Small regattas are nothing new in the Caribbean. What is possibly trend-setting is intentionally creating a small regatta that caters to one-class of competitors. ‘Boutique Regatta’ is a term coined by Puerto Rico’s veteran race officer and regatta organizer, David Kerr, who went small with great success for the Reto al Viento at the Yacht Club at Palmas del Mar, June 24th to 25th.
“The reason that I came up with the idea of doing a ‘Boutique Regatta’ or a regatta for only one or two classes, was my frustration of having different classes with different needs,” Kerr explains. “Some want to just go around the navigational buoys so their BBQs don’t drop the burgers or hot dogs, versus the hard-core sailors that just want windward-leewards until they drop. Also, the race committee has more ‘contact time’ with the competitors; six crews in this case rather than 25 crews divided among five classes, and they appreciate it when you listen to them and hear their suggestions. Ashore, this means there is no need to bump into twenty persons that are not competitors at the bar, but rather walk up and see a fellow sailor waiting for his drink. Plus, when the crews showed up on Saturday morning they all had one case of water, one case of beer, one case of refreshments and one bag of ice in their boats waiting for them. On Sunday they got another refill before taking off, is that service or what? My goal was to create a regatta that is for sailors, not a giant party that has a regatta attached to it and this is what we accomplished.”
Six IC 24s happily took part in the new format, in which the fleet completed a total of six races in 18 to 20 knots of breeze on courses laid out in front of the beach at Palmas. The first day, the sailors were offered a choice of two courses: one 25 minutes long and the other 35 minutes. That evening, they got together over a few cold beers and watched pre-recorded races from the thirty-fifth America’s Cup. The second and final day, the first race ran nearly 45 minutes or longer than what the sailors were accustomed. As a result, the race committee brought the buoy in closer after the last boat rounded, so that the next two races were 30 minutes, which was perfect for this class. In the end, Fraito Lugo’s Orion won, followed by Marco Teixidor’s Cachondo second and Gilberto Rivera’s Urayo third.
“Reto al Viento was a great competitor-focused regatta,” says Teixidor. “The racing was fun and fast and the competition was really tight. All the boats rounded the windward mark within seconds of each other.”
The challenges Kerr sees with this type of event is selling it to the sponsors as well as island governments and tourism boards who seek maximum exposure and see more as better for their purposes.
In an invited comment, Robbie Ferron, founder and group manager of Budget Marine, who has organized many regattas and is a past president of the Caribbean Sailing Association, said, “We already have many ‘boutique’ regattas in the Caribbean; for example, the Superyacht Challenge Antigua in February. This event targets a particular type of yacht, combines good sailing with intimate social events and is not dependent on mass marketed products for their survival. We just haven’t yet branded these regattas with the more upmarket term ‘boutique’, which may make a lot of sense and send the message that small regattas are not by definition unsuccessful regattas. So, I like the concept, particularly because of the positive message it sends about small regattas and the operational logic of addressing the interests of a particular group of sailors.”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.