One race, a dozen boats, 20 crew each, racing around the island in 8 hours. This may sound weird but Anguilla is the only country in the world where boat racing is the national sport. When one hears the word boat we might be tempted to think of power boats with loud engines jetting across the water or it may be the tiny row boats gently gliding across the water but not in Anguilla. Being a small island Anguilla with limited natural resources Anguilla’s use of boats for transporting people and goods has a deep history.
As far as living memory goes the schooner has been a part of Anguilla transporting salt from Anguilla, workers to the then cane fields in other islands such as the Dominican Republic, as well as some smuggling of goods, especially alcohol which at the time was heavily taxed throughout the islands. Racing came about when several of these boats laden with men and goods for Anguilla would hurry back home to family and friends. And those back home in Anguilla were no less excited and so many people would gather on the hills and at the docking area in Sandy Ground for these sailors. These sail boats were not mechanical and thus needed hands to handle the mechanics. From putting in the mast, adjusting the sails and jib, adjusting weights and balance and a list of other tasks were all done by the crew and that tradition still lives on in these Anguillan racing boats. Almost every part of these wooden sail boats is made by hand in Anguilla. The boats seldom stay in the water when there are no races and if you drive around Anguilla you can see several of them propped up in the various villages.
What makes the Anguilla Day race so special? It’s the longest race of the year and it goes around the entire island. It’s also held on Anguilla Day, which is not only a public holiday but a day that celebrates the Island Anguilla, its history, people and culture. People can go to Sandy Ground where the race starts and wait for about 8 hours until they come back in. Some drive around the island and stop at spots overlooking the race. And others hop on private power boats and barges and follow the race all while eating, drinking and having a good time with friends, family and/or complete strangers.
This was my second time on a private boat following the race and it was amazing. I’ve been away for a while and seeing and meeting up with familiar faces definitely raised my spirits. I can see why so many come back to celebrate May 30th for Anguilla Day. Topped off with good food, drinks, music, blue skies and water all while witnessing a piece of history that is centuries old is the recipe for a great experience.
Anguilla Day Boat Race 2018 Results
1st place- Sonic
2nd place- Light & Peace
3rd place- De Tree Again
4th place- Satellite
5th place- UFO