Travel to the island during the month of May to be a part of one of the most exciting sports in Barbados - the Round Barbados Sailing Week - a three-day regatta organized and sponsored by Mount Gay Rum!
Held on the birthday of the Honourable Errol Walton Barrow (our father of independence), come prepared for three days of cultural significance, excitement and of course the rush of sailboats on our pristine waters, the refreshing coconut water and the cool breezes on your skin. Mount Gay collaborates with Barbados’ Cruising Club and Barbados’ Tourism Marketing Inc. to produce a sailing event of such excellent quality that it attracts spectators from all over the world - with over ninety boats and sailors from twenty countries competing.
Picture This - White masts piercing a blue sky, as steel skates across glittering waves. The date, January 1st 1936, was the first year of the Mount Gay Regatta - the first organised race around Barbados. With five trading schooners eager to be the first to conquer the island’s 166 square miles. Within ten hours and twenty minutes, Lou Kennedy emerged as the winner and marking the event for years to come, as one not to be missed. His schooner Sea Fox was well-known for his brigand and ‘rum’ smuggling.
At the time, captains were willing to compete for the title of ‘fastest trading schooner’ as during the nineteenth century prices for cargo which arrived ahead of rival ships were offered a grand premium. Those who lost, however, were consoled with a barrel of Mount Gay rum - this tradition soon had to be stopped, as ships were so eager to win the barrel they would stall out at sea for days after the race ended!
The Barbados Sailing Club was founded by Sir Errol Walton Barrow who had a well-known love for sailing. Known as the ‘skipper’ he returned to Barbados after studying law in the United Kingdom with the aim of making sailing accessible to all. Although he never owned a boat of his own, because of his love of the sport in Barbados, the Race is still held on Errol Barrow Day, January 21st annually, to commemorate him.
The legacy of the ‘Red Caps’ is linked to the event’s sponsorship by Mount Gay Rum. This industry has been alive since 1703, and as long as there have been rum, Mount Gay has been linked to sailing and other sports in Barbados. As a result, they currently sponsor over 120 regattas all over the world. However, if you take part in Barbados’ annual Regatta, some will be awarded the coveted ‘red cap’ only accessible while participating in the sport in Barbados.
Sailors can enjoy the ocean breeze as they slice through our crystal clear waters. Starting at Barbados Cruising Club, the race continues through the historic Carlisle Bay (one of Barbados’ most popular beaches). From Carlisle Bay yachts veer starboard toward the deepwater harbour before entering a stretch of twenty miles of peaceful waters on the West Coast also known as the platinum coast of Barbados. Here, sailors get a unique view of grand idyllic beach homes of the rich and famous. As yachts continue north, they round the jagged terrain of St Lucy before embarking into the depths of the Atlantic ocean which juxtaposes the vast continent of Africa and our tiny Barbados. As the most easterly of the Caribbean islands, Barbados is the only island not solely sheltered by the Caribbean sea.
For the thrill-seekers, this part of the race can get hearts pumping as boats rush through the rough waters of the Atlantic. This part of the course is only seven miles but the fierce trade winds, wind shifts and crashing waves slow boats down, allowing sailors to experience the moment fully!
The easterly part of the journey is an additional twenty miles coursing on those same waves. The task now is to conquer the waves while increasing speed and taking care not to lose ‘ground’. Up next, racers then make way on for eighteen miles downwind along the South Coast towards the finish!
If you’re not up for the excitement of the round trip, you can take part in a three-day coastal race either separately or in conjunction with the Mount Gay Round Barbados Race. The race comprises five classes where participants can enjoy the south and west coasts of the island. Notably, a CSA rating (compliance, safety and accountability) is required to enter.
Alternatively, the class of J24 uses their own local ratings and courses for the final two classes of ‘multihull’ and non-CSA rated seacraft. Final positions are inclusive of all the races, and there are wonderful prizes which await the winners at the Grand Prize Giving ceremony.
Following the festivities, racers can wind down on the beach with a classic Mount Gay rum beneath a setting sun, excitement, sweat and passion cooled by a gentle breeze. Teams celebrate at the Mount Gay Race Day awards in what is known as the Regatta village; participants can indulge in the well-known Mount gay tipple which includes a Black and Stormy mixed with Mount Gay Black Barrel at the official Mount Gay Rum Bar. For sailors in Red Caps they can enjoy a free Mount Gay smoothie as a welcome to the awards ceremony; make sure to take advantage as this lasts one hour only. After the award ceremony, the excitement doesn’t end as participants and festival attendees get ready to wine their waist to Final Faze and engage in mini-games to win additional fun prizes, as the regatta comes to a close!
Barbados has a festival for almost every season, so there is no need to wait for summer to enjoy sports in Barbados, the ocean, sea-breeze, and of course a dash of Mount Gay’s excellent rum!