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Maritime Heritage Day at the Spring Regatta

2017 marked the 46th annual BVI Spring Regatta, which has grown from humble beginnings to become one of the premier yachting events not only in the Caribbean, but the world. 

The week leading up to the regatta is celebrated as the Sailing Festival and consists of three days of racing to different locations in the Virgin Islands.

These races are designed to be fun and to give skippers and crews a chance to hone their skills and adjust their boats for the big weekend of races coming up.

The last day of the Sailing Festival, Thursday, is designated Maritime Heritage Day and is entirely dedicated to the rich maritime heritage of the Virgin Islands and our unique style of sloop – the Tortola Boat.

There is a museum display on the history of our boats and the highlight is a race featuring our traditional wooden sloops which are owned and maintained by the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College.

The event is sponsored by VP Bank—a long-time supporter of our local maritime traditions—and is called the Tortola Sloop Spring Challenge.   

Originally conceived by Judy Petz the Director of the Spring Regatta and immediately supported by Sjoerd Koster Director of VP Bank, it is now in its fourth year and has grown to become the biggest and most successful of the promotions we annually host.

The race gets international coverage and alongside our August Festival Sloop Shootout between the Premier and the Governor, it’s helped to provide our sloops global recognition.

In addition to VP Bank’s Tortola Sloop Spring Challenge, Nanny Cay Marina stepped up and sponsored a screening of the fabulous new documentary Vanishing Sail by Alexis Andrews; a wonderful tale of traditional wooden sloop construction in Carriacou, the Grenadines, this film has been winning awards in festivals all over the world.

The documentary is not scheduled for release until sometime this summer so the exclusive screening on the beach next to Peg Legs was a special treat to add to our Maritime Heritage celebration; several hundred dollars were raised in donations for our Virgin Islands Sloop Foundation.

The race itself featured three of our traditional wooden sloops with His Excellency Governor John S. Duncan OBE at the helm of Youth Instructor along with Intrepid and Esmie, which took line honours.

This was truly the best year ever for this event and even though the winds were light, the spirit and support were strong.

We look forward to moving this event from strength to strength in the years ahead.

Geoff Brooks, Curator - Virgin Islands Maritime Museum

Geoff Brooks, Curator - Virgin Islands Maritime Museum

Geoffrey is the curator of the Virgin Islands Maritime Museum. He pioneers and takes part in many of the initiatives related to the traditional art of sloop building.
Geoff Brooks, Curator - Virgin Islands Maritime Museum

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