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Angostura Tobago Sail Week Celebrates 25 Years of the Spirit of Racing

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A Tobagonian expression, “down to d gribbidy,” describes the last bit left in the cooking pot—a dab of, say, kallaloo to be scraped up with a bit of bread—for one final, sweet bite.  And so the Angostura Tobago Sail Week, which celebrated its 25th year in 2007, was tastily served up by the Trinidad & Tobago Sailing Association on May 13 to 18 as the Caribbean regatta season drew toward a close.

With the floating dinghy dock installed and ready for action at Store Bay, sailors ascended on Sunday evening from the waters to the fields of the regatta village next to the Crown Point Beach Hotel for the Skippers’ Briefing and first of many congenial parties.  Trinidad’s Rawle Barrow, by the way, created the first version of the dinghy dock jetty-substitute in 1982 and has never missed a regatta.  Now 73, Barrow has been sailing for 60 years and has won the Tobago regatta eight times—“three years running some years ago,” he says.

Naturally, Barrow was on the water again this year with his wife, Merilee as part of his crew, on their Beneteau First 38, Petit Careme.  “It was a French boat so it needed a French name,” says Barrow, explaining that the term comes from the short sunny break of 10 days’ good weather around September during the rainy season.  Both weather and spirits were sunny this May, a time slot chosen by organizers at the end of dry season for its typically fresh winds and low swells.

“This is our flagship event of the year,” said Trinidad & Tobago Sailing Association President Jerome McQuilken, who also mentioned with pride the more than $1 million in Trinidad dollars raised in April by the association’s 7th Annual Cancer Benefit Regatta held across the water at Chaguaramas, Trinidad.  More than a podium-bound dignitary, McQuilken won Cruiser Racer class this year aboard his Beneteau Oceanis 430 Wayward, despite the best efforts of Ralph Johnson and the Bajans on Rapajam.  Antigua’s Bernie Wong’s Huey Too, saluted as Boat of the Regatta at the St. Maarten Heineken this year, came in close behind to earn third place.

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In the ever-competitive Racing Class, the Barbados Beneteau Bruggadung II successfully defended its 2006 crown, as skipper Andrew Burke handily held off Les Crouch’s Storm and Michael Rostant’s High Tension bMobile.  Cruising Class sailors at this regatta fight for their bullets, too, and three Trini boats chased one another to the end with Lloyd De Roche pulling it off on Nirvana, followed by Marsha Farfan (the lone female skipper) on Business Machine, and Rupert Grimshaw on Merlin—a boat that raced in the first Tobago Regatta 25 years ago.  In the Charter Class, Saga Boy, a Jenneau 50 skippered by David Downie, beat Annie T’s Robert Thomson and Alimata 3’s Raynee Portillo who took second and third, respectively.

Tobago’s regatta is a racing sandwich of four competitive days with its famous Wednesday Lay Day in the middle, held at a nearby spit of sand called No Man’s Land in a lagoon right out of Robinson Crusoe’s fondest memories.  The watchword each year seems to be:  what happens at Lay Day stays at Lay Day—and a good time is always had by all.

In the end, “the spirit of racing is in the competitors,” says McQuilken.  The Trinidad & Tobago Sailing Association, blessed with a great history, is focusing on the next generation, too.  Its Youth Sailing School started in 1993 with six boats and has been growing ever since.  “Kids are coming up through the program…we have high hopes for the future,” McQuilken says.

At Angostura Tobago Sail Week, one of the Caribbean’s friendliest regattas, tradition reigned supreme this anniversary year…and gave participants not only a first class bit of gribbidy to savor in the closing days of racing season 2007, but plenty to look forward to for the next 25 years.


Racing Class
1st Bruggadung II
2nd Storm
3rd High Tension bMobile

1st Wayward
2nd Rapajam
3rd Huey Too

Cruising Class
1st Nirvana
2nd Business Machine
3rd Merlin

Charter Class
1st Saga Boy
2nd Annie T
3rd Alimata 3

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So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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