Celebrating the sport in the Bahamas

Published on May 2nd, 2018

While design development in sailing continues to leap forward, what remains unchanged in our sport is the community which surrounds established class organization. These types of boats may not deliver the latest performance experience, but the bigger picture brings together history and comradery.

Said Aristotle, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Such is the case with the Bahamian Racing Sloops, once integral to the fishing community and now enjoyed for sailing competition. And the biggest event of them all is the National Family Island Regatta, started in 1954 and today is one of the oldest regattas in The Islands of The Bahamas.

The 65th edition was held April 24-28 in Elizabeth Harbor alongside George Town of Great Exuma. This year’s regatta theme was “Celebrating Sloop Builders” as in order to compete, sloops must be built in the Bahamas, of wood.

Racing is held in four classes of varying size, with conditions varying from very little wind to too much wind, from rain to sunny skies. About a dozen islands of the Bahamas were represented amid the 61 competing sloops.

Long Island took home the honors, with the Best Skipper award going to Stefan Knowles of Mangrove Bush, Long Island and Long Island boats winning first in Class A, third in Class B, and first and second in Class C. But also outstanding was the Exuma Sailing Club of Great Exuma.

The Exuma Sailing Club, founded in 2013, exists to help train the young people of Exuma in the discipline of sailing. From learning to sail on Optis to competing in Bahamian Sloop Regattas against the best sailors in the country, the Exuma Sailing Club focuses on character development and teamwork in an effort to create a new generation of hard working sailors who love their cultural past time.

This year, Termite, sailed by students from the local high school, finished third in Class C – higher than any other Exuma boat in its class. The sailing club students also help to crew on Tari Anne, the 44 year old B class boat that won the final race on Saturday, the only Exuma Boat of the three main classes to win a race all week.

Despite surrounded by pristine waters, sailing is not deeply rooted among the locals, but the Exuma Sailing Club seeks to change that. So far, so good.

Photos by Jan Pehrson. Words by Jan Pehrson and Craig Leweck.

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