Caribbean prepares for race season opener

Bridgetown, Barbados (10 January 2020): There is still time to sign up for a place at Barbados Sailing Week, which kicks off in just seven days (17-23 January) writes Sue Pelling.

This Caribbean race season opening regatta, that incorporates the Round Barbados Race, is the place to be next week when competitors line up for some of the best racing on the Caribbean regatta circuit. Whether it’s in your own boat, a charter boat or you just want experience the social side, this must-do, quintessential Caribbean regatta is open to all.

As well as two days of Coastal Races for racing yachts, cruisers, windsurfers, kite surfers, dinghies and paddleboards, there’s also a chance to contest Barbados Sailing Week’s signature event – the Round Barbados Race – on 21 January. Also in a bid to make the event more inclusive, and utilise the spectacular race ‘playground’ in Carlisle Bay (the south-west corner of the Island), competitors and locals are being encouraged to join in the fun dinghy racing off the beach on Sunday afternoon.

The organisers – Barbados Cruising Club in association with Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, and Mount Gay – are passionate about not only making the event inclusive for all, in particular encouraging locals to get involved, but also exploiting the opportunity to really showcase the island’s maritime heritage, and demonstrate the rich and vibrant culture that the beautiful island of Barbados is famous for.

Mike Krimholtz – Barbados Sailing Week event manager – said one of the team’s biggest goals this year is to encourage non-sailors to get involved:  “As well as running the coastal races so they are all easily visible from shore, Saturday and Sunday races are shorter than in previous years so there will be less of the long reaching courses that give the bigger boats the advantage whatever the ratings.  The plan is to have up to seven J/24 races and up to five yacht races on Saturday and Sunday all starting and finishing in Carlisle Bay.

“The dinghy racing in the bay will take place at 1400 immediately after the Coastal Series racing finishes on Sunday. Teams will be encouraged to anchor their yachts off Barbados Cruising Club and the dinghy races will take place in an arena formed by the beach, the Hilton and the anchored yachts.  Dinghy races will be easily watched from the shore whilst Barbados Cruising Club will be offering traditional Bajan beach food including a pig roast and barbecued breadfruit.

“One of the most exciting additions Mount Gay is bringing to the regatta this year is the on-the-water cocktail session, which means you can watch the dinghy racing in the bay while sipping your favourite tipple.  The idea is that Mount Gay will send out a mixologist in a RIB, and mix cocktails on the boats at anchor.”

Racers keen to enjoy a fun 60nm sprint round the island of Barbados on 21 January should note the course for the 2020 Round Barbados Race tracks anti-clockwise rather than its more usual clock-wise format. This means, as well as the 22 circumnavigation records already on offer, the original outright anti-clockwise record of 10 hours and 15 minutes set by a schooner in 1936 is also up for grabs, plus a host of other opportunities to establish more records on the ‘new’ course.

By breaking any of the existing Round Barbados records, the record-breaking yacht team will be awarded bottles of Mount Gay Rum Extra Old, equivalent to the weight of the registered skipper as recorded at the official skippers’ weigh-in.

On shore that day, the Bajan spirit of the local community will also be in full flow with plenty of social activities happening around the island. There is also a chance for spectators to enjoy the full Mount Gay experience by signing up for a rum tour bus trip, which not only takes in race vantage points around the island but also a selection of rum shops along the way.

For simplicity and continuity, event organisers have specifically arranged for all on shore events to take place at the Barbados Cruising Club. The only exception is the Saturday night party at Copacabana Beach Club, which is just a gentle stroll along the water’s edge.

Krimholtz said this is one not to be missed: “The theme is Bajan Plus so the parties will feature local bands. The Saturday night party will be open to the public as a ticketed event (regatta participants of course get in free if they are wearing a Mount Gay Red Cap) so sailors will have the chance to meet Bajans and learn to dance the Bajan way.”

Commenting on the racing fleet with just one week to go, Krimholtz concluded: “My focus right now is on getting a strong, local fleet. The fact that the coastal racing takes place on a weekend and the Round Barbados race is on a bank holiday helps.

“We are hoping to muster up to six J/24s for some really good, close racing plus we have a good mix of yachts already signed up including Franchero Ellis’ 19ft Pen Duick 600 – Oiseau-Noir, Ralph Johnson’s  Rapajam(Beneteau 50), Jeff Evelyn’s Lantana (Beneteau 50), and Peter Lewis’ J/105 Whistler. Mat Barker’s Alfred Mylne 65 classic, The Blue Peter, has also signed up, as has Andy Budgen with his Sigma 38 The Project, and the Farr 65 Spirit of Juno on charter with On Deck.

“The Round Barbados Race always attracts an exciting fleet and this year is no exception with the likes of Tres Hombres – the 33m working brigantine that regularly races with barrels of rum on board – and the locally built Schooner Ruth, looking forward to giving it another go. Mention should also be made of current windsurfing record holder Trevor Hunte, who’ll also be going round again.”

For more information go to

Report written by Sue Pelling.


About Barbados Sailing Week
Early years
The first recorded race round Barbados was in 1936 when five trading schooners (Sea Fox, Mona Marie, Marion B Wolfe, Lucille Smith and Rhode Island) took up the challenge. Sea Fox (Captain Lou Kenedy) was the overall winner with a time of 10 hours 20 minutes. 
The original race was based upon bragging rights for the fastest Trading Schooner. In an era where prices for cargo arriving ahead of rival ships commanded a massive premium, this was a lucrative race for captains.

The consolation prize of a barrel of Mount Gay Rum for the slowest yacht was discontinued several years later following the discovery that some competitors purposely stalled and remained out at sea for days to ensure they won the prize.
In 2012 The Mount Gay Round Barbados Race expanded to incorporate the Two Restaurants Race, which meant racing took place over two days. The idea proved such a success, it was decided to expand the event further in 2014, in line with most other Caribbean regattas, and run a series of coastal, round-the-buoy races including the Two Restaurants Race, and The Mount Gay Round Barbados Race.

The 60nm Mount Gay Round Barbados Race traditionally takes place on Errol Barrow Day (a public holiday to celebrate the birthday of the first Prime Minister of Barbados, and ‘father of independence). In its recent clockwise format there were 20 records to contest. But in its new 2020 anti-clockwise format, there is just one existing record to break – the 1936 original schooner record of 10 hours and 15 minutes. This means there are now plenty of opportunities for new records to be established to contest in the future.

Further event information
Event organisers contact email, including charter enquiries:

Event website:

Event journalist: Sue Pelling –