After tripping around the various islands and cays around Anguilla, we returned to Road Bay to be entertained by a local jazz band and then the Easter boat races and festival.
Lots of grilled food, mainly chicken, kids swimming in the turquoise waters, the local young band doing their combination of hip hop/reggae and the unique sailing yachts heading out for the holiday race were all going on.
Preparation for the race was well on the way on Easter Sunday with one race heading off from Road Bay to Little Harbour where the festivities were in full swing. It took three teams of four to raise and lower the masts. Quite a feat with lots of yelling and cheers of accomplishment. On Easter Monday the boats both left and returned from and to Road Bay. Having our bow nearly shaved off by some competitors, we were kindly yelled at to re anchor on the other side of the bay. We didn’t need to be asked twice. Others were more reluctant to move. Maybe they thought the skills of the locals eliminated the risk. We weren’t quite sure as we didn’t know how many times a year they actually sailed these ‘holiday’ craft.
We had a snorkel and swim over to some wrecks whilst in the other side of the bay and inquired about the return times for the race. Late in the afternoon was the reply although the strong gusts of wind and witnessing how these boats were heeling very close to the water line we wondered how they were going to go in the rough seas to the windward side of the island. Twelve people on each Thomas counted and they were mainly used as counter weights for the heel. Each boat had quite a few lead casings placed into the bilge initially as well. The boats began to return about mid afternoon after one had limped in earlier languishing a torn jib. We could hear the roar from the beach when the actual winners were coming in. It was time to go ashore and join in the festivities.
Watching the de-masting and packing up of these boats showed almost more skill than would have been needed to actually sail them. We asked some uniformed gentlemen, their badges said, RAAF, where the race was actually going. Off to a point that they never made due to the strong winds but they all agreed to return early. One sank and was being retrieved. In response to my concerned look he added that it was okay because it happened every year.
Anguilla’s history with sailing began after the abolished slave trade left many locals seeking employment offshore. They found work on various sugar plantations in the Dominican Republic and on the off-season they would race each other home. It is considered the national sport.