With seven exhilarating days on the high seas, Barbados Sailing week officially kicked off the Caribbean racing season.
Held in January, the week attracted crews and spectators from the USA, the UK, Italy, Australia and even Poland.
The sailing week was organized by the Barbados Cruising Club and the Barbados Yacht Club and sponsored by the Barbados Tourism and Marketing Inc (BTMI) and Mount Gay Rum Barbados
A Pivotal Year
Corey Garrett, Director of Caribbean and Latin America, Sports for the BTMI described the 2023 edition of Barbados Sailing Week as a pivotal year for the event. He said it marked the beginning of a five-year marketing plan to promote sailing week as one of the number one sporting activities in Barbados.
“We understand how important sports tourism is in Barbados and building it as a platform for locals and for our visitors will continue to do the destination well into the future. So, forming a strong partnership with the Barbados Sailing Association, the Barbados Yacht Club and the Barbados Cruising Club will definitely take us forward as a destination,” he stated.
This year the week was deemed one of the most inclusive as events such as kiteboarding, wing foiling and remote-control boating were officially added to the week of events. Along with the anticipated offshore and junior dinghy sailing races, there was also a fun day which included a paddle surfing race and a treasure hunt.
The Legendary Race
What continues to make the week legendary is the highly anticipated Mount Gay Round Barbados Race.
The race dates back to the 1930s and is held annually on January 21st, a national bank holiday, in honour of The Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow, who was Barbados’ first prime minister, a sailing enthusiast and the co-founder of the Barbados Cruising Club.
The Round Barbados Race is also seen as the climax of the week for many, including Race Coordinator of Barbados Sailing Week, Chris Worme.
“My highlight of the event is the Round Barbados Race which has been a tradition for a number of years. It has been going on since the early days with schooners and we have tried to develop it into a bigger event as we have managed to increase it now to a 7-Day Event,” Worme said.
Nine boats from around the globe competed in the race and even a Wing Foil tried to make it around the island.
Spectators were given the chance to view the iconic race from 13 designated points around the island. Some caught up with the action while dining or ‘liming’ at La Cabane, Tapas, Animal Flower, Round House, Sea Shed and John Moore Bar to name a few. Spectators could even track the boats via the YB Races mobiles application, which allows you to track live boat races around the globe.
Barbadian Zachary Stuart was stationed at La Cabane bright and early to watch his daughter Savannah compete on the Rapajam. This was his first time watching the race and he was very proud and nervous to watch his daughter out on the waters. He spent the day following his daughter and the race around the island, making a stop at a few viewing points.
The most popular viewing point was Animal Flower Cave, as the north point of the island is the most challenging and enthralling point of the race.
Meg Matthews and her husband Bob were vacationing on the island from New Jersey and heard about the week while visiting the Animal Flower Cave prior. Meg previously sailed to Barbados so watching the race was an exciting full-circle moment.
A Unique Race
Though the race may be difficult, it’s exciting and includes different aspects of sailing in one race. That’s why Captain Matthew Barker keeps coming back to the island to participate in the race and the sailing week.
He has been participating for 10 years and his boat, the Blue Peter placed second overall in the Round Barbados Race.
Describing the race, he stated “The race is a lot of fun, it’s hard, it’s challenging but it’s worth it because then you finish it off with rum and a red cap,” he described.
For 40 years, sailors who participate in a Mount Gay-sponsored regatta have received a red cap featuring the Mount Gay logo, the name of the regatta and the year. During the first historic Round Barbados race, most boats sailed for the honour of the fastest time and a barrel of Mount Gay Rum. Today, this honour has transitioned into achieving the coveted Mount Gay Red Cap.
The Red Cap is an esteemed symbol of accomplishment in the international sailing community which must be earned. Around the globe, they say, if you win a red cap, you are a sailor, so it makes sense that after a fun and challenging race, the week of the event ends with the iconic Red Cap Party.
Spectators, crews and sailing enthusiasts all gathered at the Cruising Club to celebrate the sailors and a successful week with live music, deejays and of course Mount Gay Rum, in Barbados, the Birthplace of Rum.
Full Race Results for each event are available via https://www.roundbarbados.com
Written by: Rhe-Ann Prescod