Matt Wordell, Desmond's boat manager and friend, who added that Final Final's core crew comprises a group of some ten of Jon's friends.

"Jon bought the boat to race the bucket list of races he wanted to do, and the Caribbean 600 last year was our first real race on the boat; we had a lot of takeaways after 600 miles of sailing together!" Wordell said. "We're looking forward to a whole week of BVI Spring Regatta, including the Round Island and the Scrub Invitational, and many of the crew plan to bring our families to spend the week at Nanny Cay Marina and Resort."

Regatta Director Cayley Smit, new to the BVISR this year, hopes that in 2024 the event will continue to build on its reputation as one of the world's favourite sailing events.

"For those of you who are contemplating the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival, either as a returning competitor or for the first time, do it!" Smit commented. "We promise world-class racing in superb conditions, and exceptional shore-side hospitality - it's a racing experience not to be missed! Sign up at"

See list of entries here.

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