53rd Long Island Bahamas Regatta

Published on June 6th, 2022

After a three-year government imposed pause to protect Bahamians from the spread of Covid-19, it is Regatta Time again in Long Island, Bahamas. Long Island, Bahamas is not to be confused with Long Island, New York, as this island in the Bahamas has less than 2000 inhabitants, is 57 miles long, and is nowhere wider than four miles. It is legendary for its wooden boat builders and powerful racing sailors.

At the 53rd Annual Long Island Regatta, wooden sloops arrived from the far-flung islands of the Bahamas, some on inter island barges traveling hundreds of miles, some under tow. Spectators arrived by plane, mail boat, or for those lucky enough to call Long Island home, by car. People ashore ate conch fritters, chicken souse washed down with Kalik beer, and had one fine time.

The final day of the four-day regatta, sailed June 1-4 at Salt Pond, Long Island, was particularly wet and wild on the water for the sailors as the remnants of tropical storm Alex blew through, causing high winds and waves. Sloops sailed with the smallest mainsails in their inventory reefed down.

Bahamian sloop racing is unique in the world. There are four racing classes – Class-A (28 feet long), Class-B (21 feet long), Class-C (17 feet long) and Class-E (12 feet long). With long overhanging booms and huge, billowing sails that easily overpower the hulls, sails are balanced by movable human ballast hiking out on “pry boards” held to the deck by large staples. The pry crew keeps the sloops from capsizing.

This year, the number of boats was down as boat owners are fixing up their wooden boats sitting in their yards since the last regatta in 2019. Saws are humming, and hammers are pounding as Bahamian sailors refit their wooden boats. The numbers of boats competing may be down, but the competition is up.

As often happens through the regatta’s long history, the legendary “Long Island Boys” dominated most of the classes in view of cheering friends and family on their home turf.

There is a long-standing rivalry going back for generations between the “Long Island Boys” and sailors from the Exumas, the Bahamian island chain across the sound, 35 miles away. This year the top two Class-B Long Island sloops, Susan Chase V and Ole Boy, were surprised when Tari Anne, sailed by a crew of teenagers and their instructors Dallas and Tamara Knowles from the “Exuma Sailing Club,” sandwiched themselves in between the two top boats, finishing second overall in Class-B.

How did this happen? Well, during the three-year break, Tari Anne’s mast got taller by half a dozen feet, her boom grew longer, she can now carry more sail area, and the well-disciplined kids practiced and grew. No longer children, the crew of Tari Anne are now teenagers, almost adult sized, so their weight on the pry board now balances the larger sail area. The Long Island Boys are starting to look over their shoulder, as the teenaged crew of Tari Anne are still growing!

Race Results:

1. New Legend, Long Island
2. Ed Sky, Nassau
3. Good News, Ragged Islands

1. Susan Chase V, Long Island
2. Tari Anne, Exuma
3. Ole Boy, Long Island

1. Xena, Long Island
2. Slaughter, Long Island
3. Bul Reg, Exuma

1. Man ‘o’ War, Exuma
2. Miss Bella
3. Captain Peg

Source: Jan Pehrson

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