The Annual Bequia Easter Regatta evokes images of years gone by, with the Fishing boats, Double Enders, and Whalers maintained in top form—
all works of art that have become a dying breed. It warms the heart to see so many traditional boats still being built and used in a time when traditions seem to be going out the window. Bequia is home to some of the finest wooden boat builders and model boat builders around. In a bygone era, boats were lined up on the beaches in different stages of completion but for the regatta, the boats were lined up for their beach starts.
A 30-boat fleet, ranging in size from 12 to 28 feet, competed over three days, some coming from Canouan and Carriacou to compete against the hotly contested Bequia fleet. Iron Duke, the 130 year old Whaler that recently completed a refit, was on hand to compete against one of the newest additions in the fleet, Bequia Pride, launched in February. Conditions ran the gamut with winds 20+ knots the first two days, giving the tough fleet a thrashing. Monday, the wind gods were sleeping and it was a frustrating drifter, with little pockets of wind that made you look like a star one minute and the bottom of the heap the next.
Overall winner in the 28 ft class was Lightning, another new boat built in Carriacou for Petit Martinique-born Bequia resident Boysie
Decouteau. Bequia’s favoured Confusion come a close second. Irie, the new boat in the 18ft Class, built by Orbin Ollivierre and owned and skippered by David Taylor, took Overall First in that class, Fisherman Delacey Leslie, racing in his 18ft Devine, which was built by him in 1969, was the oldest sailor in the fleet at 83. Arnold Hazell who built and skippered newly launched Bequia Pride, was out a few weeks later on his Whaleboat Perserverence doing what the boat was built to do, catching a whale.
Meanwhile back in Admiralty Bay, the 50-strong fleet of yachts, the largest to date, sailing in from UK, Germany, Canada and the US to compete against the Caribbean boats, were having their own fun. Over 100 boats came just to watch the action, lining the shores for the starts and finishes.
The J24 class was hotly contested in a bumper crop of 13 boats, coming from Trinidad, Grenada, Barbados, St Lucia and Dominica. The finishes were exciting, with 100ths of a second separating the first three finishers. Esperanza from Barbados walked away with the overall first.
A new one design class was created for the small ‘Surprise’ boats that came from Martinique The new ‘Surprise’ fleet consisted of seven Martiniquan boats that are fast and fun. Padig prevailed as Class Overall winner, with the second place ONLY and third place Clipper’s Star being separated by one point. They also sent out one hardy sailor from each team to compete in Sunday’s Around Bequia single-handed race. ONLY came out ahead with young French sailor Nicolas Gillet at the helm.
The weekend gave the sailors the gamut of conditions, from gear breaking winds to patchy drifters, when the fleet was all over the map. The Melges 24 Caraibes Greement prevailed with three wins to sew up Racing Class 1 with First Overall. In Cruising 1 Class Acadia, a beautiful Frers 48 out of the USA, came out as Overall Winner of class. Cruising 2 Overall Winner was Appleseeds, a returning Canadian Sun Odyssey 40, who bettered their last year’s second place.
On the fun side of things, Friendship Bay was the scene of the Sandcastle competition, which drew many beautiful creations. The kids had a blast competing in the Noah’s Ark-themed Crazy Craft Race, with some terrific and innovative designs. My favorite design was the Norwegian Dragon Boat, skippered by a red haired young girl. Overall, the weekend was a resounding success, run by the fantastic Bequia Sailing Club, with a team of volunteers based out of the Frangipani Hotel. The prize giving was held at the Gingerbread, where a fleet of beautiful Bequia built model boats were given out for top honors. For all racing results: www.begos.com
Val Doan grew up sailing the islands and makes her living on the sea delivering, teaching, racing, cruising, researching, writing and loves photographing her adventures.