Since 2001, sailors from around the world, including the Caribbean, have come together on the summer solstice to create a global celebration of sailing called Summer Sailstice—on all sorts of craft worldwide, from windsurfers and kite boards, to tall ships and multihulls, from 49 states (only North Dakota is missing) and 20 countries. This year’s event will be celebrated the weekend of June 21 and 22 by over 10,000 sailors.
“We have had boats sign up every year in the islands—looking at last year’s list we had people signed up from Tortola … they were going to sail Sir Francis Drake Channel,” recalls the event’s founder, John Arndt. “Also people signed up in St. Vincent, Puerto Rico, and Belize.”
The celebration is structured so any sailor can participate regardless of what or where they sail. Sailors register on the Summer Sailstice website (www.summersailstice.com) to tell others about their weekend sailing plans, find and organize events in their local areas, and become eligible to win sailing industry prizes.
Arndt says, “The goal of the global event is to empty all the berths and harbors in the Northern Hemisphere, getting all sailors, friends and family out on the water on the first two days of summer. Summer Sailstice is rooted in participation…whether it’s a yacht club cruise, a one-design regatta or on a solo sail.”
Last year over 60 companies donated more than 300 prizes awarded by random drawing to sailors who signed up. For example, The Moorings has offered a prize each of the last four years sending a winner on a free, one-week charter.
Antigua played a large role in 2007 when 100 American Sailing Association members and guests came, choosing the date of Summer Sailstice celebrations to mark American Sailing Week.
Cecilie Ann Witt, who sails a Catalina 25 year-round out of Alexandria, VA, was the lucky winner of a free trip to American Sailing week courtesy of ASA and Sunsail in 2007. She received an email notification of her winning and, despite the normal doubt (have you won the UK lottery or had money transferred to you from Nigeria lately?), waited a few nanoseconds to respond to ASA offices saying she’d accept the trip to Antigua’s Club Colonna.
“It was the bluest water I’d ever sailed in” Witt relayed, recalling the contrast to her sometimes wintry conditions in the US. “Outside the resort we also enjoyed a trip to St. John where we enjoyed some shopping and some of the fabulous, West Indian cuisine. Later we traveled the island for a sunset from Shirley Heights—one of the most spectacular views possible looking West over English Harbor with local music livening up the evening.”
The romance of island sailing captured other Antigua visitors, Arndt says. Susan Williamson from Raleigh, NC wrote him afterward to say, “I felt safe, secure and supported as I started a love affair with sailing. As with all wonderful loves, if I had only known it would be this good, I would have started sooner.”
Summer Sailstice has been used by numerous sailing clubs, classes and organizations to launch summer sailing season. As for this year’s event, Arndt says, “The time is right for the world to see what sailing has to offer. With the price of gas over $4 per gallon and increasing concerns about global warming and protecting the environment, it’s time for sailing to bring attention to this more earth friendly way of enjoying life on the water.”
One of Summer Sailstice’s key messages in 2008 is promoting the natural harnessing of wind power for recreational enjoyment with negligible impact on the environment. Towards this end, Summer Sailstice is affiliated with the Ocean Conservancy, supported by global circumnavigator Jimmy Cornell, and is hosting for the second year, a virtual Summer Sailstice circumnavigation of the globe. Participating sailors are asked to pledge funds to the Ocean Conservancy for every mile sailed during the Summer Sailstice weekend with the goal of everyone sailing a combined 26,000 miles, equivalent to one circumnavigation of the planet. All funds raised by the circumnavigation will go towards the Ocean Conservancy’s on-going ocean preservation programs.
On a final note Arndt added, “As Summer Sailstice grows we want people to recognize the solstice not as the first day of the summer season but as the first day of the sailing season!”
Sail locally, celebrate globally and sign up: www.SummerSailstice.com.
Information submitted by Lifelong sailor and Summer Sailstice founder John Arndt. [email protected]