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Regatta Organizers Meet to Share Strategies

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In October, Antigua hosted the Regatta Organizers Conference for the Caribbean region under the auspices of the Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA). Participants from Anguilla, Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Guadeloupe, BVI and USVI, Puerto Rico and St. Martin discussed the season’s coming events, beginning with the Triskell Cup in Guadeloupe from 2-4 November. A further fifteen regattas were reviewed, ending with the Mount Gay Boatyard Regatta in Barbados May 29-June 1, 2008.

Cary Byerley, President of the CSA, said that the main aim of this informal, two-day get-together, which has been taking place on a regular basis for the last 6 years, is to pool resources and learn from experiences. Some issues are common to all regattas, but others have different markets or require different strategies according to the island or type of regatta. The Caribbean region has a natural division into northern and southern events. Many of the boats involved in the so-called northern sector are local, with the majority being under 30ft, and a smaller number being less than 40ft. The tendency is for them to participate in regattas from Puerto Rico down to the USVI and no further. The Sint Maarten and Antigua regattas attract larger boats from elsewhere and fewer local ones.

Personal contacts continue to be very important in this now largely computerized age. The regatta organizers found this meeting particularly useful for discussing joint marketing techniques and ways in which to streamline the registration process for all Caribbean regattas.

What did they talk about this year?

CSA representatives report that it may all appear to be fun in the sun but the orchestration of a successful regatta in the Caribbean requires countless man-hours, many volunteers, and successful partnerships with organizations that are as different as the host’s country’s Immigration and Customs departments to the street venders. 

ROC Participants this year discussed marketing strategies, ways in which to pool resources, the importance of good class allocations, and some of the nitty-gritty of race and event management.

One of the more heated discussions concerned the use at our events of the IRC rating system, currently very popular in the US and Europe.  To fully understand the impact, presentations were made explaining the history of popular rating systems and the reasons for which the CSA rule has continued to meet our needs in the Caribbean since its inception forty years ago.  The oldest measurement system in continuous use, CSA was developed specifically for Caribbean conditions and all participants agree that it provides the most equitable handicaps for our events. 

Although individual regattas may choose to offer an IRC class, most agree to offer dual scoring to those competitors who want to race under IRC, insuring class sizes stay large enough for competitive racing. This specifically impacts Stanford Antigua Sailing Week, BVI Spring Regatta, St. Maarten Heineken Regatta and St. Thomas’ International Rolex Regatta as they are part of the US-IRC Gulf Stream Series.

The organizers reached a decision to work with an independent who can assist in revising and republishing the CSA handbook helping sailors throughout the world understand our measurement rule and how well it suits the Caribbean sailing conditions.

Joint marketing strategies are planned to encourage foreign boats to come to the Caribbean and take part in a number of regattas.  Work will begin on a centralized database of Caribbean regatta participants, facilitating centralized registration for our events.

As the weekend wrapped up, Cary Byerley remarked, “Once again, the ROC meeting has brought together some of the most dedicated regatta organizers in the Caribbean and fostered open lines of communication, the pooling of resources and an environment of cooperation.  Each conference gets better and now we’re no longer in competition with each other but instead, are jointly promoting the best sailing and racing in the world.”

Report submitted by the Caribbean Sailing Association:  www.caribbean-sailing.com

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