Gold Coast 2018 Queen’s Baton Relay in the BVI – Full Report

The BVI Olympic Committee (BVIOC) in its capacity as the Commonwealth Games Association (BVICGA) hosted the Gold Coast 2018 Queen’s Baton Relay in the Virgin Islands from July 1 – 5, 2017.

The relay, on a 288-day global journey – the longest in Commonwealth Games history – heralds the start of the quadrennially held Commonwealth Games which, in 2018, will be held from April 4 – 15 in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, Australia. The baton contains the message from the Queen to the athletes competing in the Commonwealth Games.

The Queen’s Baton and international traveling team comprising Mrs. Sandra Osborne, Legal Advisor, Commonwealth Games Federation, Mr. Adam Best, QBR International Sector Manager, Ms. Kate Shaw, PRO Gold Coast 2018 QBR, Inspector Ray Brownhill, Queensland Police Service, and Mr. Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, QBR photographer arrived from Anguilla into the Terrence B. Lettsome International Airport, Beef Island, Tortola on the evening of July 1.

They were greeted at the airport by an informal welcome party led by Mr. Ephraim Penn, President BVICGA, Mr. Mark Chapman, Chef de Mission, Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, Hon. Myron Walwyn, Minister for Education, Culture and Sports, and Ms. Lynette Harrigan, BVI Tourist Board.

The international QBR team met members of the Gold Coast 2018 QBR BVI planning committee at a casual dinner at the Sweet 16 Lounge, Trellis Bay Market Bar & Grill and received an overview of the local relay plans.

Following a rest day, the Queen’s Baton Relay kicked off with an opening ceremony on Monday, July 3 at the Noel Lloyd Positive Action Movement Park when the baton was officially presented to the Premier of the Virgin Islands.

Four members of the VI Cadet Corps brought in and raised the Union Flag, the Territorial Flag, the Australian Flag and the Commonwealth Games Federation Flag. Following renditions of the Australian National Anthem sung by members of the resident Australian community, and the British National Anthem and the Territorial Song by Ms Nicole Donovan, Rev. Franklyn Manners gave the invocation.

Mrs. Sandra Osborne, followed by past Commonwealth Games participants then brought the Queen’s Baton into the park and placed it on the stage.

The opening ceremony, led by MC Ms. Shamora Penn, included remarks by His Excellency, The Governor John Duncan, OBE, Dr. The Honorable Premier D. Orlando Smith, OBE, Mr. Ephraim Penn, Hon. Myron Walwyn, Mrs. Sandra Osborne, Ms. Kate Shaw, and Mr. Mark Chapman.

“My Country” by Australian poet, Dorothea Mackellar  was read by Mr. Richard Baird and Mr. James Gibson provided a sampler of the Didgeridoo, a traditional Australian / Aboriginal wind instrument.

Dr. The Hon. D. Orlando Smith rounded off the ceremony by marking the start of the QBR in the VI when he presented the baton to Mr. Lindel ‘Chef’ Hodge, the first athlete to represent the VI at the Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand in 1990.

Mr. Hodge then handed the baton to Mr. Diamonte Gumbs and other athletes who would go on to represent the VI at the Bahamas 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games.

The young athletes followed by members of the public took the baton on its first leg from the Noel Lloyd Positive Action Movement Park to the Tortola Pier Park where it was handed over to Ms. Sherlyna Defoe representing event sponsor, Meridian Construction Ltd. Ms. Defoe passed the baton on at the Central Administration Complex to Mr. Ralston Henry, former Commonwealth Games athlete.

Mr. Henry handed off at Waterfront Drive to Mr. Nelson Ramirez representing event sponsor, the BVI Bank Association. Mr. Ramirez and fellow runners took the baton to the Queen Elizabeth II Park to hand it on to Dr. The Hon. Kedrick Pickering, Deputy Premier.

After a tour of the park, Miss BVI 2017 contestants received the baton from Dr. The Hon. Pickering and jogged up the stairs to Old Government House Museum to hand over to Mrs. Maria Mays, representing the Office of the Governor.

Mrs. Mays and relay supporters took the baton to the Adina Donovan Home for the Elderly where Ms. Sylvia Forbes of the Girl Guides received the baton and shared the baton with the residents and staff of the home.

Ms. Forbes then took the baton to Sir Olva Georges Plaza where she passed it on to Ms. Artiana Blaize representing event sponsor, Premier Dental. Ms. Blaize took the baton on Waterfront Drive to handover to Mr. Colin Riegels representing event sponsor, Harneys.

The Harneys team jogged the baton to hand over to Ms. Asha Black representing event sponsor, the Eureka and Bougainvillea clinics. Ms. Black passed the baton to past Olympian, Mr. Guy Hill who continued the relay along Main Street from H.M Prison Museum to the Sunday Morning Well from where Hon. Archibald Christian jogged it to the Botanical Gardens and handed over to Mr. Joe Kneipp, Australian former Commonwealth Games Squash Doubles Gold medalist, and other members of the Squash Rackets Association (SRA).

The SRA runners passed the baton on to Mr. Olanzo Boynes, President of the BVI Taekwondo Association and association members who took it from Sugar Works Museum to the A.O. Shirley Recreation Grounds where it was received by Hon. Myron Walwyn.

The baton then spent some time in the grounds as the last stop for the Road Town area. Students of the Eselyn Richez Learning Center, special needs community members, youngsters attending the Department of Youth Affairs and Sports Summer camp, and attendees of a basketball camp at the Multi Sports Complex all joined in to touch the baton and accompany it on a lap of the track.

The QBR then transferred by a convoy  of cars to the Ebenezer Thomas Primary School (ETPS), the VI school twinned with Tallebudgera Secondary School, Queensland, Australia. ETPS students had returned to school at the start of their summer holidays to welcome the baton and QBR international team and to showcase some of their school sports.

From there, the relay resumed when District Representative, Hon. Julian Fraser and the ETPS students took off to Manuel Reef where the baton was passed on to youth sailor, Ms. Victoria Rowlette who then handed over the baton to H.E. John Duncan aboard a traditional Tortola Sloop.

From there, H.E. John Duncan, and event sponsor, Eldred Williams of BVI Painters Ltd, and Tortola Sloop skipper, Martin Van Houten sailed the baton, followed by a flotilla of Royal BVI Yacht Club youth sailors on dinghies and the HM Customs vessel to Nanny Cay Resort and Marina.

Swimmers from the BVI Swimming Federation received the baton off the sloop and brought it ashore where it was handed over to Mrs. Jane Tyrell representing Nanny Cay Resort and Marina. The youth swimmers conducted a swimming demo in the pool before a luncheon provided by Nanny Cay.

The afternoon saw the baton pass through Cane Garden Bay starting off in the hands of Mr. Simon Potter representing event sponsor, Road Town Wholesale Ltd. Mr. Potter passed the baton to Mr. Lindel Hodge who took the baton on a quick visit to the Callwood Distillery before handing over to District Representative, Hon. Mitch Turnbull and brother Mitch. Hon. Turnbull passed the baton on to a runner from Myett’s who handed over to Dr. Karl Dawson who passed it on to Mr. Claudius Rhymer.

The baton departed the shores of Tortola for Jost Van Dyke aboard the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force launch (with a brief detour to rescue a group of visitors aboard a boat taking on water!). The relay carried on at a leisurely pace through the Great Harbour, JVD community to Foxy’s.

After returning to Tortola in the late afternoon, the QBR ended its first day in the VI at a reception hosted by H.E. John Duncan at his residence. Guests were entertained to a demo of the Didgeridoo and a Dream Time dance performed by resident members of the local Australian community.

The following day was an early start .

Day 2 started off with an early departure from Tortola to Virgin Gorda (VG) aboard the RVIPF launch and H.M. Customs vessel. On arrival, events on the sister island kicked off with a welcome ceremony at the Walters Park in the Valley hosted by the Office of the Premier. Remarks  by Dr. The Hon. Kedrick Pickering, Deputy Premier, and Dr. The Hon. Hubert O’Neal, District Representative were punctuated by performances by Gen Y Finalists, Ms. Jaani Ricketts, and Ms. Kadijah Roberts, and local Calypsonian, Mrs. Shereen Flax-Charles (Queen Shereen).

A relay through the Valley to the famed Baths was run with members of the Raw Skillz Track Club, the West Stevens basketball team, youth players of the VG based Football Association and the Cycling Federation.

After iconic photo opportunities at the Baths with the baton and relay runners, the international team was taken on a picturesque drive to Hog Heaven for a BBQ lunch with stops along the way at the Copper Mine and Gorda Peak where Ms. Argel Horton of Conservation and Fisheries and Mr. Verne Wheatley coordinator of the VG leg, respectively bore the baton as they showcased the stunning views.

Following lunch, the international crew were guests aboard Allington ‘Gumption’ Creque’s glass-bottomed boat for an entertaining and informative complimentary, Sea It Clear tour of the North Sound which ended at Necker Island, sir Richard Branson’s private island in VG.

Students from the Robinson O’Neal Memorial School joined the international team on a Necker Island nature tour under the guidance of  Necker Island General Manager, Kenton ‘Keny’ Jones.

The QBR team then returned to Trellis Bay in the afternoon to complete the relay of the territory with a route through East End/Long Look.

Starting off the in the hands of members of the BVI Triathlon Federation, the baton was cycled across the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge and was passed on to father and son team, Messers Harold and Neville Smith, and Neville’s daughter. The Smiths handed over to Ms. Juliette Penn and family who took the baton to members of the BVI Softball Association and Mrs. Ivy George, a leader of the Physical Literacy campaign in the BVI. Mrs. George passed the baton on to historian, Dr. Quincy Lettsome who handed over to track athlete, Ms. Nelda Huggins.

Ms. Huggins passed the baton on to Mr. Khamauri Crabbe, son of past Commonwealth Games athletes and Olympians, Mr. Dion Crabbe and Mrs. Tahesia Harrigan-Scott. Khamauri took the baton to District Representative, Dr. The Hon. Kedrick Pickering.

After a brief stop with the BVI Tennis Association’s young players at the East End/Long Look tennis courts, the baton continued on its route with a handover to Dr. Irad Potter and family and on to District Representative, Hon. Marlon Penn.

Hon. Penn, accompanied by his son and members of the East End/Long Look community, jogged the baton in to the Greenlands Playing field where the BVI Rugby Federation received the baton for a lap of the playing field, passing it on to Softball Association representative and on to Mr. Andy Bickerton of the BVI Football Association.

The baton was then driven back to Road Town where victorious athletes, returning from Grenada as the 2017 OECS Track and Field Champions, took the baton on its last short leg from the Noel Lloyd Positive Action Movement Park to the Central Admin Complex.

The VI’s 400m Hurdler (and world’s fastest male hurdler thus far), Mr. Kyron McMaster presented the baton to Hon. Myron Walwayn as part of the closing ceremony. Remarks of thanks and well wishes were made by Hon. Walwyn and Mr. Mark Chapman on behalf of the BVI Commonwealth Games Association before the return of the baton to Mrs. Sandra Osborne.

As part of the evening’s event, Mr. Steve Augustine, President of the BVI Athletics Association and the 2017 OECS Track and Field athletes, presented the OECS trophy to Mr. Ephraim Penn, President of the BVI Olympic Committee, in a grand gesture of appreciation for the organisation’s support of the federation and its athletes.

The evening concluded with an Australian cultural presentation by members of the resident Australian community and VI cultural performances by the BVI Heritage Dancers, the Callalloo Poets, Mrs. Eileen Parsons, the Elite Skydancers and the Razor Blades. The cultural presentations were respectively coordinated by Ms. Bobbi Fawcett and Ms. Anne Lennard, Deputy Director for the Department of Culture.

Local food and drinks, such as coal pot cooked dumb bread, fried fish and Johnny cakes, and Aussie Burgers were prepared on site and enjoyed by event attendees.

The Queen’s Baton and international team departed for Jamaica on Wednesday, July 5, 2017.

On July 18, 8 young athletes represented the VI at the Bahamas 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games Opening Ceremony where the Queen’s Baton made its first ever appearance at a youth games.

The BVI delegation to the Bahamas 2017 CYG (July 18 – 23) included Ms. Sabinah Clement, Chef de Mission, Arianna Hayde (Long Jump and Javelin), Rackeel Jack (400m), Joshua Hill (400m), Mikkel Bassue (100m and 200m), Beyonce Defreitas (200m), Djimon Gumbs and Diamante Gumbs (both competing in Shot Put and Discus), and Adrian Baijnauth (Tennis). The team was accompanied by Track Coach, Willis Todman, Field Coach, Omar Jones and Tennis Coach, Malcolm Dabre.


The key stakeholders involved in the planning and hosting of events include the BVI Commonwealth Games Association, the Office of the Governor, the Office of the Premier, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports including the Departments of Culture, and Youth Affairs and Sports, the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, the BVI Tourist Board and Government Information Service (GIS).

Event sponsors included the Government of the Virgin Islands, the BVI Bank Association – Banco Popular, CIBC FirstCaribbean, FirstBank, National Bank of the Virgin Islands, and VP Bank, Premier Dental, Harneys, Meridian Construction, BVI Painters Ltd, Road Town Wholesale, Eureka Medical and Bougainvillea Clinic.

Event supporters include Messers Vincent and Verne Wheatley, coordinators in Virgin Gorda, the Jost Van Dyke Preservation Society, the resident Australian Community led by Ms. Bobbi Fawcett, Broadsword Communications – event coordinator, The BVI Red Cross, Mr. Melville ‘Mello’ Lettsome, Ebenezer Thomas Primary School, HM Customs, the VI Cadet Corps, National Federations, the Tortola Sloop Foundation, Nanny Cay Resort and Marina, BVI Recreation Trust, Department of Trade, Government Facilities, Rotary and Lions Social Clubs, JTV and ZBVI and national media outlets, Ms. Shamora Penn, Sweet 16 Lounge, Trellis Bay Market and Grill, Kenny Tees, Romasco Group, Frontline Systems VI, Balloon Affaire, MB’s Ice.

The last time the Queen’s Baton Relay toured the BVI was in April 2014, ahead of the Glasgow 2014 games in Scotland.