Trend: Caribbean Regattas Are Becoming Longer

Sailors like the format of four days and mixed courses at Grenada Sailing Week.

We live in a fast-paced world where being time-starved is a way of life. Yet there is a trend towards Caribbean regattas becoming longer rather than shorter. For example, the St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR) added its Round the Rocks race last year in an effort to change up its four-decade format and the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta launched its Gill Commodore’s Cup over ten years ago, turning both into half-week events. Grenada Sailing Week (GSW) organizers choose to stay with four days of racing to satisfy serious racers’ desire for competition. The very popular Les Voiles de St. Barth encompasses four days of racing too. The BVI Spring Regatta (BVISR) expanded to a week-long event via it’s sailing festival several years ago as a way to cater to sailors coming to the territory right after STIR. Finally, Antigua Sailing Week (ASW) has long featured five days of racing. Yet the Guadeloupe to Antigua and Round Antigua races add two days on the front end, and this year the Antigua to Bermuda race to the America’s Cup adds extra competition on the back end for those who choose to participate in everything.

Organizers Cater to What Sailors Want

Regionally at least, shorter events are appreciated because people can’t always take the time off work to participate in week-long events, says Alison Sly-Adams, marketing officer for ASW. “However, we are not hearing any negative feedback in Antigua in terms of the length of our regatta. We did, though, move the final Awards Presentation up by one day several years ago so it is now held on the final day of racing. That has been well received because it assists sailors flying in to limit their total travel time to one week.”

Chuck Pessler, director of STIR agrees and adds: “Three to four days of racing works well because of many people’s time constraints. Once you add a practice day and travel time, you’re already looking at a week of time.”

There are those for whom a week long regatta poses problems of obtaining crew and getting away from work. However, the advantage is that longer regattas hold greater attraction for participants travelling from overseas as it makes the long trip worthwhile

 

Lay-day fun at Les Voiles de St. Barth. Photo curtesy of Les Voiles de St. Barth
Lay-day fun at Les Voiles de St. Barth. Photo curtesy of Les Voiles de St. Barth

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“Our board has decided to maintain its four days of racing, six nights of parties and two host venue formula, which has had an encouraging response so far,” says Karen Stiell, GSW organizer. “The sailors really like Grenada and the mixed format of races.”

The format of back-to-back stand-alone events was popularized by the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. “The Commodores Cup, which added an additional event to the schedule, did not affect the scores for the weekend racing. This gave our sailors the chance to come a day early if they could and those that could not were still able to join the regular three-day event. By allowing this flexibility, we were able to make everyone happy with more sailing,” says communications director Heather Court.

The Future?

Some major Caribbean regattas may get longer. For example, Les Voiles organizers are considering starting racing a day earlier, but nothing is official pending feedback from crews.

The BVISR isn’t adding days, but instead placing a new race on the schedule for 2018. This builds on the regatta’s popularity of several events within an event.

“The new Full Moon race will start as we do for the Round Tortola race on the Tuesday of the sailing festival, and then the boats competing will keep going ultimately around all the islands or approximately 165 nautical miles,” says Petz, BVISR director. “Sailors who like the weekend or weeklong format can both find something to suite.”

 

A week-long regatta allows time for extra events such as the Marine Heritage Day at the BVI Spring Regatta, where the territory’s historic Tortola sloops are raced. Photo: Christophe Courou
A week-long regatta allows time for extra events such as the Marine Heritage Day at the BVI Spring Regatta, where the territory’s historic Tortola sloops are raced. Photo: Christophe Courou

 

Week-long regattas will continue, says Kathy Lammers, chairman of the ASW regatta organizing committee as well as president of the Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA). “However, not in the big numbers we have seen in the past. There are more and more international regattas in the region so sailors now have to choose in which to participate as it’s not feasible to participate in all.”

“Having said that,” Lammers adds, “the same applies to shorter events as it does to longer ones – sailors will be much more discerning in the number of and which regattas they choose to participate. They will definitely favor the more professionally-run regattas that provide the best racing experience but which combine good shoreside events as well.”

 

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