Regatta-cation: The Pro-Am Regatta at the Bitter End Yacht Club

BVI's - Soggy Dollar

By Clarity Nicoll

Regatta-cation is defined as the perfectly balanced vacation for a girl such as me, who grew up with a competitive sailboat racing mom and a cruising dad who struggled to find the perfect mint to lime ratio for their mojito recipe. Or for the average couple, it is the vacation that perfectly strikes the balance between the spouse who lives for the thrill of sailboat racing and the other who prefers a more relaxing tone in tune with cruising. 
The Pro-Am Regatta at the Bitter End Yacht Club (BEYC) is an annual weeklong event held the last week of October at their resort in Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands. It is where the professional sailors come to play and the ambitious come to show their worth and have a little fun too.
The regatta originally began as a media event for the Bitter End when they merged with the neighbouring resort. Pros were invited to come and race in the BEYC Invitational, originally held in lasers. But the guests, being who they were, couldn’t help but ask if they were allowed in on the fun too.  From there the BEYC Invitational became the Pro-Am Regatta and no one has ever looked back. 
With lots of time to mingle at the reception dinner the first night, everyone was on a first name basis going in to the preliminary races for the Gill Scuttlebutt Amateur Challenge held in Lasers, Hobie Waves and Hobie Getaways. As a first time attendee, I was severely in the minority as the majority of the guests were repeat offenders and some have been coming to the Bitter End for over 20 years. 
BVI's - Pro-Am TrophyThe Defiance Day Regatta kicked off the official Pro-Am racing and showed me that throughout the week there really was something for everyone, the competitive vs. the vacationer and the young vs. the young at heart. Defiance Day is two-part race to the Baths and back. The Baths are a breathtaking view of volcanic rock formations and grottoes, also home to many Sports Illustrated photo shoots. The race there could be done one of two ways. The first was aboard an IC 24, a remodeled J24 which boasts an open cockpit and causes far less bruising than its original design;  the second is onboard one of four large catamarans where I’m positive they were serving cocktails. I was lucky enough to sail our only “distance” race with Sally Barkow, fresh off the Volvo Ocean Race Series. Her around the world navigation experience may have been overkill as only sight navigation was required; she easily captured first place on the way there. The tow back (no wind) complete with the chasing dolphins wasn’t too shabby either.
One of my incredibly discoveries on this trip was my love of roti, a flat bread originating from India that has taken root in many different places around the world. In the Caribbean  the dish consists of a creamy chicken curry wrapped in roti bread served with mango chutney. I first had it on my way to the Bitter End from St Thomas. After two taxis, two ferries, a showdown with an iguana and five hours of travel, I had earned that roti at the Beef Island Airport where you catch the final ferry that takes you straight to the Bitter End Yacht. Although I would do this particular trek again just to get to have that incredible roti, my trip home was much preferred, as I hopped a seaplane with one of the sponsors of the Pro-Am regatta, Shoreline Aviation. The short flight provided the most incredible view and the roti at the Pub on the Bitter End wasn’t to be missed either. 
BVI's - Bitter End Yacht ClubThe Bitter End ran a tight social schedule and filled up almost every evening with events; I barely had time to take notes. We started off the week with beach volleyball at dusk where the coolers were filled with beer and everyone was there to win. Ages ran from the mid 20’s to over 70 years old; I’m not entirely sure who won but there seemed to be a lot of people on the winning team. From there we had a rum night hosted by Mount Gay and the next night there was a bar crafted from an old Laser stocked full of Absolute vodka and then another Mount Gay rum night. The week’s social events did not disappoint. 
Half the fun of the Pro-Am regatta was getting the opportunity to sail with all of the different pros and getting to learn from their vast skills and experience. Long distance racing, fleet racing, team racing and match racing, they had it all at the Bitter End.  Sally Barkow had a handle on distance racing. Fleet racing with Anthony Kouton, Moth National Champion, 2014 pro-am winner and Virgin Islands native, provided insight to the local wind patterns. He took the time to explain how the winds came through certain cuts in the North Sound which definitely gave him and edge. Annie Haegar, quite possibly the nicest sailor on the water (but don’t let that fool you), winner of the 470 Olympic test event in Rio and this Year’s Rolex Yachtswoman of the year, showed her skills in team racing. While Taylor Canfield, a top match racer in the world, claimed victory in Pro-Am match racing, spots on his crew were hard to come by and the crew selection committee was open to bribery….particularly in rum form. Dave Ullman and JJ. Fetter rounded off the team of incredible pros at the regatta this year. 
As all competitive events require immense psychological concentration, physical strength and hard work, a lay day was essential. We won’t mention the amount of rum that had been consumed the days prior that may have contributed to us needing a break. There are several options open for the lay day that cater to everyone. The first two are organized events hosted by the Bitter End … a super snorkel trip to all the local reefs or a day trip to Anegada. The beautiful island of Anegada is home to miles of white sandy beaches and the world’s fourth largest coral reef.
BVI's - John GlynnAnother option for the lay day which is a little more adventurous and for the young and not necessarily the “young at heart” is to charter a power boat and do the party tour. Our day tour consisted of snorkeling at Monkey May followed by a stop in Jost Van Dyke. No trip to the British Virgin Islands would be complete without a stop at the Soggy Dollar, the birthplace of the infamous Painkiller, a Caribbean drink consisting of Pusser’s Rum, pineapple juice, cream of coconut, orange juice and fresh grated nutmeg.  From there it was just a quick jet over to Willie T’s, a two story schooner bar open 24/7 known for “shot-skis” and au natural jumps off the second level. Naturally we were all feeling quite refreshed after our day off and ready to get our heads back into the racing game the next day.
The week’s racing events wrapped up with the award ceremony after the match racing finals. One of the most coveted and prestigious of the awards is the Enthusiasm award; the winner gets a week free at the resort for next year’s Pro-Am Regatta. This year’s winner, Ron Boehm, won for many reasons most of which were that when he BVI's - Sally Barkowwas placed on the women’s team for the finals, donned a bikini over his sailing outfit. The most unique Award that truly reflects the spirit of this Regatta was the induction of a new member in to the Order of the Pith. This is a great honour and the newest member is someone who embodies the Corinthian spirit of the event and who would carry on these traditions if the others were unable to return. For those of us who didn’t win an award, we able to take home a title at the post-ceremony flip cup tournament, many champions were crowned and a good night was had by all. As we all departed the island the next morning, a little worse for wear but feeling accomplished, a canon was fired as we lined the docks to wave goodbye to the sound of “see you next year”.
A friend of mine often uses the expression, FOMO, fear of missing out. I have never believed this to be a real thing as I’ve never had a problem going home early to relax and wake up with a fresh start. This week made me understand the reality of someone who suffers from FOMO. Everything on the schedule from “Spike-ball” tournaments, paddle board yoga, match racing with the Pros to racing out the Baths had my complete attention. I would rather give up my love for roti than miss out on anything. Guests at the event felt the same as the majority had already booked their spots for following year at the 30th anniversary of the Pro-Am Regatta at the Bitter End.
Photo Captions
Photo 1 – Soggy Dollar at Jost Van Dyke. 
Photo 2 – Pro-Am Trophy “BEYC Invitational”.
Photo 3 – Welcome to the Bitter End Yacht Club.
BVI's - Bitter End Yacht ClubPhoto 4 – John Glynn leading the Skipper’s Meeting Day 1. 
Photo 5 – Sally Barkow closing the gap.
Photo 6 – BEYC.
Photo 7 – Me and all the Pros (Dave Ullman, Taylor Canfield, Luke Ramsay, Annie Haeger, Sally Barkow, Clarity, JJ Fetter, Michael Rehe, Anthony Kouton.
Photo 8 – Sunset view from BEYC.
Photo 9 – Taylor Canfield and Dave Ullman match racing.
Photo 10 – Annie Haegar and Anthony Kouton facing off during match racing.
Photo 11 – Order of the Pith.

BVI's - all the Pros BVI's - Sunset BVI's - Taylor Canfield and Dave Ullman BVI's - Annie Haegar and Anthony Kouton BVI's - Order of the Pith

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