For the first time in 67 years, the National Family Island Regatta has been canceled.
This weekend, sailing boats were meant to gather in Elizabeth Harbour, in George Town, Exuma. But with the Bahamas borders being closed due to COVID-19, the national committee was forced to make the hard decision to cancel the event for the first time in its existence.
“It was probably the most solemn week on the regatta calendar,” said Danny Strachan, who served as the commodore for the regatta for almost 30 years. “I don’t want to compare it to the solemn Easter holiday weekend, but that was exactly what it was. People were so disappointed. Many people had regatta syndrome, not just in our country, but also from around the world. They wanted to know why we didn’t just postpone it rather than cancel it and come back once the virus had passed and hosted it then.”
Strachan explained that simply postponing the event for a later time wasn’t an option. Logistically it would be challenging, especially since COVID-19 restrictions have no end in sight.
The cancellation of the event is a big blow, not just to those that enjoy or participate in the event, but also the vendors. The annual Sailing Regatta is one of the largest events Exuma hosts every year.
“A lot of people were disappointed, including the 30-plus vendors who were looking forward to making some money to take care of their personal expenses and taking care of mortgages and school fees,” he said. “It had a tremendous economic impact on the island of Exuma.”
It’s not just the vendors that are losing out. Strachan estimated the event could have raised more than $2 million for the community. The committee also recognized that those that invested money to get their boats ready for the event are also losing out. Unfortunately, the risk was just too great.
The new date for the next regatta is now set for April 20-25, 2021.
While the cancellation of this event is disappointing, social distancing is so far helping in reducing the spread of COVID-19. People in Exuma and across the Bahamas are encouraged to keep social isolating and follow all other precautions recommended by the government.