There once was a time when sailboats were a lifeline to Bahamian natives, providing transport to and from their island neighbours and access to the world at large. Today, these age-old traditions of Bahamian boat-building and sailing are kept alive through what are known as the highly-anticipated annual regatta series. Things kick off early in the year with February’s Saint Valentine’s Massacre Sailing Regatta in Nassau where locals and family island sloops race at Montagu Foreshore for bragging rights and the chance to advance and compete at family island regattas later in the year.
Even if you’re not part of the crew, you’ll find plenty of opportunity to throughout the year to enjoy an abundance of cultural experiences as a spectator. Of course, we’ve made sure to provide you with the top food experiences to seek out during the calendar of top regatta events throughout the summer. One thing’s for sure: you can count on finding an island celebration (or a dozen) nearby designed to adequately provide for anyone in search of fun, food and, of course, libations.
Exuma National Family Island Regatta
When: April 26-30, 2016
Where: Georgetown, Great Exuma
Local Speciality: Dolphin aka Mahi Mahi
Credit: Bahamas Sport Fishing Network
Set in beautiful Elizabeth Harbour situated within Georgetown, this island tradition featuring Bahamian sloops dates all the way back to 1954, making The Exuma National Family Island Regatta one of the oldest regattas in the Bahamas. Certainly, as the largest of all the races with five full days of sailing on Exuma’s crystal-clear waters, sailors and spectators alike are expected to build up a healthy appetite for local specialty foods and ice-cold beverages. Most commonly procured from the sea in The Exuma Cays is dolphin (aka dorado aka mahi mahi), which is a wonderfully dense, white fish. Try it filleted into bite sized pieces, pan fried, and served along tropical marmalades. Don’t forget: freshly caught fish pairs perfectly with a crisp Truly Bahamian Beer, like the Sands pale lager (served up ice cold on our #BitesOfNassau food tour as you may already know).
49th Annual Long Island Regatta
When: June 2-4, 2016
Where: Salt Pond, Long Island
Local Speciality: Mutton aka Lamb
Credit: Long Island, Bahamas
Taking place during the Bahamian Labour Day holiday weekend, The Long Island Regatta is one of the liveliest sites for all night eating, drinking, and dancing parties. We suggest walking along the waterfront of the Salt Pond Cultural Site to find yourself a mouthwatering native mutton (aka wild lamb) dish, which you’ll find traditionally prepared “stewed”, simmered with a savoury tomato and onion sauce and served along staples like Bahamian peas n’ rice and coleslaw. Also, while at the site, scope out family-fun games and live performances that will be occurring all day and evening long– requisite drink of your choice (local favourite is gin & coconut water) in hand of course.
Regatta Time In Abaco
When: July 1-9, 2016
Where: Guana Cay, Abaco
Local Speciality: Nipper Juice Cocktail
Credit: My Out Islands
Sailboats and their crew from The Islands of The Bahamas and visitors from The United States and around the world, are already gearing up for Regatta Time in Abaco. This summer’s week of regatta racing, beginning on U.S. Independence Day (July 4), is already heating up to be an unforgettable week of sailing in the 40 year history of this regatta. The Abacos are well known for their favourable trade winds and sailor-friendly waters year-round but the locals truly go all out to accommodate their visiting neighbours from the north during their holiday weekend. While numerous unique events are hosted during the festivities (take: Stranded Naked for example) on different islands, a trip to Abaco is never complete without “Getting Nipped” by Nipper’s signature cocktail on Guana Cay. Equal parts rum, pineapple, orange, and cranberry juices, and finished with a splash of Nassau Royale Liqueur, The Nipper cocktail will quickly have you glowing like the sunset you’re gazing out on.
Cat Island Regatta
When: July 29-August 1, 2016
Where: New Bight, Cat Island
Local Speciality: Crawfish aka Spiny Lobster
Credit: HG Christie
Local residents and regatta lovers from throughout The Bahamas reunite in August to celebrate with sloop racing, live rake n’ scrape music entertainment, cultural activities, games, and a bounty of native food and drinks in the settlement of New Bight, Cat Island. This event is held every year on the Bahamian Emancipation Holiday weekend, which also signifies the re-opening of the Bahamian spiny lobster season (we call it crawfish) on the first of the month. During Cat Island’s annual regatta and Rake n’ Scrape Festival, crawfish is served in a number of ways: cracked (tenderized and fried); minced in a rich tomato sauce; broiled with garlic, lemon, and butter; and prepared as a salad with fresh ingredients like diced onions, tomatoes, and sweet peppers. It’s no wonder this versatile crustacean is so popular!
North Eleuthera Sailing Regatta
When: October 5-10, 2016
Where: Harbour Island, Eleuthera
Local Speciality: Baked Crab
Credit: My Out Islands
Experience one of the largest racing events in The Bahamas, with Class A, B, and C sailing sloops taking to the waters off North Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells. The onshore activities during this extremely popular event include daily church services, cultural shows, Bahamian food and drink stands and nightly entertainment complete with live band performances. Speaking of that delicious Bahamian food: North Eleuthera has set itself apart as the sophisticated culinary capital of The Bahamas with world class restaurants, chefs, and outstanding menus. Still, despite all this haute cuisine, you’ll find no shortage of down home favourites at the Harbour Island Regatta site such as baked stuffed native land crab (presented in the shell) served out of makeshift kitchens constructed right on the harbourfront and along the beach.
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