High Speed Poker
- June 30th, 2011
- in Yachting
High Speed Poker
One hundred and twenty boats. Doesn’t sound like much for BVI waters to handle in one day, does it? Try packing all those boats—rip-roaring and clad with massive engines—into Leverick Bay. To mark the tenth anniversary of BVI Poker Run, in succession with hype-filled years past, that’s just what happened. Ten years ago, Nick Willis and his wife Monica, managers of Leverick Bay Resort and Marina, started this tradition with the first annual BVI Poker Run. The couple set out to put Leverick Bay on the map, alongside the handful of popular local events soaking up our azure waters each year. And with the success of Poker Run, that’s just what they did.
The event embarks upon five stops, with players collecting an oversized poker card at each. At the inaugural event, 12 boats from Puerto Rico to the BVI arrived to compete. After five years, in 2007, the number of boats grew to 80 and has risen steadily each year. This year saw 120 boats participating in the all day event that ended with a proper BVI party and prize giving at Leverick Bay. For 24 hours, Leverick Bay transformed from a tranquil beachfront resort to a circus of brightly coloured, powered-up boats and their crew, with an energy unmatched throughout the region.
Unlike a typical boat race, the BVI Poker Run is designed to give all contestants a fair shot at the top prize, regardless of how fast the boat or how long the lime between stops. The after party at Leverick Bay this year did not disappoint, with Coors Light on hand, the Elvis White band on stage, Moko Jumbies working the crowd, and a runway fashion show.. This year’s $8,000 top prize went to Dion Crabbe from Tortola, who boasted a hand of quad fives.
Boats from Puerto Rico, St Martin, two from as far as Miami, and 90 boats participating from the BVI partook in the fun. This year, a $10,000 donation was made to the Virgin Gorda Charitable Trust, a local organisation tasked with building a 25-metre swimming pool at the Bregado Flax School in Virgin Gorda. Over the past ten years, the event has raised $70,000 for the Charitable Trust.
According to the event’s organizers, this year’s crowd topped 2,000 in attendance on 120 boats and on the dock at Leverick Bay after the race. “It is about the people, it is about giving back through the charity,” Nick said of the event. “The real pleasure is being able to donate such a large amount of money to such a just cause here in Virgin Gorda.”
I still have fond memories of my first go at Poker Run. Two years ago, with the day off work, I took to the seas with nine friends on a chartered boat aptly named Time Off. Not the fastest boat by any means, we set out for Trellis to collect our first card. Blasting out of the cut between Virgin Gorda and Moskito Island, it’s an impressive view as you scream down the channel with (in our case) a majority of the boats ahead of you, bouncing in their wakes. The team was excited to reach the first stop, grab a card and have a drink before heading to the next stop. That year, Trellis Bay marked the first stop, through Jolly Roger toNorman Island and the Willy-T. The floating pirate bar always serves as a pit stop, slowing clocks from stopwatch to sun dial. Boats rafting by, stereos blaring and fun vibes abounding, it’s hard to keep in mind that Poker Run is actually a race—of sorts. But, at the end of the day, with the party vibe in tow, it’s easy to remember that this is the BVI. Rounding in to Virgin Gorda after a leisurely three-hour beachside buffet at Pirate’s Bight (where we completely forgot to grab a card), we headed home and rejoined the fleet at Leverick for an unforgettable after party. Swapping stories with other boats, having a cold drink and watching Nick command the stage during prize giving—all while swimsuit models strut around his podium—makes for a very fitting end to the tournament. Although on the clock for Coors Light this year's event, I was happy to see a lot of faces—both familiar and new—out on the water forming their own version of team Time Off.
While the event continues to grow, its spirit remains the same. Accessible in some way to nearly everyone, if you haven’t collected your cards at Poker Run, pick up a hand in 2012. You won’t be disappointed.