The competitive sailing season peaks in the winter and spring, when the weather is still too cold for comfortable yachting in northern climes. Each regatta boasts a special charm all its own. Serious racers mark their calendars for the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta and St. Thomas International Regatta, both in March, as well as the B.V.I. Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival and Les Voiles de St. Bart’s in April, and also Antigua Sailing Week, which finishes up the first week in May. Aficionados of classic yachts race in the B.V.I.’s Sweethearts of the Caribbean Regatta in February, the West Indies Regatta in St. Barts and Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta in April.
Beginners who want to try their hand at crewing aboard or racing against local island boats can do so at the Grenada Sailing Festival in January, Bequia Easter Regatta in April and Anguilla Regatta in May. Many islands host informal dinghy regattas throughout the year. However, the two big kids-oriented events are the Schoelcher International Sailing Week in February in Martinique, where classes include Optimists, Lasers, Open Bic, Sunfish, and Beach Cats, and the International Optimist Regatta in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. in June, where more than 100 young sailors ages 8-15 compete from more than a dozen countries. There are several great Caribbean regattas in the summer and fall, too, including the Aruba International Regatta and Around Grenada Regattas in August. Puerto Rico’s Discover the Caribbean, the St. Croix International Regatta and St. Lucia’s Mango Bowl are all in November. These last five are smaller events that welcome classes for cruisers. The Caribbean Sailing Association’s website includes dates for every regatta in the region. caribbean-sailing.com
The bite is on year-round!
Deep undersea drop-offs and large schools of bait fish make the Caribbean one of the best billfishing spots in the world. Blue marlin reigns as king of catch-and-release, yet tournaments focused on this species also usually include points for white marlin, sailfish and spearfish. There’s no single fishing season since the marlin migrate north and south throughout the year. In fact, it’s possible to find a billfish tournament in which to compete nearly each month of the year. In addition, many of these tournaments are qualifying events for the Offshore World Championship, the largest offshore fishing tournament series in the world, which takes place each spring in Costa Rica. Caribbean qualifiers include the Budget Marine Spice Island Billfish Tournament (January, Grenada), Casa de Campo International Blue Marlin Classic (March, Dominican Republic), Barbados International Billfish Tournament (March, Barbados), the Marlin Madness Game Fishing Tournament (April, Trinidad), Tobago International Game Fishing Tournament (May, Tobago), Saint Martin Billfish Tournament (June, Saint Martin), Caicos Classic (July, Turks & Caicos), Montego Bay International Marlin Tournament (September, Jamaica), and in October, the St. Lucia International Billfish Tournament, Presidential Aruba Caribbean Cup and Martinique Billfish Tournament. Bring your own boat or reserve a local charter boat for any of these events.
There are some excellent gamefish tournaments, too. These are especially great for visitors, including families and budget-conscious fishermen as it’s possible to rent a center console with or without captain for the day. Some of the most fun—and with awesome prizes—are the Bastille Day Kingfish Tournament in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. in July, the Tarpon Thunder Tournament in August in Trinidad, and the St. Maarten Wahoo Tournament in November
By Carol Bareuther, Southern Boating Magazine January 2017