Heads of State go Head to Head in the "Tortola Sloop Shootout"
As part of the BVI August Festival Celebrations, the Honourable Chief Minister, Dr. Orlando Smith and His Excellency, (past) Governor Thomas Macan, went head to head on August 3, 2004 in the first annual, "Tola Boat Shootout" sailing race in Road Harbour, Tortola.
The Tortola Sloops, often referred to as "Tola Boats", are recognizable throughout the Caribbean as the oldest and most efficient wooden boat designs still in use today!
Though there isn't much demand for wooden boats anymore, the Tola boats remain a standard by which today's sailboats may be judged.
The shootout between the two friendly rivals was the brainchild of Jeff Brooks, a staffer for the Marine Studies Department at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College.
Jeff is charged with the care and maintenance of the College's boats ... three of which are the only known, Tola Boats left in the world. Of those three sloops, only Moonbeam and Youth Instructor are Seaworthy.
Responsibility for coordinating the Festival sailing race fell upon race captain, Shaina Smith of the BVI Power Boat Association. Dave Cooper and Martin Van Houten of the West End Yacht Club set the course marks and served as race committee.
"Moonbeam" was built in Anegada by Watson White in 1982, marking the 100th birthday of her older sister, Vigilant!
"Youth Instructor", the larger of the two boats was the last sailboat built by master shipwright, Osmond Davies of East End, Tortola.
The 4 man crews aboard each Tola Boat were loaded with ringers, including two previous, BVI Olympic sailors (Elvett Meyers & John Shirley) as well as 4 other notable BVI sailors with a history of yacht racing wins under their belts!
In the first race, both helmsmen displayed excellent tactical skills and the distance between the two boats was almost imperceptible! Each skipper covered the others' moves very well!
Carving upwind beautifully, Moonbeam, helmed by Governor Thomas Macan, began to pull away from Chief Minister, Orlando Smith aboard Youth Instructor early on in the race. However, the Governor's lead was soon to become part of BVI history!
In a classic, tactical move, and after rounding the windward mark, the Chief came steaming down Road Harbour, behind the Governor and effectively stole his wind.
In the photos above, Governor Macan's crew aboard Moonbeam look aft as the Chief Minister aboard Youth Instructor, steals their wind. Having accomplished his task and slowing Moonbeam sufficiently, Chief Minister Smith sails high ... leaving Governor Macan and crew to roll in her wake!
In what was a clear victory, the Honourable Chief Minister, Dr. Orlando Smith was declared the winner of the first race of the first annual BVI, Tola Boat Shootout!
The two crews then swapped boats for the second race which had a somewhat less than elegant start. Moonbeam, helmed by the Chief Minister was slow to the line (having misjudged their starting sequence), while the Governor powered over the start within a second or two of the horn.
Despite a valiant effort, the Honourable Chief Minister and his gallant crew were unable to regain the ground lost at the start. The second race went to His Excellency, Governor Thomas Macan!
"Vigilant", the oldest Tortola Sloop in existence may be the oldest, wooden sailboat in the Western Hemisphere and possibly even the world!
Sadly, Vigilant has fallen upon hard times and is in danger of being lost forever to dry rot, lack of funding and regrettably ... lack of interest.
If you'd like to help with the restoration effort for this grand old lady of the seas, read more about Vigilant, her history and find out how you can make a difference!
It is highly unlikely that any new Tola boats will be made in the future as most wooden boat builders, familiar with the ways of building the Tortola sloops have left us. These staunch little sailboats are a dying breed, but we love to watch them sail... and they sail extraordinarily well!
All photos of the Tortola Sloops are copyrighted by Bareboats BVI and may not be used on the web without prior written consent.
For more information British Virgin Islands sailing charters and regattas,
Call or write our Tortola bareboat charter specialist!
Phone: (284) 495-4168 Tortola, British Virgin Islands