Following the success of the 80th anniversary Mount Gay Round Barbados Series, which concluded last weekend, plans are already in place for the 2017 event with the dates confirmed for 16-23 January.
This popular regatta, organised Barbados Cruising Club in association with Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, and Mount Gay, is the opening event of the Caribbean racing season and offers a mix of serious and fun racing including three days of coastal racing, the Round Barbados Race, and the final 265nm feeder race to Antigua to tie up with the Superyacht Challenge.
The highlight of the 2016 event was undoubtedly the Mount Gay Round Barbados Race on 21 January, where super-serious record breakers had a chance to ‘strut their stuff’ round the stunning island of Barbados and win their skipper’s weight in rum.
The much talked about MOD70s – MS Barbados Concise 10, skippered by Ned Collier Wakefield, and Phaedo3 co skippered by Lloyd Thornburg and Brian Thompson – upheld their promise to thrill when they completed the 60nm course just 12 seconds apart, with Tony Lawson’s MS Barbados Concise 10 team breaking the Absolute Multihull record with a time of two hours, 37 minutes, 38 seconds. In doing so they trimmed just under two hours off the previous Multihull record, and won a staggering 54 bottles (nine cases) of Extra Old Mount Gay Rum.
Not surprisingly, the new record has sparked plenty of interest with the challenge now on to beat the time recorded by MS Barbados Concise 10. Lloyd Thornburg and Brian Thompson co-skipper of Phaedo3, naturally feel they have some unfinished business, so expect to see another impressive line up next year.
Speaking at the post race celebrations a jubilant Tony Lawson said: “This is the one we really wanted to win, and we did it. Barbados is my second home. I wanted this badly, not just for my young team, but for all the Bajans who have supported us over these last few months. We practised hard, controlled the start, and hung on in after North Point all the way to the finish. The thousands of locals and tourist lining the headlands and beaches saw an epic battle between Ms Barbados/Concise 10 and Phaedo. It was nail-biting stuff – right down to the wire. I know they will be back for more. Next time we will have more boats. The Mount Gay Rum Round Barbados Race is set to be a classic.”
Commenting on the regatta, Lloyd Thornburg said: “We were really excited to find this event because it is the perfect warm up race for the Caribbean season. It is such a beautiful island and sailing around it is always a challenge because the wind is shifty and produces some powerful gusts. Having Team Concise, another identical boat, to race against kept everyone up to speed and was a real challenge because any mistakes became a lot more apparent.
“Plus, of course there was copious amounts of the best rum flowing all week. It really is a fantastic regatta.”
Because the event is open to all-comers there are plenty of other opportunities to challenge for a record. There are currently 14 records in total up for grabs, which keeps the competition in this race exciting throughout the fleet. Windsurfers and J/24s to were among those who broke records this year but the biggest haul of rum – 60 bottles – went to Williams Industries Inc. team on TP52, Conviction who broke the 60ft and Under Monohull record with a time of five hours, 34 minutes, 16 seconds.
In the Coastal Series, which run for the first three days (17-19 January) competitors enjoyed challenging conditions. Winds were generally moderate to strong and particularly shifty, which made the racing exciting right to end. The J/24 fleet completed 11 of their 12 scheduled races and the worthy winners from neighbouring island Grenada – Robbie Yearwood and team on Island Water World Die Hard – were delighted to have made a comeback in the last two races.
Yearwood commented: “It is very easy to feel disheartened after a couple of poor races. Thankfully our team has the ability to put past behind and focus on moving on. I think that was the key to our success.”
The charter sector at this regatta always remains popular with clients seeing it as a great opportunity to compete and enjoy the fun of the regatta without the pressure and responsibility of sailing their own boat there.
The Antigua-based OnDeck yacht Spirit of Juno (Farr 65) was fully crewed with 11 guests, many repeat customers from previous years. Commenting on the success of the regatta, Tony McBride – skipper – said: “For us, it is the perfect regatta and the guests always have a fantastic time. I believe it is down to the good organisation, and the fact that the Cruising Club is so welcoming. We have a real mix of crew some from America, Belgium, UK and one or two locals as well. Two of the guests were with us last year and have already confirmed they are coming back next year. We are looking forward to it already.”
As headline sponsor, Mount Gay is the theme behind most parties and social events including the legendary Red Cap party, a tour/tasting session at the Mount Gay Distillery, and a specially laid-on exhibition polo match at Holders Polo Field, at Holetown, St James on lay day.
by Sue Pelling