Keeping the tradition of boatbuilding alive are the many ‘Classics’ regattas of the Caribbean. These are a gathering place for the dozens of committed individuals passionate about the craft, and the thrill of the race.
One of the oldest and most festive regattas is the Carriacou Regatta, which comes as no surprise given the rich history of boat-building on the island. Initiated in 1965, by iconic and legendary sailor, Jamaican Linton Riggs, Carriacou Regatta takes place in late July or early August each year. The event attracts visitors from all over the world and draws participating vessels from other Caribbean islands including Grenada, Antigua, Anguilla, Tobago, Bequia, Canouan and Mayreau.
For years shipwrights came on the scene competing to win the large cash prizes and to prove themselves as the builders of the fastest boats. Along with the cash prize, is the pride of the win.
The regatta has a reputation for being both a renegade event and a gentleman’s sport. There are no rules, and everyone is expected to race with honour and voracious fun. The people of Carriacou and Petite Martinique have always prided themselves on being stubbornly independent and extremely resilient. Evidently, these self-governing survivors of the seas have no need for rules.
With this renegade spirit, anything goes. Riggs himself had a famous sloop called “The Mermaid of Carriacou” and for seven years no one could beat him. As for his opponents, there are tales of captains sailing to Grenada and conveniently borrowing sails from yachts in the dead of the night and swiftly sailing back to Carriacou, all determined to beat that famous sloop.
Carriacou Regatta has endured for over 54 years to become one of the most exciting regattas anywhere in the world. The fun doesn’t stop at the shoreline, with donkey racing, greasy pole, storytelling, arm wrestling, a Queen Show and Wet Fetes. And of course, the rum shops are full of characters retelling the stories of the day and days gone by. The stories pour out as liberally as the rum flows. Everyone’s an expert, expounding late into the night the merits of one boat over another, while the DJ blasts ole time soca.
Monique Mills and Danny Donelan of Savvy Sailing Adventure and Jambalaya Sailing Charters both offer day trips along Grenada’s coast and private charters to the Grenadines aboard a fleet of traditional sloops and schooners. They are committed to preserving the boat-building industry and use shipwrights as their captains, sharing generations of knowledge and stories with their guests as they sail.