Clean Regattas: Round Barbados Sailing Week

By Renata Goodridge, Sailors for the Sea Caribbean representative

Last month the 2022 Caribbean regatta season breezed in with the Round Barbados Sailing Week.

This year’s event, held on January 18-23, 2022, featured 82 entries from eight countries in 10 classes including racing keelboats, dinghies, kite boards and even a radio-controlled fleet. The week featured plenty of parties and three days of back-to-back racing, the highlight of which is the race around the island.

Every year on January 21st—a date that celebrates the birthday of the island’s first prime minister and founder of the Barbados Cruising Club, Errol Walton Barrow—sailors gather in Barbados to greet the trade winds at the Mount Gay Rum Round Barbados Race, an island tradition since 1936. For this year’s event the winds lived up to their reputation—20 to 25 knots, with gusts up to 35 knots.

The roughly 52-nautical-mile course begins and ends in Carlisle Bay near the Barbados Cruising Club, on the island’s southwest corner. On the clockwise course, the leeward west coast was a quiet first leg, but when the boats reached the top of the island and turned east and south, they were in the teeth of big seas from the east, with a remnant cross chop from the north, and no one stayed dry. The seas eased as the boats rounded the South Point to head up the coast to the finish line.

The race had a pursuit start format, so boats had different start times depending on their boat speeds. This brought many of them to the finish line around the same time, making for exciting spectating ashore.

Local yacht Whistler is a brand-new J/121, with a seasoned crew that has represented Barbados for years. She raced around the island and won the regatta with an elapsed time of 6 hours, 17 minutes 30 seconds, she was moving fast!

Another local yacht, Rapajam, a Beneteau First 53, has also represented our island for many years. This year, she had the youngest crew on board – three of our intrepid ocean-steward youth sailors: Anya, Francesca, and Isabella.  It was a first for them to sail around their island, and they were thrilled to collect the 3rd place prize for Rapajam.

The Regatta ticked off many of their Clean Regatta bronze-level goals, including awarding practical items such as Doyle Sails’ bags, Digicel umbrellas, and of course a wee bit of Mount Gay Rum. Online scoring and tracking kept the event nearly paperless, and menus reflected the local catch and ground provisions, including vegetarian alternatives. The Sailors for the Sea ocean-steward posters drew attention and several of the overseas sailors were impressed that our island yacht clubs remain a place of learning for anyone willing. We look forward to increasing our sustainability goals next year and plan to create a challenge amongst the (smaller) Eastern Caribbean regattas for sustainability achievements.