Branson enters BVI Spring Regatta

Virgin boss to field his 105ft cruising cat

Tuesday March 29th 2011, Author: Linda Phillips, Location: Virgin Islands

The final countdown has begun and racing will commence next week at the 40th Anniversary BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival taking place over 28 March-3 April, giving attending sailors reason to celebrate. Historically, the BVI Spring Regatta has attracted some of the world’s fastest yachts and sailors, and this year’s exceptional entry list is proof that this tradition continues.

A glance at this year’s scratchsheet reveals a unique entry, namely the biggest catamaran to have graced this stage to date. Sir Richard Branson has entered Virgin Limited Edition’s Necker Belle, a 105-foot, CPA-designed carbon-fibre cruising catamaran that looks as quick as she is opulent. “I have always been an avid sailor,” said Branson, whose recent adventures include a transatlantic attempt on the Juan Kouyoumdjian-designed super-maxi, Virgin Money (formerly Speedboat, now Rambler 100), as well as some “thought-provoking” kiteboarding. “I live in the BVI on Necker Island and in the past I’ve seen glimpses of the boats sailing in the distance and I’ve always thought that [the regatta] looks like fun," said Branson. "The great thing is that it’s a local event but it’s known worldwide, [making it] a fantastic way to promote the BVI as the world’s best sailing grounds.”

While not every skipper is a celebrity, plenty of attending yachts hail from exotic ports yet none have travelled as far to participate as Blue Night, Tea Ekengren-Sauren’s Finnish-flagged Swan 45. “I’m the only female owner and helmsman in the [Swan 45] class,” said Ekengren-Sauren. “We have a mixed Finnish-American crew, some of whom I have sailed with for years and who are good friends. I’ve been racing in the competitive Swan 45 class, where almost all the boats have America’s Cup sailors aboard, and where the most active fleet is in the Med. Now, I’m looking forward to enjoying sailing, friends and the beautiful islands.”

Ekengren-Sauren will find herself in good company, as our 40th Anniversary celebration marks the introduction of several event firsts, including a Swan-only class. “It will be a nice addition to an already spectacular regatta - a chance to see the evolution of the Swan models over the years,” says Neil Harvey, skipper of the Swan 77, La Forza Del Destino and a veteran of some 20 BVI Spring Regattas, dating back to 1979. “The BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival is conducted in one of the world’s most spectacular yacht-racing venues. It’s [also] one of the world’s best-run regattas, so much so they don’t need a pre-race skipper’s meeting.” As always, boats will race under the Caribbean Sailing Association’s (CSA) rating rule, which is another draw for Harvey. “The CSA rule equates a wider range of boats than any other rating rule that I’ve raced under - from bareboat charters to TP52s and Volvo 70s.”

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