WEST INDIES REGATTA
One of the newest regattas held annually in late April, early May, is the West Indies
Regatta. While this regatta is a recent addition to the St Barth’s yachting calendar
the boats being raced represent a technology from ‘yesteryear’. All vessels are
traditionally crafted Caribbean beach built Schooners or Sloops. The aim of the
regatta is to promote the dying art of Caribbean boatbuilding.
These classic wooden ships were the workhorses of the Caribbean long before there
were airports on every island. Everything from people, alcohol, cigarettes, to cattle
and general merchandise were transported between the islands on these ships. In
the early days, the vessels had no engines only sails, so the crews were in the hands
of mother-nature; if she provided no breeze they just sat back and waited until a
warm Caribbean trade wind propelled them to the destination port. This was a time
when everything moved a little slower and the cargo arrived when the cargo arrived.
These unique crafts were originally built in the Southern Caribbean islands of
Carriacou in the Grenadines. They are made entirely of wood and are usually built
on special wooden stilts on the beach. Once completed the entire village would
gather to help push the boats into the water. With advances in technology, there is
no need for these boats any longer, rendering the skills required to build such
vessels a dying art.
Thankfully a passionate group of individuals who live in the Caribbean have joined forces to revive this dying boat building technique. Annually around 10 of these yachts converge on Gustavia from all over the Caribbean for a long weekend of racing fueled by rum, cold beers, and great camaraderie. Not a regatta to miss if you are looking for an authentic Caribbean experience.