By Madeline Gill
With New England’s sailing season in the rearview mirror, many sailors typically pack up and head toward the lower latitudes. Whether in pursuit of an endless summer or seeking fulfillment of a craving for competition, sailing professionals and hobbyists have historically made an annual migration to the Caribbean islands. This reliable influx of sailboats cultivated a demand from which premier events including the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, St. Thomas International Regatta, Les Voiles de St. Barth, and Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta have been born.
In the wake of this year’s devastating hurricane season, many renowned sailing destinations - and hosts of the aforementioned regattas - are still pushing to restore or rebuild their facilities. The sailors and venues have developed a mutually beneficial relationship, upon which the sailing centers and their surrounding economies have come to rely. Heavy damage on the islands of Virgin Gorda, Tortola, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, St. Barth, and Antigua’s sister-island of Barbuda has left many sailors doubting whether they should follow through with their original plans to sail south or if it is best to steer clear in an effort to give the islands ample time to recover. Anticipating a need to shed some light on this dilemma, event organizers have endeavored to send a clear message.
The “island’s economy is entirely based on tourism,” a press release posted on heinekenregatta.com in September stated. The 2018 edition of the Heineken Regatta will be held as planned and “one way to help the island and show your support is to come visit the island.” An article posted on lesvoilesdesaintbarth.com is similarly forthcoming, writing that “the common goal is clear: to make the 2018 tourist season happen, and as quickly as possible.”
The time to plan for these events is approaching and, although there can be no promise that the 2018 season will be the best yet, we can be certain that it will be pivotal for the future of the island nations and our ability to enjoy their unique allure for years to come.
The Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, a staple of the classic yacht racing calendar, will host its 31st edition from April 18-24, 2018. Additionally, the 9th edition of Les Voiles de St. Barth will take place April 8-14, 2018 and will be open to classic and traditional yachts once again.