July 12, 2004 – Sky and sea cooperated Sunday to provide near-perfect conditions for the 17th annual Royak Regatta for the benefit of the V.I. Council, Boy Scouts of America. It was a battle of the paddles in Magens Bay as 11 adult teams and six youth teams raced one another in small, kayak-like boats known as Royaks.
Taking first place in the adult category was the visiting Hovensa team. That gave the refinery territorial bragging rights, as Hovensa also finished first in the adult division of this year's St. Croix Royak Regatta, held on June 6 at Rainbow Beach in Frederiksted.
In the senior youth category, for youngsters 11-17, the Pathfinders team sponsored by Scotiabank came in first. And in the junior youth competition, for those under 11, a Junior Pathfinders team sponsored by Choice Communications took top honors.
Tommy Brunt, regatta organizer and member of the local Boy Scout board, said this year's St. Thomas race pulled in around $9,000. Brunt, who has helped run the regatta for eight years, said the event in the past drew a lot more support from the community, with as many as 50 teams signing up.
Adult teams were fielded this time by Choice Communications, Hovensa, Innovative Communication Corp. (with separate St. Thomas and St. Croix squads), the Law Offices of Dudley Topper and Feuerzeig, Paradise Lumber, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, V.I. Eco Tours and William Karr and Associates.
Members of the Seventh-day Adventist Pathfinders accounted for five of the six youth teams, with the Eudora Kean High School Junior ROTC Jet Rays rounding out the field. Pathfinders is an international Christian youth fellowship group.
The relay race pits teams of five members against each other in heats of three Royaks a time on a short, triangular course. Racers frequently go head to head as they round the markers and it's not unusual for competitors to fall out of their boats.
Choice general sales manager Kevin Hughes did not paddle for his team but was there to cheer them on. Before the start of the race he described his company's intense competitive history in the regatta with telecommunications rival Innovative. He said Choice had won the race in each of the last four years and that team captain Jonathan Tucker had been pushing his paddlers hard in practices over the last few weeks.
However, it was neither Choice nor Innovative but the visiting Hovensa Paddlers who took home the glory for the grownups with a combined time of 6:09.03. Choice finished a close second in 6:11.92, with St. Croix's Innovative Stormers coming in third with a time of 6:33.69.
In senior youth racing, the Pathfnders teams sponsored by Scotiabank and Territorial Court dueled for first place, finishing with times of 6:00.61 and 6:16.42, respectively. The Eudora Kean Jet Rays finished a distant third, in 7:52.28.
In the junior youth competition, a Junior Pathfinders team sponsored by Choice Communications finished first, in 6:02:37. Second place went to a Junior Pathfinders team that completed the course in 8:09:50. And third spot went to another Junior Pathfinders team sponsored by Choice Communications, which finished in 8:54:86.
While participation has declined in recent years, Brunt said, the competitive spirit remains strong. "It's such a lot of fun. It would be nice to see more businesses taking part," he said.
The Prosser/ICC Foundation underwrites the Royak Regatta, this year spending more than $10,000, Thomas Dunn, ICC public relations director, said. "We are absolutely committed to the Boy Scouts," he said.
The cost for entering or sponsoring a team is $250, and the Boy Scouts supply the Royaks. Brunt said the boats cost around $1,000 each and have been donated by a number of different businesses over the years.
The Royak was invented in 1968 by California scuba diver Roy Grabenauer, who wanted a craft that was easy to maneuver, lightweight and comfortable, while still having storage space for gear, according to the Royak Web site.
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