Workboat regatta in Grenada


Photos by Bob Grieser

Brace yourself. From the smack of sizzling barbecue to the din of sails snapping in a stiff breeze and a riot of boats so colorful even the tropical sun cannot tame their hues, Grenada’s Scotiabank Workboat Regatta is a full-on assault of the senses.

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Each year, on the weekend prior to their independence day, Feb. 7, spirited Grenadians gather for an event that is more than just a sailboat race. For residents of the island nation, the regatta is a showcase of community pride, leading up to a grand celebration of their sovereignty. Competing in traditional-style workboats — many now built and campaigned specifically for the regatta — rivals come from the fishing villages of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

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And whether their vessel is a new model with aluminum spars or has gaff-rigged timbers held tight with twine and duct tape, they are eager to vie for bragging rights.
The boats gather on Grand Anse Beach. Races feature a Le Mans start, and at the finish the captains must disembark and run to the timekeeper’s desk for a shot of rum. Against the static blare of music, officials call for the individual classes to launch their craft. The sailors drag the weighty wooden sloops through the sand, struggling to hold the boats in the surf until, “Ready … set … BLAT!” The horn sounds, skippers clamber aboard and, on the brink of pandemonium, the races begin.
Thousands watch off an alabaster crescent beach at Camerhogne Park. The northeast trades are brisk, the heavy boats tender. By the windward mark, most are bailing furiously. Several sink and are towed ashore by rescue boats, the crews dragging astern like rag dolls. But everyone is exhilarated.

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The 2012 event brings a record number of competitors and spectators, including tourists who schedule their vacation to enjoy the spectacle.

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Afterward there’s dancing, food and drink, fireworks and rowdy boasting about who will come back next year and steal the championship.

This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue.