Winning the 2022 Bahamian Triple Crown
Published on December 7th, 2022
The 2022 Best of the Best Bahamian wooden racing sloop regatta was sailed on December 4 in windy, challenging conditions. The regatta is the year-end culmination of many local regattas sailed throughout the island nation of the Bahamas during the year.
For the Best of the Best, Bahaman wooden racing sloops are transported to the capital city of Nassau as deck cargo from the far-flung islands of the 760-mile-long chain. They must qualify to come and must qualify again for the finals. The winners are the Best of the Best of the Best.
Stefan Knowles, from the tiny settlement of Mangrove Bush, Long Island, Bahamas, won the Triple Crown, winning all three classes in wooden boats built by his brother Mark Knowles. Long island, 80 miles long with a population of 3,000, is known as one of the most scenic of all the Bahamian islands, and for producing legendary boatbuilders and sailors.
This year there was plenty of excitement for the nationwide streaming TV audience as well as for fans munching on cracked conch and drinking Bahama Mamas at the Regatta Village on Nassau’s Montagu Beach.
Sailing these hugely overpowered boats so close to the edge is like balancing on a tight rope – one mistake and the game is over.
In C class, there was a spectacular multiple boat tangle at the weather mark caused when one of the overpowered sloops approached the weather mark on port tack and tried to tack inside another boat. This move may work in international fleets, but when you are sailing Bahamian wooden sloops with long wooden booms overhanging their transoms, this tactic invites disaster.
One reason sloop sailing is so spectacular is that crews perch on wooden planks called pry boards to offset the forces of the huge sail areas. In B Class, Lady Sonia’s pry board snapped, sending three crew back-flipping into the waters off Montagu Beach. All were quickly retrieved by the fast reflexes of master skipper Buzzy Rolle.
Also in B Class, Susan Chase V, skippered by Stefan Knowles, didn’t let a broken jib halyard slow him down. Continuing without a jib, Knowles earned the nickname “Triple Crown” as he went on to win in Class B, also winning in Class A in Running Tide and Class C in his new boat, Sassie Sue, named for his mom.
These sloops are historic and these wooden boat regattas unique in the world. Some of the oldest skippers in the fleet learned to sail in the schooner trade before the days of motorized cargo vessels. In this year’s regatta, 22-year-old Cochise Burrows, representing Long Island, made history by being the first main skipper trained in international Optis.
Also crossing over from the international Optimist class to sloops were the all-girls team of Mary Jac Nash and Eliza Denning. Sailing sloops for the first time, they won Class E, the youth class, in Captain Peg.
A Class Results
1. Running Tide
2. New Legend
3. Ed Sky
4. New Courageous
5. Original Courageous
B Class Results
1. Susan Chase V
2. Ants Nest II
3. Ole Boy
4. Barbarian I
5. Lady Sonia
C Class Results
1. Sassie Sue
2. Bul Reg
6. Golden Girl
7. Sweet Island Gal
9. Raging Bull
E (Youth) Class Results
1. Captain Peg
2. Lady Kayla
3. Miss Agnes
4. One Bahamas
6. Brothers 2
7. Baby Wave
Story and photos by Jan Pehrson, a sailing photojournalist who spends summers in San Francisco, California and winters in St. Pete Beach, Florida. As a racing and cruising sailor and Coast Guard licensed skipper, Jan’s familiarity with sailing and the sailing community lends an in-depth element to her prolific array of photographs and articles. Contact her at www.janpehrson.com