Slaughter, Class C Champion, racing in the Best of the Best Regatta. Photo by Jan Pehrson.
Best of the Best Regatta Water and land come together into a true Bahamian experience broadcast live on TV By Jan Pehrson
ailed in Montagu Bay, Nassau, Bahamas, Dec. 6-9, the Best of the Best Regatta crowned a new champion in the A, B and C classes of Bahamian sloop sailing with New Legend, Susan Chase and New Slaughter winning in their respective classes. The third Best of the Best Regatta was the first regatta broadcast cannon to cannon on local television, drawing the largest Bahamian TV audience of any programming, including NFL football. More than 50 boats throughout the Bahamas competed for the crown of Best of the Best. The event was also a huge draw as thousands of spectators came out to watch unique Bahamian sailing and enjoy the sights and sounds in the Regatta Village. Built of wood with overhanging booms, huge sail areas, and crew stacked up one behind the other on “pry boards” to balance the sails, Bahamian sloops are exciting as well as traditional. In the Bahamas, the two dozen sloop regattas that are sailed each year throughout the islands are supported by the government supplemented by local fundraising. The ministry of Agriculture & Marine Resources created a special regatta desk to deal specifically with the sport, and the Ministry of Tourism also provides sponsorship. According to Andrew J. Burrows of the Ministry of Agriculture & Marine Resources, sloop sailing represents to many communities the single largest economic activity of the year in terms of domestic, as well as international tourism. Regattas are a major draw in increased hotel nights, rental cars and restaurants. “Everybody benefits from regattas in the islands, so it is in the government’s best interest to keep them going. We
News & Views for Southern Sailors
offer a lot of assistance, technical as well as financial.” “One of the challenges we have had with regattas is that too many Bahamians come to regattas and are only aware of the shore side activities. While these are important, we wanted to balance with the quality of sailing that happens on the water. This was one of the major goals of the Best of the Best regatta: To bring the water and land together into a true Bahamian experience. We had a major three-night concert series with top Bahamian entertainers. Twenty thousand people came out. We wanted to be family oriented, so we had face painters, stilt walkers and character artists. We created a regatta village. When you come to the event you had no reason to leave; we had food and entertainment.” “In the future, we see the opportunity to monetize the sport for the sailors. We want to create the opportunity for these guys to become professional full-time sailors, so we are creating advertising opportunities through greater TV. We see NASCAR as the model.” Burrows invites people interested in a true Bahamian experience to combine their vacation with a regatta. For the regatta schedule, go to www.tourismtoday.com /events/regattas-homecoming For planning help and deals on airfare, rooms, and cars, go to www.Bahamas.com Jan Pehrson is a sailing photojournalist who spends summers in San Francisco, CA, and winters in St. Pete Beach, FL. As a racing and cruising sailor and Coast Guard licensed skipper, Jan’s familiarity with sailing and the sailing community lends an indepth element to her prolific array of photographs and articles. Contact her at www.janpehrson.com SOUTHWINDS
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