Bart’s Bash, held on September 21st, earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for ‘The largest Sailing Race in 24 Hours’ (multiple venues). Over 18,000 sailors from 68 different countries around the globe took part in the event organized by the UK-based Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation, which was founded to honor the memory of Olympic sailor Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson who died tragically in May 2012 while training for the Americas Cup. Several Caribbean sailing associations and yacht clubs played an important role in achieving this World Record plus fostering the Foundation’s goal of inspiring the next generation of sailors.
“The success of Bart’s Bash embodies the number one reason behind the Turks & Caicos Sailing Association: to foster a community in the TCI and connect it to the global community,” explains Kelly Troy, director of sailing, who organized forty sailors aboard Hobie Waves, Laser Picos and a Hobie 14 to sail a nearly four mile course from Bight Park to the Beaches Resort. “It was so amazing to feel a part of an event that unites the whole community. The Americas Cup last year was a boost in interest in our sport, and I think Bart’s Bash translated that excitement into something accessible for everyone.”
Similarly, says Neil Maher, coach at the St. Maarten Yacht Club, who organized a fleet of Jeanneau Sunfast 20s, Lasers, RS Visions, Hobie 16s, Optimists and a Laser Pico to race in Simpson Bay Lagoon, “The goal of the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation is right in line with our own. We strive to get as many children sailing and enjoying the marine environment as possible and to try and open their eyes to lifelong possibilities it can hold for them from recreation to careers.”
A commitment to training and developing the next generation of Olympic class sailors is one of the main goals of the Royal BVI Yacht Club.
“We had seen Bart’s Bash advertised many months ago and thought it would be a fun opportunity to be part of a global regatta,” says Julie Rhodes, manager at the RBVIYC, in Tortola, who organized a fleet of dinghies and IC-24s racing off Nanny Cay Marina. “When the dates were finalized, it fitted in nicely with our Back to School Regatta, so we were able to incorporate the two events together. In addition to the youth sailors, we got a great response from the adult sailors who knew of Simpson from his Olympic successes and would have been touched by his tragic death.”
Some, such as the Antigua Yacht Club, enjoyed taking part in Bart’s Bash as a way to give local sailors an opportunity to get out on the water in the quiet season.
“The AYC and National Sailing Authority donated the use of their boats and also sponsored their instructors (all local youngsters/and the not so young) to participate,” says event leader Clare Cupples. “The same with OnDeck with two of their Dehler 39s. Our more ‘mature’ keel boat sailors took out Sport 16s as their boats are spending the summer out of the water in Jolly Harbour. We were very proud to be able to put on our results sheet that out of our fleet of boats, two were sailed by Olympians, Karl James and Rhone Kirby.”
Others, like the St. Lucia Yacht Club (SLYC), participated in Bart’s Bash as a wonderful way to kick-off the upcoming fall, winter and spring sailing season. Cruising boats, J24s, Lasers, Laser Radials, Laser 4.7s, Laser Picos, Laser Bugs, Hobie Waves, Wind surfers and Optimists sailed a triangle/sausage course inside Rodney Bay.
“The feeling of participation in this global event was incredible,” says SLYC sailing captain Fredric Sweeney. “Even though we raced against well-known local sailors, I think just knowing that we were a very small part of something so much greater was really exciting. The fact that we technically were racing against some of the top sailors in the world on home turf was quite thrilling. Plus, we can definitely appreciate the goal of getting more youth sailing. We believe that the youth are the future of our club and the sport of sailing.”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.