Eight years ago, a regatta was born in Saint Barth to honor the tradition of Caribbean sailing, with a fleet of wooden schooners and sloops built around the islands. The 8th annual West Indies Regatta took place from April 28th to May 1st with fewer boats than in recent years, but the same sense of enthusiasm for these small traditional craft that evoke the days when similar vessels sailed from island to island carrying various goods, including cigarettes, alcohol, salt, and even cattle.
Today, these boats are built for racing, with three of this year’s fleet built in Carriacou by veteran boat builder Alwyn Enoe and his son, in a trade passed down from generation to generation starting with the Scottish settlers that arrived in the 18th century. The newest boat built by Enoe was commissioned two years ago by Thierry Badereau (La Plage Restaurant) in Saint Barth, and completed this year in time for Antigua Classics and the West Indies Regatta.
The new 42ft Carriacou sloop, Free In Saint Barth, sailed magnificently to win the races on Saturday and Sunday scoring a perfect victory. Second place went to Angus Biffin and Zemi, while third place went to Alexis Andrews and Genesis— both are also 42ft Carriacou sloops built by Alwyn Enoe! Alexander Hamilton from Antigua was the first in the schooner class, and the Spirit of the Regatta prize went to Ongtong Java, an unusual hand-built catamaran from Senegal.
“Another amazing event, a huge thank you to all those who sailed here especially to take part,” said regatta organizer Alexis Andrews, of Genesis. Andrews is the director of the award-winning documentary, Vanishing Sail, which documents the building of another Enoe sloop, Exodus. The film was screened on the dock by the boats at the closing night of the 2016 St. Barth Film Festival.
“It’s all about the people … And the rum!” Andrews said. He added, “Major thanks to Michael ‘Scrim’ Strzalkowski and Dougie’s Skullduggery Coffee and Rum, for the big first prize. The West Indies Regatta would like to thank all the captains and crews who made the effort to attend this unique event. See you all again in 2017.”
The event is organized in conjunction with the Port of Gustavia, the Collectivité of St Barthélemy, the Tourism Committee, ASBAS, La Plage restaurant, and Budget Car Rental.
Ellen Lampert-Gréaux lives in Saint Barthélemy where she is editor-in-chief of Harbour Magazine.