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Melges 32 Regatta Sails Into the VI

The Grand Prix of Regattas Sails Into BVI Waters

By Dan O’Connor; photos by Joy Dunigan

During these late winter months and into the early spring, Virgin Islands waters are replete with sailboats of all kinds—and plenty of regattas to appeal to their varying classes. But when word got out that this season would welcome the Melges 32 Virgin Islands Sailing series, a new wave of excitement rolled into the territory.

            The series, slated to begin at Yacht Club Costa Smeralda on Feb 21-24, will welcome nearly 20 of the top Melges 32 teams in the world. As of press time, there were 12 solid confirmations for the one unsanctioned and three sanctioned events scheduled to run through April in the British and US Virgin Islands, including classes in the International Rolex Regatta at St Thomas Yacht Club March 22-24, the BVI Spring Regatta (unsanctioned) on March 29-31, and rounding off at the Caribbean Championship at Peter Islands Resort and Marina from April 26-28.

Global interest in the Melges 32 one design racing brand has grown with more than 80 teams competing worldwide. According to their website, the company has sold more than 150 of these grand prix vessels since 2005. Their one design build and design have attracted some of the most skilled tacticians and trimmers in the world. I recently spoke with Harry Melges—one of the most competitive and storied sailors in history—about the family-owned company and its renowned stake in the industry.

            “People get excited to sail our boats because they are fast and fun,” he said. “I think beyond the boats, though, we have a fantastic group of owners and teams that migrate into our classes. Some of the best sailors in the world rub elbows with amateurs—Corinthian sailors—on any given day, creating a great environment both on and off the water.”

Melges was originally approached by a group of Virgin Islands sailors, who lobbied for our waters as an ideal location for the premier events, which had previously called the shores of Florida home. For the veteran sailor and businessman, the choice was clear.

            “The Virgin Islands offers some of the best sailing conditions in the world, not to mention a great place to take your family and spend time in the warm sunshine,” he said, further elaborating on future events here. “The plan is to make the Virgin Islands series an every other year event. We hope to gradually attract more owners to the beautiful waters for years to come.”

The regattas are expected to attract international attention, and bring in some 200 crewmembers and families—many who have booked Moorings catamarans and hotel rooms for their visit. Organizers said they anticipate an exponential boost to the local economies as attention grows.


Tortola Melges 32 boat owner Mark Plaxton, who took down last year’s cup at the St Marteen Heineken Regatta on his prided vessel, led the push here to bring three events to BVI waters. He called upon the support of veteran pros Peter Holmberg, Anthony Koutoun and Ben Beer of the USVI to help lobby for the event.

Holmberg, an Olympic medalist who hails from St Thomas, was part of a small group of VI residents who approached Melges with the concept of coming to the two territories. Holmberg, who has raced on Melges 32 teams for the past two years, described the racing machines as “extremely difficult to sail, but highly rewarding when you do.”

“Attracting this class of boats for a winter series is a huge achievement for our territories,” he said. “The class is regarded as one of the best in the world, so the press and public will take notice of them coming here.”

The celebrated local sailor said he remains confident that the premier event will encourage the boat owners to consider the territory for future events.

“This will in many ways be a trial for us in hosting grand prix events,” he said. “We must be very careful not to under promise … Hopefully we will have good weather, provide good race management, and everyone who comes has a good experience with all facets of the trip.”

2013 Melges 32 Virgin Islands Sailing Series

February 21-24

BVI Sportboat Regatta (sanctioned)

Yacht Club Costa Smeralda

North Sound, Virgin Gorda, BVI


March 22-24

International Rolex Regatta (sanctioned)

St Thomas Yacht Club

St Thomas, USVI


March 29-31

BVI Spring Regatta (unsanctioned)

Nanny Cay Resort & Marina

Tortola, BVI


April 26-28

Caribbean Championship (sanctioned)

Peter Island Resort & Marina

Peter Island, BVI

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