By David Ralph
Abaco hosted a fleet of 34 sailboats that participated in the 44th annual Regatta Time in Abaco. The Regatta is a series of five sailing races that showcase Abaco by having each race in a different locality. This exposes the participants to several of our heritage settlements and allows a variety of resorts to welcome the boaters. Several categories allow a variety of racing boats and conventional mom-and-pop boats to compete against similar boats of their type.
Winning the overall trophy for best performance in the five races this year was Abaco skipper Dwayne Wallas on ‘Balamena II,’ his late grandfather’s boat. Other local winners included Hope Town’s Jeff Gale and Richard Cook, who were on ‘Bent Toe’ and ‘Rage,’ respectively.
Although the visiting captains and crews enjoy the diversity of the race venues, the scattered nature of our island’s settlements becomes a logistical headache for the RTIA management team. It is approximately 40 miles from the initial party at in Little Harbour to the final awards on Green Turtle Cay. Award ceremonies were held at Hope Town Village Inn and Marina, Hope Town Harbour Lodge, Grabbers on Guana Cay, Treasure Cay Beach Resort and Bluff House on Green Turtle Cay.
On non-race days, known as lay-days, social events were sponsored by Snappas Bar and Grill, Sea Spray Resort and Pineapples. Two added attractions included a party before the Regatta at Pete’s Pub and the Cheeseburger in Paradise beach party on Fiddle Cay hosted by the Green Turtle Cay community. This attracts a few of the RTIA boaters but has become a must-do event for the power-boat crowd. It is estimated that there were over 300 boats attending this year’s event with an estimated 4,000 – 6,000 persons on the beach or in the water. Last year’s event providing 2,000 free cheeseburgers, $70,000 was raised for various Green Turtle Cay community organizations.
RTIA winners took home locally made trophies. These were carefully-carved marine life or boat replicas using sections of our pink conch shells. The Ministry of Tourism is a substantial financial sponsor and understands the value of satisfied visitors who encourage their neighbours to visit Abaco.
The RTIA began in the mid-1970s as an event to encourage summer tourism. Summer is now Abaco’s most vibrant tourist season for which RTIA can claim some credit. Our resorts, marinas, rental boats, rental golf carts, hotels and rental houses are typically sold out during this summer influx of visitors. It was said that this year even the marinas were overwhelmed by the magnitude of boats and many ran out of fuel.
If interested in becoming a sponsor or assisting the RTIA committee, contact coordinator Ruth Saunders at the Abaco Print Shop.