Join the international yachting set, and head for the British Virgin Islands to take part in one of the many celebrations of the important seafaring past and present of these 60 beautiful islands. The wonderful beaches and calm waters off these shores provide the ideal environment to compete in or watch a regatta, especially when accompanied by the various forms of entertainment such as beach barbecues and live music that are usually staged alongside by the local yacht club. Choose from the Sweethearts of the Caribbean and Classic Yacht Regatta held in Tortola in February, the Dark and Stormy Regatta held in Tortola and Anegada in March, the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival held at the Nanny Cay Marina and Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta held on the island of Jost Van Dyke in May. The wooden boat regatta aims to preserve the tradition of wooden boat building which was one of the islands’ important trades and the event allows owners of wooden boats a chance to have unique races dedicated specifically to their type of craft. The occasion coincides with the Memorial Day weekend, starting with a fabulous race from Jost Van Dyke to Cane Garden Bay, Tortola and continuing with a programme of fun events such as crab races, a fashion show and musical performances all accompanied by great West Indian cuisine.
Still following the marine theme, the capital of Virgin Gorda, Spanish Town, is the location of the double celebration of the Fisherman’s Jamboree or Annual Wahoo Fishing Tournament, and the Easter Festival. This is the top angling event in the annual calendar and the parades, calypso music and funji bands whose rhythms fill the streets provide a welcome release from the excitement and tension of hauling in the catch.
Water sports enthusiasts will be thrilled at the opportunity to witness or compete in the HiHo Windsurfing Competition, held in the British Virgin Islands in late June and featuring a series both of exciting races and superb parties of which the annual HiHo Pirate Party is a popular highlight.
Wreck Week is a relatively new event held in October which commemorates the anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Rhone, one of the islands’ most fascinating wrecks, and one of many superb sites in the BVI which make it such a popular destination for scuba divers. Part of the motivation for bringing people together is the serious business of addressing the environmental issues which face underwater tourism in the whole region, within a seriously fun-packed agenda of wreck diving, pumpkin carving, treasure hunts and beach barbecues.
On Tortola, known as one of the quiet backwaters of the Caribbean and a place left untouched by the ravages of mass tourism, it is in fact each new moon that brings with it the promise of another party which has as its focus a strange ritual involving a certain brand of ‘Midnight Tea’. Bomba’s Full Moon Party takes place at Bomba’s Surfside Shack in Cappoon’s Bay, where Mr. Bomba is the man behind the mysterious brew, known to have curious hallucogenic properties! This is perhaps not a shin-dig for the faint hearted, who may prefer the more mainstream music and dancing that goes on every Wednesday and Sunday night, but has got to be one of the best ways to break down the barriers and mingle with the local crew.
For many, the main cultural event in the British Virgin Islands not to be missed is held in August over a period of two weeks to celebrate the 1834 Emancipation Act, which abolished slavery. This is a great time to experience the island, as it comes alive in its exuberant festivities, colourful parades, dances and Caribbean food markets lining the streets. Sample the mouthwatering local fayre, from jerk chicken and spicy patties to callaloo cookup and fried plantain whilst enjoying the freedom march, calypso monarch competition, boat races, and the spectacular August Monday Parade.