Race the Caribbean this winter! Islands from Puerto Rico south to Grenada host regattas for all types of boats, from hi-tech production yachts to native work boats, monohulls to multihulls, and everything in-between, including a growing number of one-design classes. Here’s a sampling:
January 16-24: Mount Gay Round Barbados Series
Record-breaking opportunities in 14 categories and a chance for skippers to win their weight in rum is up for grabs. “Three days of coastal racing, the 80th anniversary Mount Gay Rum Round Barbados Race (the headline event), and a 300-mile Ocean Race to Antigua to meet up with the Superyacht Challenge gives plenty of options,” says Sue Pelling, in a release.
January 23 – 24: The Budget Marine Challenge
This new regatta, comprising two coastal races, takes the boats from Simpson Bay to Anse Marcel, where they will dock overnight before racing back to Simpson Bay. “These will be anchor starts with the crew down below. When you blow the whistle they come up on deck and sail off,” says Robbie Ferron. “I’m creating a ‘Destination’ race where we can have a good time after the event. That’s what this race is all about.”
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January 28-31: Superyacht Challenge Antigua
Over a dozen yachts, from the Oyster 82, Zig Zag, to the 147-foot Wally, Visione, are registered. The regatta lives up to its reputation for providing all the facilities to stage an ideal event for an exclusive selection of yachts, where fair racing and good companionship are highly valued. “We will be using the ORCsy Rule to rate the yachts this year, which has now been adopted all over the world for Superyacht Regattas,” says Stan Pearson.
January 28-February 2: Island Water World Grenada Sailing Week
There’s a trio of course venues this year: The Grenada Yacht Club in St. George’s past beautiful Grand Anse beach, and from Point Saline to the Secret Harbour Marina inside Mt. Hartman Bay. “Mt. Hartman Bay is a new venue for the regatta,” says Ruth Lund. “Participants can enjoy a relaxing day in a sheltered area before moving to Prickly Bay Marina, where en route there’s more challenging wind and current along the south coast, making a grand finale to the week’s racing.”
January 30-31: Grenada Sailing Festival
Thirty to 35 wood-built workboats will compete in Community Class racing, Match Race finals and a Champion of Champions. “Exciting new activities include fun kayak racing, stand-up paddle-boarding, plus a showcase of Grenadian bands,” says Sarah Baker. New too are eco/info booths in the Regatta Villa illustrating a range of marine conservation projects.
February 4-7: International Dinghy Regatta
This favorite youth regatta will be run for the first time under Club Nautico de San Juan’s Academia de Vela. “We expect a good turnout,” says Marco Teixidor. “Just from Puerto Rico alone we expect at least 30 Optimists. We will host teams from the Caribbean, USA and South America. McLaughlin boats will be providing charters for visiting sailors.”
February 5-9: Schoelcher International Sailing Week, Anse-Madame, Martinique
Over 200 sailors will sail Optimist, Laser (4.7 and Radial), windsurfers, beach cats, Sunfish and, for the first time, sport boats like Melges 24s and the Surprise class. “This is one of the oldest and most important fleet regattas in the Caribbean. We expect teams from Europe and the Caribbean,” says Michel Zougs. Some travel assistance is available for visiting sailors.
February 11-14: The Round Martinique Regatta (Tour de Martinique)
The Martinique Yacht Club will host 30 to 40 boats. New is an emphasis on attracting more cruising boats with a softer race program during the windy month of February. “The first leg for cruisers will go from Fort de France to the Le Marin marina. The second day the racers will sail along the Atlantic. On Day three, cruisers will go back to Fort de France from Le Marin,” says Claude Granel.
February 13-14: Sweethearts of the Caribbean & Classic Yacht Regatta
Some 40 Single Handers, Schooners, Lovers, Wannabees and Classic Yachts will sail out of Soper’s Hole, BVI. “We have an open class on both Saturday and Sunday for sailors who want to participate but whose vessels are not in the pure classic age range,” says Lou Schwartz.
February 19-21: Puerto Del Rey Sailing Challenge
February is a new date for this Fajardo, Puerto Rico-based regatta, moved to fit better into the Northern Caribbean sailing schedule. “We are hoping for 12 to 15 IC24s, three or four Melges 32s, 15 CSA race boats, 12 to 15 Jib and Main boats in PHRF and about 40 dinghies. About 80 boats total,” says Jaime Torres.
February 22-26: RORC Caribbean 600
Great offshore racing yachts such as Comanche, Rambler 100, Team Brunel and Phaedo3 will be back. “There is every indication that the fleet will be close to the 2015 record breaking number of 66 yachts,” said Eddie Warden Owen, RORC chief executive, in a release.
March 3: Gill Commodore’s Cup
March 4-6: St. Maarten Heineken Regatta
The Gill Commodore’s Cup will be open to all boat types (except Lottery Class and beach cats). As for the main event, “we are excited to have the VOR Team Brunel racing with us. They will be on the dock at the St. Maarten Yacht Club so regatta enthusiasts can get an up close and personal view of this amazing racing machine,” says Race Director Heather Court.
March 9-12: Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta Rendezvous
New, the Westport Rendezvous launches, an event designed for motor yacht owners with its own social program. The draw? “Majestic sailing yachts, the idyllic BVI setting, great racing with constant trade winds, a specially designed superyacht rating system and a unique location at YCCS Clubhouse & Marina,” says Jill Campbell.
March 17-20: St. Barth Bucket
Cavallo, Galateia, Perseus3 and a brand new 148-foot, Unfurled, will be among the 40-plus entrants. “There will be an extra day of racing for the J-Class yachts on Thursday,” says Jeanne Kleene. Adjustments to the racecourses will bring the action closer to the island for great spectating. Use of the new handicapping system, (ORCsy), which successfully debuted last year, will continue.
March 24-28: Bequia Easter Regatta
Traditional local boats and visiting production yachts race offshore. On shore, the competition continues on Friendship Bay Beach with sandcastle and crazy craft contests, plus music, food and drink.
March 25-27: St. Thomas International Regatta
Win customized team performance shirts by registering before January 31. A new Round the Island Race on March 24th and first-ever Gunboat and VX One classes are hot happenings for 2016. “These new classes are a perfect fit with our philosophy of giving sailors what they want within the changing trends in global yacht racing,” says Chuck Pessler.
March 28-April 3: BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival
Over 100 yachts, including a fleet of VX Ones, will race in this 45th annual event. “Our multihull division will increase this year with the addition of at least four Outremers,” says Judy Petz. Presenting sponsor, Nanny Cay Marina, welcomes motherships to stay.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.