December 14, 2022
Boat eye candy abounds! This is the event to be at if you want to see stunning boats flying around bays and high caliber shoreside activity.
St Barth’s lives up to all the hype. Different than their Bucket Regatta, which is for big boats, the Voile is accessible to all sailors. From nifty little trimarans through to Melges 24’s on up to various race boats. No charter fleet here so best to connect with one of the charter race programs and get a seat. Better yet charter the whole boat and treat 10 of your best friends to the best this French island has to offer. The racecourse book offers more than 20 courses that weave their way around the island varying in length from 10 to 35 miles. You’ll use every sail in the inventory so be prepared to work hard and never stop pushing. The CSA rating is so tight that races are often tied let alone decided by less than 10 seconds corrected. Lane management is important so knowing which big boats will affect you and for how long is a major tactical decision.
On the well-earned off day rent a quad or scooter and explore the island, find the little beach bars for cheeseburgers and beers. Shoreside parties are stuff of legends. After Irma, the regatta had Jimmy Buffet as ambassador. Jimmy (as I’ve come to know him) did an impromptu concert one night that spoiled me from ever seeing him in front of any more than 200 people. He seemed to enjoy himself and chatted to fans as he made his way towards the bar. On the awards night get to the regatta village early because they do an amazing firework display that has all the island inhabitants on the waterfront. My insider tip for this one is if you are staying on the boat either anchor out in the bay and dinghy in (slowly) or try to be on the south side to the harbor where the surge is a little less. If getting a villa, book early and be prepared to spend a lot. The villas are plentiful, and the regatta is scheduled to be the first week of shoulder season to allow more options. The ferry ride over from St Maarten can challenge even the toughest stomach so be ready for the sound of chumming going on. All in all, there is a reason this one gets on everyone’s list and the big boats make it a big part of their season. The regatta does a great job on video presentation so definitely YouTube the various years.
Antigua Sailing Week April 29 – May 1
I include the Peters and May Around the Island Race even though it is scored separately. This Is the end of the season event with the return to Europe and North America events sending everyone back with memories, sunburns, and great t shirts. Antigua is pretty central in the island chain and draws boats from many neighboring islands as well as the circuit regulars. English Harbor is 2 things, a great location for the event and a fantastic rum. If lucky enough to do well on any given race day a bottle of English Harbor 5 year is your reward, savor it!
This regatta has both charter boats from Moorings and the race crowd. There are two different race areas, and the fleets rotate between the courses giving different course options. Jaime Torres does a fantastic job knowing what the racers want based on his years of Smile and Wave fame. This event is a racers regatta, put on your big person pants and be ready to get pushed around by big wind and waves. The geographic orientation of the island means more W/L racing given the depth just off the coast is too deep to drop marks. Going up wind the shore usually pays and it’s the boat that goes in closest to the rock cliffs that usually find a favorable shift or current relief. I say usually because like everywhere it works until it doesn’t and somehow Taz and Scarlett Oyster know when to go out for better pressure. Locally they race Cork 1720’s that is crewed by locals putting on a display of skill on how fast you can get a sport boat to go in wind and waves.
Touch2Play’s winning form in 2018
The regatta village over in Nelson Shipyard has an amazing line up of reggae music. You can get your fill of drink, food and fun, just be ready to race a little hungover (a small price to pay). The well-earned lay day at this event features a killer beach party; definitely do this. The awards celebration is spectacular, and a highlight is the awarding of the Travelers Trophy, the unofficial season championship. It’s a small little trophy but very prestigious. I was lucky enough to be on Touch2Play with Rob Butler to win it in 2018. Since then, it has been owned by Liquid, an exceptionally well sailed J122 from Antigua. Their unique paint scheme matches their charming crew; great competitors and examples of what the best of the Caribbean has to offer. Many large yachts stage for trans-Atlantic crossings from Antigua so you hear the sendoff by multiple blasts of horns wishing them safe passage.
And just like that I wish you safe passage to try these events. They are accessible, fun and ideal sailing. Most of the events use Yachtscoring so info is available there as well as on Caribbean Sailing Association’s great website. If bringing your own boat arrange to get it measured for a CSA rating. It’s a wonderful rule that promises tight racing. Each regatta will go out of their way to make you welcome and if you are lucky enough to be at registration at any of the events and you meet Pam, say hi for me.
Sailing on the south shore of Lake Ontario, Larry and his wife and daughter have been sailing both one-design starting in their J22 and then transitioning to PHRF with various boats, most recently in Laser28 and Esse 850.
Lucky enough to race with some wonderful boats and greater crews on the Great Lakes, East Coast Southern US and the Caribbean. Currently trying to give back to sailing through volunteering with PHRF LO as current president.