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Carib connection

3: Regattas in the sun

The Caribbean is the spiritual home of the warm-weather regatta: there’s nothing to beat the combination of tropical sun and cool, reliable breezes. A key feature of almost every Caribbean regatta is that everyone is welcome — ocean cruising families mix with the latest supermaxis and Sportsboats with chartered bareboats. You can also usually expect high standards of course design and race management. Regattas are not solely about racing — the nightlife and entertainment ashore is just as important. Wherever you go, you can be assured of a carnival-like atmosphere.

Most regattas have large bareboat divisions (usually with the stipulation that the boat should be exactly as supplied for normal charter weeks). Often the competition in these classes is surprisingly keen, with top international sailors as well as local skippers battling it out. If you have the time, booking a fortnight’s charter is ideal — one week can be spent cruising and soaking up the scenery, the other racing.

Antigua Sailing Week
This is the grandfather of them all, held in late April each year and preceded by the 65-mile Guadeloupe to Antigua race. The week takes competitors to various parts of the island each day. The event kicks off from English Harbour with the Dickenson Bay Race, while on subsequent days the various division rotates between Olympic-style courses and passages to other Antiguan harbours.
www.sailingweek.com

BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival
Three days of non-stop racing and partying starting the week before Easter. There are divisions for racing yachts with spinnakers, cruisers without kites, plus charter bareboats and even beach cats. The Sir Francis Drake Channel, immediately outside the Nanny Cay Marina venue, provides a perfect stage for the regatta, with stunning scenery, steady winds and ample space for separate course areas for spinnaker and non-spinnaker classes. The event kicks off with the Sailing Festival; a low-pressure, three-day warm up. It consists of a 20-mile passage race to the Bitter End YC on adjacent Virgin Gorda island, followed by a layday, and then a race back to Nanny Cay.
www.bvispringregatta.org

St Maarten Heineken Regatta
This event promises ‘serious fun’ for three days over the first weekend in March. Around 250 entries, ranging from beach cats through bareboats to Volvo Ocean Race entries are expected for the 2007 event. Each night Heineken sets up a regatta village — with bars, food outlets and live bands — at a different location. For the first and last nights it’s on the beach in Simpson Bay, near the St Maarten YC. On Friday it moves to the waterfront in Marigot (the capital of French St Martin) and on Saturday to Philipsburg, the Dutch capital.
www.heinekenregatta.com

Angostura Tobago Sail Week
Billed as ‘the friendliest regatta in the Caribbean’, Angostura Tobago Sail Week will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2007. The event is held over five days in early to mid-May, with a layday. There’s racing in five classes, including one for bareboats, which account for roughly one quarter of the total fleet.
www.sailweek.com

Mount Gay/Boatyard Regatta, Barbados
This event, held in the home of Mount Gay rum, is organised by the Barbados Sailing Association in late May or early June, with typically about 30 yachts split into four classes: Racing, Cruising A, Cruising B and Charter, and lively evening entertainment.
www.sailbarbados.com www.barbadosyachtclub.com

La Source Grenada Sailing Festival
This four-day event has been ranked as one of the top five Caribbean regattas. Racing takes place over a variety of courses in late Jan or early Feb, including the Champagne Montaudon Pursuit Race. There are classes for: Racing, Cruising, Charter, Multihull and Fun. It is run at the same time as the National Workboat Regatta, which sees the colourful sight of 30 or more traditional Caribbean workboats pitted against each other.
www.grenadasailingfestival.com


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