If, like many people, your serious racing hours decrease in direct proportion to the increased hours you spend at the desk, fitting in a winter race escape has become harder than ever. If that sounds familiar then the plug-and-play solution of race charter is a great option for winter re-energising.
If you’ve already experienced any of the key regattas on the Caribbean circuit you’ll know that the charter fleets are expanding in both number and range. Today the wide variety of Caribbean regattas is now well matched by the vast number and variety of boats available for charter – from wallowing to warp speed – from family friendly to first to finish. A range of options is now available throughout the Caribbean regatta circuit.
Crew choice can be just as diverse – from the many bareboat options to an Olympic coach as skipper with a pro crew. Within what is now a relatively mature market all options are now in place. And not only do all options exist at the events themselves – but they are also often available on the far from unpleasant offshore passages between events.
The Caribbean Sailing Association has done a lot of work around easing out the regatta calendar to minimise overlap of similar events on the circuit, primarily to ensure that hardened race junkies can maximise the number of events they can race in a season (check out the full calendar at www.caribbean-sailing.com). So whether you have time for only one event, or plan to head down and pick up two or three regattas around the same window in the calendar there is a lot of well-structured and well-managed racing on offer.
Race charter is the growing trend whether it be whole boat or individual berths (head boat charter), with many mainly UKbased companies now taking in the entire circuit. A substantial proportion of the boats arrive in the Caribbean each winter via the ARC Race, following which they have a few weeks to rest up and get the boat race-ready before receiving guests for the first regatta which is the Mount Gay Rum Race Series in January… There then follows a well-spaced stream of attractive events concluding with Antigua Sailing Week at the end of April.
Although modern charter packages inevitably vary slightly from boat to boat and company to company, generally they all now include one to two training days, entry and berthing fees, yacht, fuel, water and gas costs. Accommodation will depend on the size of the crew and boat type – typically in large crews some will stay onboard and some on shore. All the race charter companies are also now able to organise or certainly recommend great places to stay (and eat), with many companies going as far as to offer completely bespoke packages right down to including customised race gear (you have to have the T-shirt, right?).
It’s also worth getting in touch with the regatta offices themselves as many, if not all, already offer a full concierge service and will happily give you the inside scoop on the best marina spots, accommodation, transport and local service providers. Remember their entire objective is to get you to their event and to then ensure you enjoy it so much that you come back and tell your friends to come as well. So be sure to use the support that is on offer (and always provide feedback during and after the event).
Once you have chosen the event or events you wish to compete in, it is then a question of selecting a boat and charter company. Before taking this next step make sure that you have clearly defined your team’s priorities and be clear with the charter company on the type of boat you are looking for... and your team’s experience level.
Finally, ensure that you enter events where you will find competitive classes of like-minded sailors… after which it is just down to enjoying our consistent trade winds and glorious weather conditions! On the following pages we’ve listed some of our charter members that you might like to consider.
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