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Virgin Islands’ Boat Tradition Lives!

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

Latest posts by Geoff Brooks, Curator - Virgin Islands Maritime Museum (see all)


A Great Virgin Islands’ Tradition Lives!

Photography by Geoff Brooks and WEYC

A 40-year Virgin Islands’ tradition in the Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta looked to be on its last legs this year…one of the oldest celebrated events in the region, but a far cry from the early days.

Over the years, numbers dropped dramatically, mostly due to the fact that there was a scarcity of traditional wooden vessels. On top of this, interest in the event had waned and dulling spirits this year was the fact that two traditional wooden sloops, Sea Moon and Youth Instructor, were left out because there was no crew to race them.


The other harsh deterrent was the fact that the regatta was being held on a weekend that was steeped in competition – there was a music festival in the BVI’s Cane Garden Bay, the Poker Run in Virgin Gorda, and Gaming Night in Tortola’s Nanny Cay. Optimism was not high to say the least…

These were my thoughts on the afternoon of Friday May 23, 2014, as I found myself on a catamaran sailing from Nanny Cay to Jost Van Dyke for a race and celebration that was painfully expiring. I was travelling along with Martin Van Houten, Commodore of the Loyal West End Yacht Club and Race Captain for the 40th Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta which was being held during the next two days.


Accompanying us was the traditional Tortola sloop Intrepid under tow. Intrepid is a 20ft classic Virgin Islands sloop, which was acquired for the BVI’s HLSCC just over a year ago through the kind sponsorship of VP Bank. She was discovered in St Croix and has a rich and colourful past. We have placed her date of construction at 1915, but that is not known for sure – the builder also remains an enigmatic point. We do know that she was built in the BVI and is a classic local sloop design. Intrepid was our ride for the weekend and we were looking forward to racing her, despite down-trodden hopes about numbers…that was until we approached Jost Van Dyke’s Great Harbour at about 4:30pm.


As we entered the moorings, we were surrounded by beautiful classic wooden boats of all sizes and types. It was immediately apparent that Coral Bay, St John had come out in force to support Foxy and the regatta. The folks in Coral Bay are true lovers of maritime heritage and traditions, and have the largest concentration of traditional wooden boats.

The regatta had four separate classes of boats: there was Wooden, of course, Island Sloop, Classic Plastic, and a racing class which was part of the Gosling’s Racing Series of six regattas; Gosling being a major sponsor of the race.


Beginning on Saturday, the event commenced with two races and good winds until the middle of the second race when the wind disappeared. Intrepid proved to be no match for Endeavour, the JVD Preservation Society’s newly launched sloop, which featured the renowned Foxy himself on-board – she easily beat us in both races.

Sunday was a different story as the winds picked up and we were able to beat Endeavour in the only race of the day. The awards and party were held at Foxy’s that evening with revelry and pleasure in that the event was a huge success over the prior year.


Endeavour took first prize in the Island Sloop class while the Wooden Boat class was won by Dr Robin Tattersall in Diva, his classic 1930 built sloop.

In total, there were 20 boats competing which included three schooners, three Ketches, a cutter rigged sloop and many other classic and racing designs.


As Martin and I headed back to Tortola on Monday with Intrepid in tow, we were pleasantly satisfied with the weekend’s results and participation. For all our anxiety, it looks like Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta can go for another 40 years. A special thanks to all who came and showed support and to the Coral Bay, St John folks who made it an outstanding regatta.

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