I HAVE REGATTA FEVER! And you’re going to be hearing about it, so I should give you the background scoop now . . .
All over the world, of course, regattas – or sailboat races – take place. Even within the Bahamas, various regattas occur during the year. However, in this context, “Regatta” is shorthand for the one-and-only, like-no-other, national sailing championship of the Bahamas that occurs in George Town every April and is more formerly known as the National Family Island Regatta.
Like any sport with a high profile throughout the country, sailboat racing in the Bahamas brings with it fierce competition and immense pride. The basic rules are that the boats must be Bahamian-made and Bahamian-owned. They are wooden sloops, approximately 28 feet long, with a seven foot draw, a huge boom and towering 60 foot masts. The inside of the hull is mostly empty and is also where the crew stores its lead ballast. The moveable ballast allows the crew to add or remove weight as needed. Additionally, real live people serve as ballast! Wooden planks – the pry – lie across the width of the boat and slide from side to side. The crew pile up on the pry to add weight to the opposite side as the strength of the wind in the sail pushes the boat on a hard lean. (This is one of the most exciting parts of Bahamian sloop racing!) The boats harken back to the boats of traditional Bahamian fishermen, and they carry tradition and honor along with the thrill of sport.
The island where I live has a strong tradition of boat-building, skilled craftsmanship, knowledgeable sailors, brilliant racers and championship boats and crews. The boats of this island are a huge source of local pride and camaraderie.
Regatta offers races in multiple categories, based on the size of the boat. “A Class” are the largest (28 foot) and our island usually sends a couple A-Class boats to compete, along with an occasional B-Class, a champion C-Class and various others. I won’t attempt to describe the rules because I would surely miss something. If you’re a true boater looking for the technical descriptions, the official Regatta website posts the rules and regulations.
Rather, my love of Regatta focuses on the sheer THRILL of the experience, coupled with the community bonding aspect. My beau and many friends are avid sailors. They race together and on competing boats, which serves as great fodder for bickering and trash talk at the local bars throughout the year. But now, as Regatta looms next week, the chatter is at fevered pitch.
I’m so doggone excited! My beau and the other sailors will help coordinate getting the race boats towed to George Town (which takes almost an entire day), anchored securely and readied for last minute preparations. Then he’ll motorboat back home, and we’ll eventually travel down together – leisurely – with friends on their private sailboat. Once in George Town, we’ll reunite with local friends and those we haven’t seen in a while who have come in for Regatta. (Don’t worry, I have family visiting and staying in my home to keep Angel company! She’s not low-maintenance enough to go with me!)
And then, let the racing begin! The Race Committee fires a start gun, the sailors pull hard to raise the spectacular sails, and the boats are off. I follow along in a “chase boat” in case one of our boats needs anything (e.g., offload lead ballast before the start gun if the boat is sailing too heavy in practice) and just to enjoy the thrill of being up close and personal.
For example, here are just a handful of pics from April 2011’s Regatta . . .
If this little teaser has whet your appetite for more, No Worries Mahn! Plenty more to come!