Family Island Regatta 2


still more pictures

The dawn of the last century sees, like everywhere else so too in the Bahamas, the decay of the traditional vessel under sail. Catching conch and lobster, sponge diving and fishing, trade between the islands simply doesn't pay off any more without an engine. By the early fifties only a few of the old boats are left and traditional shipbuilding is almost extinct. A few enthusiasts join together and decide to do something about it: the first regatta for traditional Bahamian craft, sailed by Bahamians, takes place in 1954. Road Bay near George Town on Great Exuma seems the ideal place and there has been a regatta every year since then. Another reason was to encourage boat builders not to give up their centuries old skills and so keep an important part of Bahamian history alive.

The first years were hard. Mostly ignored by the general public and the colonial government with varying numbers of participants the event almost died in the sixties. Everything changed when independence from Great Britain was finally achieved. Bahamians started to develop a national identity and an awareness of their own great traditions. A trust was founded in the seventies consisting mostly of rich locals and mainly rum and beer producing companies to make sure there would never again be a lack of funding.

This truely national event has been growing ever since, Bahamian boatbuilding is flourishing and every year sees the arrival of new boats, new skippers and more enthusiastic crew. Today it's rather fiberglass than wood, but design and sails are the same they have been for centuries. Bahamians are able seamen with abilities acquired over generations in a difficult environment. To watch them sail these seemingly fragile and overcanvassed boats, always on the verge of capsizing, is a sight of a lifetime.

We thoroughly enjoyed this event and the pictures simply don't tell the whole story of fun and fascination. If you still want to look at more, go to page 3.

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