Jost’s Famous Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta Makes 40

Geoff Brooks, Curator - Virgin Islands Maritime Museum

Geoff Brooks, Curator - Virgin Islands Maritime Museum

Geoffrey is the curator of the Virgin Islands Maritime Museum. He pioneers and takes part in many of the initiatives related to the traditional art of sloop building.
Geoff Brooks, Curator - Virgin Islands Maritime Museum

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Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta Makes 40

Photography courtesy of Martin Van Houten and Geoff Brooks

In 1974, Foxy Callwood and some friends in Jost Van Dyke decided to hold a regatta for and dedicated to wooden boats. By the mid-seventies, it was very apparent that wooden boat construction was fading into history. The Virgin Islands which was known throughout the region for their unique style of wooden sloops and the skill of their shipwrights had changed course and was now embracing fiberglass and tourism.

Foxy felt it was time to celebrate a vanishing breed with the optimism it would help to preserve those wooden vessels that still remained. On Labour Day weekend, a US Holiday at the beginning of September, Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta was launched with a modest seven wooden boats.

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The Regatta was deemed a success and it grew quickly, bringing boats over from St John, St Thomas and Puerto Rico.

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In 1976, only two years after its creation, they had a record 86 boats participating. That is a number that would rival the BVI Spring Regatta or St Thomas Regatta today; Foxy clearly had a vision when he came up with the idea. In 1981, the West End Yacht Club from Tortola became involved and made up the Race Committee; they have partnered with Foxy since that time.

It was held on every Labour Day until 1995 when Hurricane Luis showed up and the classic yachts had to scramble for cover. 10 days later, Hurricane Marilyn arrived and finished the job Luis had started. The islands were hit hard and many of the classic wooden boats were sunk or destroyed beyond hope of repair. Those who remember still use Hurricane Marilyn as the benchmark to compare storms.

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After this tragedy, the Regatta was moved to the end of May and held on Memorial Day Weekend, another US holiday, where it has remained ever since.

Over the years, Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta has grown in popularity to become one of the premier events in the regatta season. It serves as a primary source of appreciation and preservation of traditional wooden boats and boat construction. The regatta averaged 30 to 40 boats participating annually, but approximately seven years ago, numbers began to decline. In a conversation with Martin Van Houten, Commodore of the West End Yacht Club and organiser of the Race Committee, he stated that boats of wooden construction were becoming a rare commodity and changes had to be made for the regatta to continue. Foxy himself declared that if there was only one wooden boat left, they would still hold this event. It was decided to open the competition to boats that were classics, possessed traditional lines, and were older but not made of wood.

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This year’s regatta which is the 40th will be highlighted by the debut of Endeavour II, a traditional wooden sloop recently launched by the Jost Van Dyke Preservation Society and joined by the four traditional wooden sloops maintained by the Virgin Islands Studies Institute at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College. It is hoped that they will form the centre of attention and that the other traditional designs will provide a foundation of celebration of classic boats, continuing into the future.

Foxy’s 40th Wooden Boat Regatta will be held on May 24 – 26 in Jost Van Dyke. All are encouraged to attend and support our Maritime Heritage and Virgin Islands Culture.

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