The West End Yacht Club was formed in 1978 by sailors who frequented Soper’s Hole, West End, Tortola. They met at Walters Superette on Frenchman’s Cay, elected Morgan Sanger as their first Commodore and took steps to register themselves as an official Yacht Club. From the beginning there was friendly rivalry and banter between the already-established Royal BVI Yacht Club.
For a while the Club went dormant until 1991 when Mark Stinmetz and a group of like-minded West End sailors resurrected activities one night at Pussers, West End, and elected Carter Powell as its Commodore. Carter served as Commodore until she left the island in 1999.At that time Dave Cooper took over and led the Club for the next seven years.
In 1991 they ran Wednesday night racing which notoriously had its start line through the mooring field at Soper’s Hole, then out and around Little Thatch. Years later, Vice Commodore, Robin Pinfold, coined the title the ‘Loyal’ West End Yacht Club, by which it has been known ever since.
Home of the West End Yacht Club
For several years, the home of the WEYC was Nanny Cay, until the early 1990’s, when the Club more appropriately moved its base to the Jolly Roger, owned by Bo and Libba Chase. It was not long before Lou Schwartz bought the Jolly Roger and continued the tradition of serving as the official home of the Club. Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 sadly remodeled the Jolly Roger, leaving it as a derelict shell on the port side of the entrance to Soper’s Hole. Fortunately, the Club was able to find new host for its shoreside activities, most welcomingly offered by Omar of Omar’s Fusion, with its excellent food and convenient placement on the starboard side of the entrance. And this is where the WEYC has its home to this day.
The Club runs a number of regattas each with their own colorful history, most reaching back to its earliest days.
By 1980 the WEYC racing calendar was taking shape, with the Sweethearts of the Caribbean event held on the closest weekend to Valentine’s Day. At that time, it was dedicated to the true Sweethearts of the Caribbean, the beautiful Schooners.
By Martin van Houten’s time as Commodore, the Sweethearts Regatta had become the second largest regatta in the Virgin Islands, hosting many visiting sailors.
In 1991 the WEYC wanted to establish an additional sailing event to take place in December, so a group of members led by Mark Stinmetz, James Buchannan, Bill Koffman among others came up with the Gustav “Ding Dong” Wilmerding Race.
The race was predicated on the tale of a fierce and foolish buccaneer with more than a dash of bravado, (the most famous pirate to pilfer ships and steal others’ treasure in British Virgin Islands’ history). Actually, Gustav Wilmerding is fictitious and, we like to believe, the predecessor to Pirates of the Caribbean (apologies to Johnny Depp).
As the story goes, Gustav left Britain as a cabin boy on a merchant ship when just a lad of twelve. His vessel was captured by pirates, and he grew to know and master the trade of his abductors. Becoming the leader of the pilfering band soon after adulthood, Gustav chose Little Thatch Cay, just off what is now known as West End, Tortola, as his home.
His pirates raised such a ruckus upon returning from their plunders that the local islanders would loudly ring bells announcing the return of the ships, laden with stolen booty. Pretty maidens from surrounding islands would then be fetched by Gustav’s lads and the festivities would begin, thus Gustav’s notorious nickname “Ding Dong”. The first Gustav Wilmerding Race was successfully led by Commodore Carter.
Dark and Stormy.
In 2007, the Dark and Stormy event was established in memory of the wife of Neptune Treasure’s patriarch, Vernon Soares.
The Dark and Stormy is a long weekend of racing and relaxation timed to ensure the Monday is a public holiday. Sailing from Trellis Bay on Beef Island to Anegada on the Saturday, fun in the sun on Sunday, and a pursuit race back to Soper’s Hole on the Monday.
Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta
Historically the regatta included many of the magnificent wooden boats that in the early days of WEYC graced the Caribbean. In 2022, the only truly wooden boat participating was Youth Instructor, a Tortola Sloop skippered by Fiyah. Foxy has said that if there are 2 wooden boats left in the Caribbean, we shall have the Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta and has promised to come out of retirement if necessary.
Timed to coincide with the 4th of July celebrations, this event is as (in)famous for its shoreside ‘Chili Cook Off ‘as it is for the racing itself.
Similarly, the Catfight is timed to coincide (approximately) with the full moon and Foxy’s Halloween Party. As the first race after hurricane season this is generally an opportunity to combine sailboat racing, fun and innovative (often bizarre and outrageous) costumes. It draws in many charter boats and first-time racers both because of the relaxed style of the regatta and because of the riotous afterparty and Foxy’s famous hospitality.
North Sound Boxing Day Regatta
Our most recent addition to the WEYC race calendar is the North Sound Boxing Day Regatta, which was started in 2020 by Vice Commodore Brian Edmund and Tom Warner from North Sound Bistro. This event is in its infancy but is well supported by North Sound residents and businesses. It features a race from Road Town to North Sound, followed by a day of Hobie Cat racing, and then thenext day by a return race to Road Town. Although numbers so far have been small due to Covid, initial enthusiasm promises a bright future for this event.