Clean Regattas Spotlight: BVI Spring Regatta - Sailors for the Sea

Clean Regattas Spotlight: BVI Spring Regatta

 May 11, 2023  | By: Jennifer Brett

BVI Spring Regatta team receiving their certificate for their second Gold Level Clean Regatta in 2013. In 2012, it was the first event outside the US to achieve Gold Level.

Since 2008, the BVI Spring Regatta has registered as a Clean Regatta, making it the longest running Clean Regatta in the Caribbean. Regatta director Judy Petz has been at the helm of the event for that entire run, and she has helped to usher through many green initiatives that have had long lasting impacts on not only the BVI Spring Regatta, but throughout the rest of the British Virgin Islands as well. We caught up with Judy after the 2023 event to find out more about how they got started with Clean Regattas, what the challenges have been, and what she hopes the event will achieve in the coming years.

Sailors for the Sea: Just for a little background, how did you get your start at the Spring Regatta?

Judy Petz: I started volunteering on the race committee in 1998 when I first moved to the BVI. In 2003, an opportunity came up as executive director of the Royal BVI Yacht Club, and as part of my job, as the director of the BVI Spring Regatta. As the regatta grew to a weeklong event, I took on as director full time.

SfS: The event’s Green initiatives have evolved over the years – was there anything new for 2023?

JP: We’re always trying to raise the bar.  It’s been very challenging first coming off of the massive hurricanes in 2017, Irma and Maria, and then Covid, so we’ve focused on continuing what we’ve established.  

SfS: What would you say has been the Spring Regatta’s biggest Green accomplishment over the years?

JP: I would have to say being the first carbon-neutral regatta [in the region] is pretty amazing.  I’m also very proud of all the initiatives we’ve created, many from the Clean Regattas program, and then filled in some of our own.  We used to use ‘pig buckets’ to collect the food scraps from the vendors. We truly had a man who owned pigs who would ride his donkey to the regatta village each morning and collect the food scrap buckets to feed his pigs!  Full recycling and repurposing!

The regatta team saves the beverage bottles from the previous year’s event and a local glass blower turns them into awards.

SfS: How about its greatest challenge?

JP: Single-use water bottles have been our greatest challenge.  It’s always been and seems it will always be. We introduced reusable water bottles in 2009 and supplied free water to all participants.  I think that idea really caught on as many regattas followed with the program.

When I first started in 2008 there wasn’t any recycling, so we had to start our own and saved two years’ worth of bottles.  A company started using recycled bottles to make art pieces, and we made our awards from all those bottles we saved. Our slogan for a year was ‘The beer bottle you are holding today, may be the award you hold next year.’ That was pretty amazing.

SfS: Have any of the regatta’s Green initiatives had any sort of ripple effect into the greater community of Tortola or the rest of the BVI?

JP: Now we have full organizations on-island that recycle and teach at schools and businesses. I do know a few other regattas took our lead to ensure they too followed the Clean Regattas program, which is great.

Bags made from repurposed sails are also a popular prize.

SfS: Are there any Green initiatives that you hope your successors are able to achieve in the coming years?

JP: More education about what we as humans are doing to the environment. The ocean, Caribbean Sea, and channels are our playgrounds that we must protect. Create a stronger platform and include young adults here on-island to be part of the solution.

Single-use water bottles will always be an issue, but if we can capture 100 percent of those back and reuse, then we’ll continue to win.

I am so proud of all we have accomplished and very, very lucky Sailors for the Sea was created to support us all with the tools we need to create clean, green and sustainable events. Your organization has truly helped save our waters and our planet and for that I’ll always be very grateful.