Crystal clear, turquoise blue water lapping onto 2+ miles of white sand beach, makeshift food stalls with mouth watering smells, vendors selling luscious local food and drinks, other stalls selling souvenirs and local crafts, music blaring from a large sound stage, lots of locals and tourists mingling and laughing while about 40 workboats rest on the sand and get prepped for the intense competition to determine which sailing village will hold the honor of winning the 2016 Sailing Festival ~ known locally as the Workboat Regatta.
The Grenada Sailing Week is bigger than this and is actually a week-long event that attracts sailors from all over the world to race against each other in a variety of races and boat classes, each day ending with a party. There are 5 classes of yachts that race and each yacht races multiple times. Results of each race are tallied up to determine the overall winners. Of course, there is plenty of fun, food and partying going on during the races and at the evening parties. It’s thrilling to see these sleek, expensive yachts slicing through the waves but, I have to admit, my heart is with the workboats.
Workboats are the traditional 16 to 17 foot wooden boats that the local fishermen use on a daily basis to bring in the “catch of the day” to restaurants, stores, lucky residents and savvy visitors. They are powered by motors and do not have sails. Certain seaside villages in Grenada – Gouyave, Woburn, Grand Mal and Sauteurs are well known for their fishing culture and there is a friendly, but rigorous, rivalry between them each year to claim the prize of fastest boat and best sailors. The races also attract fishermen from Carriacou and Petit Martinique, Grenada’s sister islands, and sailors from the Grenadine Islands like Bequia and Mayreau. For the day of the races, bamboo masts are cut and rigged onto the boats in a wide variety of ways ~ almost always including a least some duct tape!
We’ve been coming to the Workboat races for many years and the boats and rigging have gotten much more professional and now specialty boats are being built specifically for the final race of the regatta with traditional masts and bigger, better sails. In the early days, more than half the fun was watching the sailors collaborate (argue) and try to figure out how to jury rig their boats with the bamboo masts and sails and get them to stay upright. Now, it’s more organized and some of the charm and the adventure of rigging the boats from scratch is gone. But the rivalry, excitement, laughing and fun is still there in full measure. It is a great 2 day event. Plus, now we know local fishermen and root for specific boats, as they race each other for the final trophies.
Our local fisherman, Captain Ray, had one of the boats racing for Woburn. We get the bulk of our fish and Lobster from Captain Ray. He doesn’t carry a phone so Michael or I need to head over to the Woburn dock around 3 o’clock to see what he has caught that day. My favorite is Lobster which is $12XCD or $4US per pound. He has also turned us on to wonderful crab and, on any day, may have 2-3 types of regular fish to sell, as well as lambi (or conch).
We stayed for most of the day on Saturday to watch the races, eat the great Grenadian food and soak up some sun. The food booths all looked great but one booth stood out. Everything there looked fantastic and we got grilled fish, jerk chicken and oil down, Grenada’s national dish. The food was so good, I went back to meet and compliment the chef, Rain. I found out that she serves food at a Vendor night on Wednesdays at True Blue Bay Resort and now we are regulars to her booth each week. YUM! A bonus was seeing a number of HUGE starfish when we were swimming, between races.
On Sunday, the winning workboat and village is announced. Then there is an additional race where the specialty boats race. Each boat is the same and each town nominates a composite, “winning” crew from all their sailors to battle it out for the best sailing team of the weekend. We didn’t attend on Sunday this year and it’s been a trial trying to figure out who won the final trophy, Champion of Champions. There was a lot of local press coverage leading up to the race but NOTHING after to say who won. I checked the Sailing Festival website which again was updated almost daily until the start of the races and then …. nothing! I checked with Captain Ray but he wasn’t sure either. Three WEEKS later, feeling frustrated, I started scouring the internet and, way down in the search results, I found a FaceBook page for the Sailing Festival with all the results ~ Success! Facebook, the great equalizer and disrupter of the tried and true news sources. (I am now following this page).
Here are the final results. (The list is long but I included the entire list because the names of the boats are as colorful as the paint jobs and I thought you would enjoy them):
Community Class Races – These are the top 3 winners from each village (or island).
- Ark Royal — Skipper Vernell Phillips (Boat from Bequia)
- Lightning — Skipper Adolphus Forde (Boat from Mayreau)
- Wet — Skipper Carl Edoe
- Sonic — Skipper Israel Darangit
- Etieron – Skipper Carlyle Joseph
- Sky Red — Skipper John George
- Reborn – Skipper Kwesi Paul
- Endeavour — Skipper Javid George
- Classic — Skipper Ted Richards
- Swift — Skipper Christopher Jaheir (Boat from Grand Mal)
- No Retreat No Surrender – Skipper Bertrand Noel
- Cool Runnings — Skipper Ryan Olive
- Trouble Again — Skipper Allan Noel
- LOCAL – Skipper Clinton Brathwaite
- Press Play — Skipper Shakeil Gibbs
Match Race Finals – This is where each village picked their best sailors from all their boats and raced all using the same type of boat to showcase the best team of sailors. There are 2 classes Junior and Senior:
National Team Sailing – Junior – Sponsored by Budget Marine
1. Team Woburn – sailing in Gybe Talk
2. Team Gouyave – sailing Mr.X
National Team Sailing – Senior – Sponsored by Carib
1. Team Sauteurs –- sailing in Tomorrow’s Worry
2. Team Gouyave –- sailing in Mr.X
3. Team Woburn – sailing in Gybe Talk
‘Champion of Champions’ Match Race Final – The Skipper & crew from the winning boat in each of the Community Class races, using the same type of boat to determine the ‘Champion of Champions’
Grand Winner for the 2016 Champion of Champions:
First Place: Grand Mal — with a crew from the winning boat Swift — Skipper Christopher Jaheir. Imagine his pride being named the best of the best and winning US$1,000 and a Yamaha outboard motor from McIntyre Brothers This is quite the prize ~ You’ve seen these boats. The cost of a brand new motor is way out of most Captain’s means and $3000XCD is over a month’s wages for a well paid earner. (Compare it to a person in the US making $48K a year and winning $5K and getting a new car – a literal windfall.)
Second Place: Gouyave — winning US$500.00
Third Place: Woburn — winning US$250.00
All in all, another wonderful Sailing Festival. I can’t wait until next year. And hopefully, we will have some friends visiting – Save the date – January 28th and 29th, 2017
BONUS: Here is a great video of the Sailing Festival that gives a good feel for the event. Posted on Facebook on the Sailing Festival page, created by True Blue Resort, one of the Festival sponsors …. Grenada Sailing Festival video