For the second year in a row, the oldest and most comprehensive sloop sailing event in the country, the National Family Island Regatta, has been canceled.
Commodore and National Family Island Regatta Committee chairman Danny Strachan announced yesterday that due to the ongoing coronavirus situation in the country, and the ensuing extension of the emergency powers orders COVID-19 to May 23, particularly as it relates to crowd gatherings and social distancing measures, the regatta committee has decided to cancel the regatta.
The event, which brings together all of the top regatta boats in the country, in a variety of classes, in the waters of picturesque Elizabeth Harbour in George Town, Exuma, would have been in its 68th year, but the last two editions have been called off due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 67th National Family Island Regatta is now set for April 2022 in George Town.
“… [T]he National Family Island Regatta Committee met and reviewed available options including postponement. Once again, members concluded that this was in the best interest of our national requirement to comply with the government’s advice to curtail large social gatherings,” said Strachan in a letter. “We cannot invite such a gathering given the present circumstances.”
Each year, prior to COVID-19, thousands of Bahamians and visitors gather in George Town for the staging of the local festive event which has grown into a major cultural extravaganza over the past seven decades. Additionally, vendors, business owners and inhabitants of Exuma rely on proceedings from the regatta to earn a living. It’s a major boost to the local island economy with Exuma residents looking forward to it each year.
During these times of immense hardships, proceeds from such a setting would be just what the doctor ordered for Exuma. Be that as it may, Strachan said that it was important for them to make a quick decision on this year’s event so as to forestall any major expenditures by sloop owners to get vessels prepared for competition only to have the event canceled at the last minute, to receive support from the government on the cancellation and to reassure the people of Exuma that the regatta will return in grand fashion in 2022.
“In this crisis, our priority is the health of the public and of our communities,” said Strachan. “It is painful to look forward to the end of April without being able to anticipate this treasured event, the renewal of friendships and the general interactivity between Bahamians, residents and visitors in an exciting and joyous time.”
Strachan said that they are grateful for the sponsors and advertisers who continue to exhibit their confidence in the regatta committee and continue to throw their support behind the regatta, which will be required more than ever going forward in 2022 and beyond.
The sailing community, in particular, are yearning for the day when regattas will resume in the country. Sailors have been off the waters, in competition, since COVID-19 arrived in The Bahamas last March, and a number of boats have been on dry dock.
“We know that it hurts, but we are all reminded that this too shall pass and we will get through this together,” said Strachan. “We hope that all who hold the national regatta dear will, along with the committee, seek to reimagine options for staging a meaningful and safe regatta when national and international circumstances will permit us to appropriately gather. Hopefully, we will stage the event next year after we all would have spent this year recovering from the pandemic.”
On the regatta schedule in the country, the Long Island regatta usually follows the National Family Island Regatta, taking place over the Whit Monday Holiday weekend in Salt Pond, Long Island, each year. At the moment, there is no word on the staging of the 53rd Long Island Regatta this year.