Caribbean regattas are known for their rum and reggae parties. Yet how important are these shindigs to sailors, regatta organizers and sponsors? All At Sea asked all three groups to weigh-in on this question. The answers may surprise you!
First, everyone agrees that parties are second to the sailing itself.
“If you want to win (and we do), you need to be ready to sail,” says Puerto Rico’s Jaime Torres, who owns the Melges 32 Smile and Wave. “You can’t do that very effectively with a hangover.”
Similarly, says Michele Korteweg, director of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, “The parties are an important aspect of the overall experience for those who come here for the regatta, however, we never place more importance on it then on the racing. In the end, it is still a sailing event.”
For a product like Mount Gay Rum, a brand sponsor at nine Caribbean regattas such as Les Voiles de St Barth, Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and the namesake Barbados Regatta, it’s still about the sailing first, says Pascale Sold Rangel, Caribbean area manager for Remy Cointreau, in St. John’s, Antigua. “For many years now, Mount Gay has associated itself with sailing as a tradition and as an honor to seamanship, bravery and adventure. Parties with Mount Gay Rum celebrate it all.”
Secondly, parties have a unique ability to add to a sailor’s overall pleasure of regatta participation.
“The parties are definitely part of the overall ‘regatta experience’, says Antigua’s Bernie Evan-Wong, who races his Mumm 36, High Tension. “The contrast of intensely exciting racing then relaxing and having fun after the races is all part of it.”
The USVI’s Mike Finley, who races his IC24, Ocean Potion, agrees. “Parties are where we can all get together after racing and talk about what happened out on the race course good or bad.”
Different types of sailors look for different types of parties, says Kathy Lammers, chairman of the regatta organizing committee for Antigua Sailing Week. “Bareboaters enjoy the bigger parties because for them it is a Caribbean vacation experience they are looking for with some good fun racing. The race charter crews enjoy the post-race social events and prize-givings and in most cases are keen on the bigger parties. The serious racing teams that come for the top quality, professionally managed racing enjoy the post-race events but most aren’t particularly interested in the bigger parties. Many of these sailors will enjoy a crew dinner together.”
The cultural element of parties is an important part of reminding sailors that they are in a different part of the world, says Alison Sly-Adams, commercial director of Antigua Sailing Week. “The Caribbean has a reputation for being very laid back, but in terms of running professionally managed racing, it is essential that we still do that in a first world manner. But once we are on shore rum punch, barbecue chicken and ribs and reggae and soca are an essential part of the mix.”
Ruth Lund, organizer of Island Water World Grenada Sailing Week, agrees about the ability of parties to show visiting sailors island hospitality. “Our Lay Day activities mean that participants are able to mingle with other competitors, relax, see a bit of Grenada, get to know some of the Grenadian community and enjoy entertainers from steel pan bands, reggae music and Tivoli drummers to the hottest party bands (our regatta tag line is: Spice it up in Grenada!) that have both local and international appeal.”
Thirdly, parties provide the benefit of creating a point of distinction for regattas as well as showcase sponsors who provide monetary and in-kind support for off-the-water celebrations as well as on-the-water competition.
A fashion show that has sailors racing for a front row seat, stilt-walking Mocko Jumbies on the beach and brilliant Fire Balls that are famous at the island’s Full Moon parties set the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival apart from its Caribbean counterparts. All this takes place in and around the regatta village at Nanny Cay Marina
“Our Regatta Village is a central location for all the sailors to meet up after racing. This gives a huge advantage to sponsors who want to have the greatest number of people see their products or brands,” says Judy Petz, director of the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival.
Grenada Sailing Week’s Lund agrees and adds, “Our parties are linked to Title, Associate and Race Day sponsorships so they assist in getting the branding of our main supporters visible and out there.”
Finally, would sailors still come if regattas didn’t host parties?
“Yes, if the race quality is exceptional,” says Smile and Wave’s Torres. “However, a regatta risks their future by not spending some money on regatta parties.”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.