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Remote Control Poker Run

Photography by David Thomas and Michael Penn 

It was a typically beautiful Sunday afternoon: The sun graced us with waves of caressing heat, the sky was an azure blue found in epic landscape paintings and the roads were so clear it seemed we had the island all to ourselves.

With the top down in our jeep, I toured the islands with my friends in familiar fashion. Our designated driver told us about weekly speedboat racing found at Brandywine Bay; curiosity influenced our group’s decision to visit this interesting spectacle.

Upon entering the area, a line of people at the edge of the bay, armed with remote controllers, stood like focused soldiers, staring at the water. It took a slight change of my direction to see where everyone’s concentration lay. My immediate thought was that the multi-coloured vessels speeding around the bay’s water were like miniature versions of the whacky and extravagant boats found in the BVI Poker Run. Vessels ranging from 45 to 60 inches dashed around the water at incredible speeds.

Talking to David Thomas–a long-standing fan and organiser of the boat racing–I discovered that this hobby has been running in the BVI for about 25 years, supporting the territory’s great passion for boats.

“As you may or may not know, people in the BVI love boats— especially speed boats,” said the organiser. “Back then people used to run nitro boats, which used nitro-methane fuel. I got involved in R/C boat racing around 20 years ago. About 10 years ago, people started using gasoline engines. Yes, regular pump gas, and it continues to this day.”

The intensity in the R/C boat racers’ faces as they sped their boats around the bay, and the amount of people present at the occasion was impressive. Clearly, the hobby provides great amusement which was evident in many competitors’ expressions.


“It’s my stress relief from a busy work week even when the boats are giving trouble,” said David. “It’s great to fi gure it out and go and win the next race. The one thing that has remained, is the fun of friendly competition, and the joy on the faces of spectators seeing how fast the boats really are. You got to love it.”

As an observer, I was guilty of that joy, standing mesmerized by the sheer velocity that these boats exhibit.

The speed of the boats is so wild that the choice of location that the racers host every Sunday— Brandywine Bay—is a compromise of both safety and satisfaction for the racers. “We tried several beaches: Cane Garden Bay, Brewers Bay,” said David. “The problem with the beaches is that it’s a safety problem because you always have swimmers in the water and the speeds that these boats go at…God forbid if one is hit, it could be very serious or fatal.”

The racing is open to the public and is a weekly Sunday event at Brandywine bay with organised races occurring every six weeks between locations in the BVI and USVI.

“The initial purpose was just for bragging rights among the guys. But after guys saw how much fun organised racing is and the camaraderie between the competitors, why wouldn’t you do it?” said David in reference to the prearranged racing and different classes of boats they run which include Monos, Cats and Twins.

As an exciting and popular hobby in the BVI, everyone should take the chance to watch on Sunday and if feeling sufficiently audacious, invest in the action. The R/C speed boats are certainly a testament to the passion the BVI community has for sea vessels.

Below: Apparently the world’s fastest R/C boat – take a look 

Erin Paviour-Smith

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