By Carl Joseph
Sailing Week officials say the Antigua and Barbuda economy will lose just over $6.7 million in market activity due to Thursday’s official cancellation of this year’s event.
Even given this hefty contribution to the nation’s $1.7 billion economy, Sailing Week commercial director, Alison Sly-Adams, told Observer that an “immeasurable amount” of the event’s value is due to it being an internationally established brand.
“The interesting thing is that we deliver that value year-round and that is part of the huge contribution that the event makes… we all know that when anybody within the industry talks about Antigua, the brand of Antigua Sailing Week is one of the first things that people mention,” Sly-Adams said.
The cancellation was the first in the event’s 53-year history – and the last of the Caribbean’s renowned regattas to do so amid the coronavirus outbreak.
A release by the ASW committee on Thursday stated, “As a result of national and global measures being taken to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, and the priority being the health and safety of our citizens, competitors, spectators and volunteers, the decision to cancel Antigua Sailing Week is the only viable option.”
The event normally attracts more than 100 boats and over 1,000 sailors from approximately 35 countries from around the world to what is one of the largest sailing regattas around the globe.
All is not lost, Sly-Adams insisted, as the country still stands to gain from a secondary add-on to the annual staging of the regatta.
“Antigua is a shipping hub in the Caribbean,” she noted.
The commercial director said because Sailing Week is the last event of the season, the country takes in revenue generated as a result of the larger yacht-transporting companies hauling quite a number of ships in and out of the country at the beginning and end of the Caribbean regatta season.
She said that is because the season starts with the Charter Yacht Show, typically staged in December, and ends with Antigua Sailing Week each spring.
Sly-Adams gave the example that one of the two major shipping companies – Peters and May – has at least 59 yachts still confirmed to be shipped out of Antigua, even despite the ASW cancellation announcement.
The transshipment business remains unaffected as the country will collect port fees from these companies. Monies will also be collected from a marine survey which requires a local team of marine surveyors, divers and other specialists inspecting the structure of the boat before it is allowed to depart.
The ASW committee is seeking to hold over many of its 2020 registrants to 2021 as it has promised to honour all of the 2020 registrations.
“Now, more than ever, we are committed to building on this unfortunate turn of events for a phenomenal 2021 event,” the commercial director stated.
Among the affected stakeholders are charter companies who come to Antigua exclusively to take advantage of the increased visitors to the island as a result of the week of activities.
Observer made its way to Nelson’s Dockyard and spoke with one such charter – Bliss – whose captain, Sebastian, said that “the season hasn’t been a complete loss because it happened at the end of the season”.
The crew’s one concern, however, was getting back to the United States in a month as they were unsure of what would await them at immigration once they returned.
“I know the boat can get through border patrol, but I’m not too sure about the crew,” the captain quipped.
With COVID-19 in the air, many of the crew members Observer spoke to were uncertain as to how they would spend their remaining time on the island as they too are reminded of the social distancing guidelines and the many now cancelled public gatherings.