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UFO WINS TRADITIONAL RACING IN THE 2004 ANGUILA REGATTA  (reprinted from All at Sea - May issue 2004)

By – Nancy Terrell


It was well worth the trip from the BVI to Anguilla On May 8th & 9th just to view the wonderful Anguillan traditional boats competing.  What a great race.  I have never seen anything like it and was totally fascinated by the entire process.  The boats in Class A are 28 feet long (9 metres), nine feet wide (3 metres) and have masts of up to forty feet (12 metres).  They carry some ten to eighteen men and, as you may suspect, their rules for racing are entirely different from those of CSA, CYA or PHRF.  

During the morning the boats are sailed over to Sandy Ground where they are beached and worked on until the start of the race, which was at 1:30 on Saturday afternoon.  The crews are there, checking it all out, with half of them on the beach anchoring the boat by holding the halyard in place.  This is the reason that they are this size – so that the crew can pull them up onto the beach.

These boats are totally unique to Anguilla, with enormous main sails and jibs and in the way that they are fitted and handled.  They are built as a community effort with everyone pitching in making it definitely a sport of  “keeping up with the Jones” as each entry tries to outdo the others.

The keels are very shallow and require ballast and lots of it.  The crews sit on the large bags of sand that will be used the ballast for the individual entries. There is no decking and no external ballast on the hull.  These sand bags, all of which, under the rules must be removable, are required to keep the boat standing up when going to windward and act as supplements to any lead ballast that they have. Amazingly, the crew also uses large smooth rocks and iron as ballast.  Some of the crew act as bailers, armed with buckets to bail out the large quantities of water that comes from the sea over the bow and the lee rail.  

I also enjoyed a long visit with Harris Richardson, Chairman of the KATS programme on Anguilla and a huge fan of traditional racing, who gave me the history of these boats. “Started about 60 years ago when sailors started racing back from the Dominica Republic where they were cutting sugar cane.  Also fishing boats would start racing back because there was usually an argument over the traps and they would take their passion out on racing instead of fighting.  

These boats today are designed from some of the older boats.  As time passed the boats got bigger and with more Dacron modern sails replacing sailcloth.  From the wooden spars we have gone to aluminum masts.   Some masts attain heights of almost 60 feet and booms can be 37 feet - all of this is open with no decks and lots of ballast.

The point system counts in rating with the winner getting 5 points.  The boat with the most points at the end of the season wins Boat of the Year.  Last year Super Star won this.  During August we have the Champion of Champs, which is very prestigious.  The competition never stops.”  Harris gives me the list of captains for this regatta.  “Well, we have Super Captain or Glen on Super Star; George Romney on NWO; Alberto Hughes on Light & Peace; Julio Cartes, Jr. on Miss Anguilla; Arista Richardson on Glade Maud; Boo on Heart of Light and Errol Romney on The Tree”.  

But the winner was UFO, who sailed around the corner into the bay just minutes before the race started. Evidentially, this boat is kept in “hiding” most of the time.  Just before the race she is sailed to the start line according to Shawn Webster, who accepted the prize – beaming and cheering on behalf of his team.  “It feels great being the winner.  You know we have been racing for a very long time  and we are really glad to be the champions of the Anguilla 2004 Traditionals.”  

He then jumps up in the air, cheers and comes down with a resounding, “UFO FOR LIFE!”






The history of boat racing is an interesting one and has evolved from the days at the

beginning of the century, when the schooners transported workers to the Dominican Republic to cut cane.  On the return journey there was nearly always a race home and this really started the interest in boat racing on the island.   Fishing boats, after a long day of fishing would also race back home and are, in fact, more directly the forerunners in style of today’s sailing boats.


1940 was the first August Monday boat race.  Two men are named as responsible for organized boat racing; they are Mac, Owen and Elliot Carty.  There were five classes of boats at that first competition, the largest being 19 feet in length and the smallest 13 feet. Most of the boats at that time were used for fishing as well as racing but as the fishing boats started using outboard engines and more sophisticated equipment, the racing


The Anguilla racing boat is unique to the island in the way it is fitted and handled.  There is no decking and no external ballast on the hull.  Large smooth rocks, iron, lead or bags of sand are used as ballast.  This is often changed during a race and thrown overboard as deemed necessary.  There are usually ten to eighteen men in the crew of the Class A boats which are 28 feet long (9 metres), nine feet wide (3 metres) and have masts of up to forty feet (12 metres).


  Boat racing is an important part of Anguilla’s culture and many Anguillians are involved in the sport.  The sport has developed over the years, the boats are now larger and have taller masts made of aluminium, and sails of Dacron instead of sailcloth, but the basic design of the hull and sails is the same. Nearly every year improvements are made, some are very costly, but the owners and crew only have one thing in mind—winning the next boat race. If one boat gets a new sail, then several others follow suit, if one widens their boat and wins the next race then others will want to do the same. The boats are quite costly to build and some boats now are built as a community effort.  


The races usually have two points; the boats first run before the wind or westward away from the shore to a stake boat or marker some miles out.  Then they beat to windward, back to shore to a buoy a few yards from the beach, which is the finishing post and must be touched by one of the crew.  If two boats are on a collision course, one must shout “hard lee” and both have to tack away from each other at the last minute.  This rule causes some dangerous situations and creates much excitement both during the race and in the heated discussions that usually follow.





During the Anguilla Regatta 2003 held in Road Bay 30th May – 1st June visiting yachtsmen had the unique opportunity of racing aboard Anguilla’s local racing boats. This was very exciting for the participants and an event that truly made Anguilla’s regatta different from other regattas in the region.


Let’s go aboard one of these boats and see what it’s all about. The first thing you notice on climbing over the side is the quite staggering size of the rig. The boats are 28 feet long, have a beam of about ten feet. Masts attain heights of almost 60 feet and booms can be 37 feet. All this in an open boat. To a yachtsman this arrangement is almost overwhelming. The enormous spread of sail on a boat with a shallow keel requires ballast and lots of it. Fourteen to eighteen men are required and lead ballast supplemented by sand bags, all of which, under the rules, must be removable, are required to keep the boat standing up when going to windward. The regular crew take their places. Helmsman, main sheet men, jib sheet men, ballast shifting men and the all important bailers armed with buckets to bail out the large quantities of water shipped over the bow and the lee rail.


A gun from the beach and we’re off. A mad scramble to get the last man in, and set off downwind for the first mark which is aboard a motor boat to be dropped at some unknown location down wind from the beach. Our boat takes off like a rocket, sails wing and wing, jib “poled out” by a crew man with a long strong arm. Boom bending, mast bending, a huge pressure of wind in the main sail. A crew man calls off the speed from his hand held GPS, tactics are discussed, ballast shifted to get just the right fore and aft trim. Everyone keeps an eye on the motor boat with the mark. No telling if he will go in a straight line or lead the boats down wind before finally heading up and dropping the flag. The flag is down and the chase is on. Round the flag and the fun really starts. Shift pigs of lead ballast up onto special boards on the windward side of the boat. Shift bags of sand to windward, maybe even two bags up onto the gunnel. All the men hiking out to windward to try and level the boat. The main sheet is hauled in and there seems to be large parts of the main sail that catch no wind. Never mind the action is furious, the bailers are bailing, a man in the fore ship is calling the wind to the helm. The activity is furious. Speed being called every few seconds as the captain tries to squeeze the ultimate out of the craft. The Yachties have never had to work so hard sailing a boat, it’s fantastic and exhilarating.


Tacking back to the finish stake in the bay is a highly tactical business. There are men here with many years of experience going back to schooner days and there are the young hot shots who know it all and battle for their day of glory. The race is close, experience wins the day. Crowds on the beach cheer on their favorite. We arrive, exhausted but exhilarated. Pandemonium on the beach as the winners are feted by their supporters. Challenges are made, tactics are argued about. It will all happen again next weekend. And if you ask any man in those boats why they do it they will all tell you in the words of the boat racing hymn, by De Upsetter, because, “WE LOVE BOAT RACING”