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West Indies Regatta Showcases Traditional Sailboats

A small fleet of traditional West Indies wooden boats from Carriacou, Bequia, and Nevis sailed into Saint Barth’s Port of Gustavia on the weekend of May 1. Not an official regatta but a few days of informal racing organized by Saint Barth native LouLou Magras, who organized informal regattas back in the late 70s, and Alexis Andrews, a sailor and photographer from Antigua, this West Indies Regatta event evoked the beautiful old boats that were once quite common in Saint Barth and throughout the Caribbean.

The fleet of eight boats included six Carriacou sloops—Ocean Nomad, Genesis, Tradition, Sweetheart, Good Expectation, and Summer Cloud—the Nevis schooner Alexander Hamilton, and a Bequia sloop, Plumbelly, the smallest of the fleet, but which has crossed the Atlantic Ocean many times. “These boats were used for trading in the islands,” says Andrews. “The idea was to bring these boats to Saint Barth and show them off. Islanders were invited to come aboard and see how they are made, and to sail with us during the races.”

Andrews adds, “These boats have a certain style, they are very unique and different from modern boats. All of the owners come from very different walks of life. One of these boats belongs to the vice commodore of the Antigua Yacht Club, one belongs to a fisherman, and one is mine and I am a photographer, another is used for day charters. They sail like rockets for such big heavy boats, and were used to carry goods as fast as possible. There is quite a bit of room for cargo inside.”

Tim Charlwood, an Englishman based in Park City, Utah, noted, “The sailing was terrific with 20 knots of wind.” He was sailing on Frank Pierce’s Tradition, a classic sloop that has been rebuilt. “We hope to come back next year,” says Charlwood, “for what should become an annual regatta.”

Ellen Lampert-Gréaux lives in Saint Barthélemy where she is editor-in- chief of Harbour Magazine, and has been a regular contributor to All- At-Sea since 2000. She also writes regularly about entertainment design and technology for Live Design magazine, and about Caribbean architecture for MACO, a Trinidad-based lifestyle magazine.

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