By Orville Williams
The organisers of Antigua Sailing Week are hoping the third time will prove the charm, as their plans for the staging of the event next year continue to gather pace.
The decades-old event that is held annually in April has become a staple on the island’s social and sporting calendars. It had to be cancelled both this year and back in 2020, however, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Those cancellations affected not only the organisers, but also numerous local businesses and the wider economy, which means there are a lot of people hoping that the event will return in 2022.
Sailing Week President, Alison Sly-Adams, says plans are coming along nicely, with a number of participants already confirmed. Considering the sustained interest – after missing out on two years – and the return of safe, successful regattas around the world, she is also optimistic that things will work out.
“Our biggest concern, of course, is where we’re going to be as a country with regard to the Covid situation. We’re really hoping this is going to be third time lucky, that we actually will be able to host the event.
“The good thing is, we’ve seen some really good events taking place in Europe and the UK, so we’ve got – to a degree – some blueprints we can now look at, in terms of how they’ve dealt with the whole situation.
“I think the confidence from the sailors is certainly there, we’ve got really great interest coming from overseas. We’ve got 41 boats [already] and we’re [still] getting more queries, so there’s definitely huge interest in having the event happen.”
Over the years, Sailing Week’s signature social event – Reggae in the Park – has been highly-anticipated by socialites and sailing aficionados alike. Like many similar events during this time though, it is not likely to go ahead in the upcoming staging as usual, given the continued threat from Covid-19.
“I think [it] would be better to keep the focus on the racing. The party itself doesn’t bring huge economic impact. It’s a great event in and of itself, [but] the costs of hosting an event like that are so huge [and] the economic impact is not that major.
“What’s really major is the boats coming here and racing, so I think you sensibly – at this point – would plan not to host big social events, because it’s better to host a safe racing event than create additional super spreader events.
“We are looking also, at the option of making it a vaccinated-only event at this point, because we believe that will be the only safe way to move forward,” Sly-Adams explained.
She said the focus now will be on ensuring the racing component of Sailing Week is top-notch, as that’s where the money – approximately EC$6 million each year – really comes in.
“The really important thing is the yachts being here and able to race. The huge economic impact each yacht actually brings us is so important for tourism and for the government’s revenues.
“We don’t need to have parties for that revenue to come in, so we don’t need to have gatherings of people. We just need the yachts to arrive here, be paying the marina dues, be buying food and drink and staying at hotels etc. Once that’s happening, the economic impact is really significant.”
The week-long regatta, which will feature five days of high-energy racing, marks Sailing Week’s 53rd edition. Sailors can take advantage of a special early bird rate, by signing up before September 30.
The event is scheduled to sail off on April 30 next year.
Visit www.sailingweek.com for more details.