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What’s a Squib?

December 4, 2010 — Although some may think that when the BVI Spring Regatta incorporated one-design racing into the event in 2005, new ground was being broken. Well, think again. As the 40th Anniversary of the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival is being planned, March 28 – April 3, 2011, the archives have been dusted off. Squibs have emerged as the first one design class sailing in the inaugural BVI Spring Regatta of 1972. The sailors that raced  and cruised that 19’ boat in the early days are part of the BVI Spring Regatta and the British Virgin Islands heritage and include El and Liz Richardson, Roosevelt Smith, twins Keith and Peter Barker, Peter and Barbara Bailey, and Olaf and Patsy Nissen.

1974 Squib fleet in TortolaTortola, British Virgin Islands (BVI),

In those early days of the regatta, El Richardson, current owner of Richardson’s Rigging Services and a fully accredited preacher in the Methodist church, was relatively new to sailing but his enthusiasm was high and he spent a lot of time on the water, first learning to sail in Peter Haycraft’s and Dr. Robin Tattersall’s Sunfishes, then later in the Nissen’s Squib. Today El speaks of his love of the water, sailing and the Squibs. Looking at a photo in hanging in his shop today in which Liz Richardson is at the helm in one of the two Squibs El owned, he said, “Look at that boat; its got beautiful lines and sailed really well.  We went every place in that boat and had a great time. It could sail in any weather and was so stable, you never needed to reef.”

El has competed in every BVI Spring Regatta from 1972-2002. “When I was racing, the regatta was a lot smaller and I knew everyone. There were people who came from St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix and Puerto Rico but it was all very friendly.” Early courses took the BVI Spring Regatta fleet back and forth across the channel and to the south of the barrier islands. There was only one race a day and the fleet often ended the race and began its party on a different VI island than than the one from which it had started. According to El, this was great fun, “The Squibs would get into the big waves on the the other side of Peter or Salt Island, we’d set the chute (spinnaker) and take off and lots of time, catch up to boats that were a lot bigger than us. We did really well.”

Just under 20 foot long, the Squib is a two-person racing keelboat with 50% ballast ratio. According to the Squib website, “That means it is big enough to race at sea and small enough to trail comfortably behind a family car.” Still popular in the UK, the local fleet seemed to have taken its dying breath but now appears as though it was just hibernating. Alison Knights and husband Colin Bramble have collected and refurbished four of the old Squibs for the BVI Watersports Centre sailing program and plan to enter them in this year’s 40th anniversary of the BVI Spring Regatta.

Hoping to encourage life long sailors and Squib lovers back onto the water, Alison has invited El and others to be a part of the rejuvenation. Plans call to crew the Squibs with students and as many of the original sailors as possible. Although there are only four boats, there will be opportunities for many crew members to have a “go”, as crew will be able to rotate on and off the boats. Spectators will also get to watch the fun as the racing will be held on a short course as close as possible to the shore line at Nanny Cay Resort and Marina, the event host.  Squibs will have their own class and and an overall trophy will be presented to the winning boat and all the crew that sailed the boat.

Squib sailing is only part of the fun planned for the 2011 BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival.  Event Director Judy Petz said, “Turning 40 isn’t something that happens everyday and this year we’re pulling out all the stops, making history and reminiscing at the same time.”

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