WITH THE MIGRATION SEASON TO THE CARIBBEAN WELL UNDERWAY, THERE COULDN’T BE A BETTER TIME TO PLAN A TRIP TO ONE OF THE MANY POPULAR RACE WEEK REGATTAS
Article by Sue Pelling
Constant sunshine, warm breezes, and unforgettable blue water racing and Caribbean style partying on offer, makes it easy to understand why the Caribbean is so popular as a winter retreat.
Thanks to continuing development and expansion of marinas in places like Grenada and the British Virgin Island, the Caribbean has seen a significant rise of international interest at sailing events in the Caribbean. Events such as Antigua Sailing Week (ASW) – one of the classics – for example has had to face stiff competition in recent years as more and more regattas are introduced or relaunched.
Thankfully the organisers of events such as ASW recognised the competition of other regattas as a benefit and, with support from Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA), which promotes each event with its own identity and ensures dates rarely clash, the circuit is flourishing.
The main Caribbean race season runs from January to late April, which not only avoids the hurricane season, but it also gives overseas visitors plenty of time to make their Atlantic trip worthwhile.
Many teams, particularly pro teams, use the Caribbean circuit as an ideal shake down to the northern hemisphere race season.
For those cruising the Caribbean this season therefore, the following snapshot of what’s happening on the circuit may be useful as a guide. Either sign up as a team at one of the many superyacht regattas, or for those who happen to be based where one of the smaller regattas are taking place, there is always an opportunity to bag a place on someone else’s yacht.
BARBADOS SAILING WEEK
When 17-23 January
Where Barbados Cruising Club, Aquatic Gap, St Michael, near Bridgetown
A great week of racing to kick the season off is the Barbados Sailing Week hosted by Barbados Cruising Club in association with Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc and Mount Gay. It definitely marks the start of the Caribbean race season. Established in 1936, this is one of the Caribbean’s longest standing regattas and offers plenty of record-breaking opportunities in the 60nm Mount Gay Round Barbados Race where it is possible for teams to win their skippers’ weight in Mount Gay Rum if they break any of the current records. This headline event is in addition to the three-day coastal series, and the unrivalled Bajan hospitality that includes the legendary Mount Gay Rum Red Cap party.
GRENADA SAILING WEEK
When 26-31 January
Where St George’s Bay and Mount Hartman Bay
The Caribbean season calendar has been designed to make it possible for racing fanatics to hop from one event to the next so, after Barbados, the obvious next stop is Grenada Sailing Week, which is about 130nm away. As one of the key Caribbean circuit regattas, Grenada Sailing Week attracts keen racing sailors, including the strong Caribbean J/24 fleet, which enjoys close racing on the west and south coast of the island. Shoreside, the fine Caribbean hospitality at a variety of venues has been specially selected to showcase the beautiful island of Grenada.
RORC CARIBBEAN 600
When 24-28 February
Where English Harbour, Antigua
The RORC Caribbean 600 is a popular offshore yacht race starting and finishing in Antigua. Organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) in association with Antigua Yacht Club, this annual classic offers challenging racing on the 600nm course around 11 Caribbean islands.RORC Caribbean
600. Not for the faint hearted!
ST MAARTEN HEINEKEN REGATTA
When 5-8 March
Where Simpson Bay, St Maarten
St Maarten Heineken Regatta celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2020 so, as well as the high profile racing on offer, there’ll be plenty of opportunities for partying. The event also follows on from the Caribbean Multihull Challenge II (14-16 February) at the same venue, which means it is possible to compete in both for an opportunity to win a Grand Combination Prize of an Oris Swiss Watch worth in excess of US$2,000. And lets face it, the island is quite a good sport for some rest and relaxation before the next regatta gets underway.
ST CROIX INTERNATIONAL REGATTA
When 6-8 March
Where Teague Bay, Christiansted, US Virgin Islands
Those cruising in the US Virgin Islands in the Teague Bay area should head to St Croix International Regatta. It is not the biggest regatta in the Caribbean but there is plenty of warm hospitality with racing starting off the beach at St Croix. Also, like Barbados Sailing Week, St Croix International Regatta is now offering competitors a chance to win their skipper’s weight in Mount Gay Rum.
SUPERYACHT CHALLENGE ANTIGUA
When 11-15 March
Where Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua
The 10th edition of the Superyacht Challenge will take place at a slightly later date in 2020, which will give those planning to compete in St Barths Bucket Regatta the following week, an opportunity to tune up. The organisers have even reported interest from the J-Class yacht fleet keen to make their debut at the event.
ST BARTHS BUCKET REGATTA
When 19-22 March
Where Gustavia Harbour, Saint Barthélemy
St Barths Bucket Regatta is arguably the most popular superyacht regatta in the Caribbean not least because it offers fantastic sailing on the waters off the island and world class, shoreside entertainment. This exclusive invitation-only regatta for superyachts larger than 30.5m makes it a real spectacle.
ST THOMAS INTERNATIONAL REGATTA
When 25-29 March
Where Cowpet Bay, US Virgin Islands
St Thomas International Regatta takes place on the waters of Cowpet Bay, which is located on the eastern tip of St Thomas. The event offers fantastic racing including a chance to compete in the Round the Rocks Race on the opening day, and an opportunity to really embrace the party spirit at the yacht club.
BVI SPRING REGATTA & SAILING FESTIVAL
When 30 March-5 April
The BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival sponsored by Nanny Cay Resort and Marina continues to attract a huge following. The first race of the week (31 March) is the Round Tortola race for the Nanny Cay Cup. The Scrub Island Invitational race takes place the following day, and the three-day BVI Spring Regatta runs from Friday to Sunday (3-5 April).
LES VOILES DE SAINT-BARTH RICHARD MILLE
When 12-18 April
Where Saint Barthélemy
The 11th edition is once again expected to attract a high profile fleet of maxi yachts, multihulls and CSA classes including Spirit of Tradition yachts.
ANTIGUA SAILING WEEK
When 25 April – 1 May
Where English Harbour/Falmouth Harbour, Antigua
Antigua Sailing Week (ASW) marks the final event of the Caribbean race season and offers a week of intense yet fun coastal racing, and one of the most lively social scenes on the circuit. The opening procession at the beginning of the week embraces the rich culture that the island of Antigua is so famous for and, the glitzy open-air awards ceremony.