The 59th National Family Island Regatta
29 April 2012 | Elizabeth Harbor, Great Exuma, Bahamas
First, the Family Islands are the Out Islands of the Bahamas and exclude the more populated islands of Grand Bahamas (Freeport) and New Providence (Nassau). Fifty-nine years ago a “friendly” competition was established to bring together the best sailors from the islands to compete for title of the National Champion Sailors.
As the Governor General was recently quoted saying, “the event is an expression of the resilience and optimism of our people…” and “it is precisely because of the wonderful spirit of camaraderie and friendly competition engendered by the event that it thrives not only in good times but also when the winds may not be so favorable.” While all that is true, he obviously wasn’t focused on the large amount of betting going on or the rampnt partying.
Over the years the Regatta has evolved into a blow-out party, as only Bahamians can pull off. The four day event brings many people to the Georgetown, Exuma area and is a definite boost to the economy. A lot of preparation goes into it and the Bahamian equivalent of an Olympic Village seemingly springs up overnight. The plywood shacks provide Sky Juice (gin and coconut water…the national drink) 24 hours a day and souse and sheepshead soup for breakfast, guava duff, jerk chicken, ribs and other delectable tidbits. Music so loud you swear your ears will bleed plays late into each night and the people watching is absolutely world class and not to miss.
And then there are the races. There are essentially 3 classes of Bahamian Sloops racing: Class A (the largest boats), Class B and the Dinghy Class (which include classes C, D and E). The islands that can afford it work all year on handcrafting one or two boats and send their island’s winning sloop to the National Family Island Regatta. The races are pretty close to one-design and each boat is laid up by hand in the classic traditional style Bahamian Sloop. The boats are quite beautiful and are easily identified by their huge mainsail, hiking boards and shall we say, unique names. Several boat names caught our eyes like: Ruff Justice, Tida Wave, Lady Muriel, Aant Farm, Lady Sonia, Barbarian, Queen Drucilla and Lonesome Dove. All are current or past winners too.
The Regatta is over now and many cruising boats are preparing to pull out and go south, north or west. One downside to our life style is having to say goodby to old and new friends. Hopefully, we will get to seem many of them again in some other harbor.
A deep lo pressure system has been sitting over us most of the week bringing us much needed rain and not so much needed wind and waves. So we will probably hang out until the weather improves.
To see more photos just click on Photo Gallery. We are so glad we got the opportunity to see the Regatta for the second time.