Sports Buzz (May/June 2005)

High jinks on the high seas at Angostura Sail Week in Tobago

High seas action at the 2004 Angostura Sail Week. Photograph by Tim Wright

Anchors aweigh: Angostura Sail Week

When Tobago locals recount stories of Angostura Sail Week, they tell of intense rivalries, close finishes, fantastic crystal waters, and near-perfect winds around the coast from the main sailing base at Crown Point. With over a hundred vessels participating, each with its complement of screaming skippers, slippery decks, and men or women overboard, the event requires excellent organisation by the Trinidad and Tobago Sailing Association and the main sponsor, Angostura.

But there are also stories that have little to do with serious sailing and an awful lot to do with the famous “lay-day” activities and celebrations. Wednesday is the traditional rest day at Tobago Sail Week, and from midday onwards crews compete against each other in three-legged races, a tug-of-war, the galley chefs’ cook-off, and the highlight of the day’s competitive events: goat racing. “Lay-day” is a chance for the many crews, as well as hundreds of spectators, to enjoy some light-hearted fun — the true spirit of the regatta — while working off any hangovers from the “Express Yourself” party the previous evening.

Now in its 23rd year, “the friendliest regatta in the Caribbean” has outgrown what was once a purely local event to become the premier event on the southern Caribbean sailing calendar, attracting serious racers and fun-seeking sailors from all over the world, across five classes: racing, cruising, cruiser-racing, and charter- and comfort-cruising. Things begin with the skippers’ briefing and an opening ceremony on Sunday evening, with the serious racing taking place on Monday and continuing on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

On deck, there is little time for relaxed sunbathing, as constant 15- to 22-knot trade winds mean the awe-inspiring action of the races comes thick and fast. Manning foredecks, cranking winches, and weighing down on windward rails may look almost sedate from the seashore, but on the ocean the battle for first place is an exhilarating combination of skill and nerve.

Crown Point Hotel is home to the regatta village, housing the regatta office as well as the Angostura bar, stalls selling boat parts and beach accessories, live music, DJs, and, on Friday, the lively prizegiving ceremony (more a raucous good time than anything too ceremonial). Expect much camaraderie and one last fete before the sun sets for another year.

 

Angostura Sail Week takes place in Tobago from May 8 to 13. For more information on accommodation, crew sign-up, and the schedule of events, visit www.sailweek.com or email regattapromotersltd@tstt.net.tt