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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, July 17, 2024


Festival sporting events had a hard time making it to the finish line on St. John this weekend – with a cancellation in one case and an unexpectedly small turnout in the other.
The half-mile festival swim competition scheduled for Sunday morning from Hawksnest Beach to Gibney Beach didn't happen. Organizer Peter Alter, who had successfully staged similar events as part of St. John's carnival celebration for the previous two years, said V.I. National Park officials gave it a thumbs-down this year.
"The National Park Service required that we have a $1 million liability insurance policy," he said, and he wasn't able to get one.
A week earlier, on June 25, Alter successfully put together a 1.25-mile swimming competition at Maho Bay for the Virgin Islands Olympic Committee. He said park officials had already signed the permits for that event, so they allowed it to go ahead; but since the permits for the Fourth of July Celebration swim were not signed, they drew the line there.
For Sunday's swim, "We weren't going to do anything different from what people do out in the water every day," Alter said, "and we would have taken all the necessary precautions." For the Olympic event, he said, "We had qualified medical and safety people – St. John Rescue members, nurses – out in the water in kayaks and even a couple of power boats."
He said he understands that federal agencies have to go by the books, but he hopes to find a way to bring the swim event back to the festival lineup next year.
Meanwhile, also Sunday morning, in Cruz Bay harbor, the St. John Festival boat race consisted of two heats of two boats each after a number of expected competitors failed to appear.
The St. John entry, On The Edge, beat out a St. Thomas boat, Catastrophe, for the Lieutenant Governor's Cup. Two entries from the British Virgin Islands vied for the Governor's Cup, with Just Kats beating Top That for the top prize.
Lewis "Mel" Williams has been organizing the festival boat races since the early 1990s. While he was disappointed by the small turnout this year, he said, he intends to start planning the Festival 2001 event right away – and will try to attract some entries from neighboring Puerto Rico, which sends racing boats to compete in the V.I. Carnival races in St. Thomas harbor every year.

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