The Bahamas to Host 5.5 World Championship 2008 Regatta

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Minister of State for Youth and Sports the Hon. Byran Woodside (centre) recently presenting 5.5 World Championship 2008 Regatta Chairman Mr. John Lawrence (left) with a cheque to defray costs of the event, which will take place March 2-14, 2008, about five nautical miles off the east end of New Providence.  Also pictured is Regatta Co-coordinator in the Department of Youth and Sports Mr. Gilbert Kemp.  (Photo: Derek Smith)

By ERIC ROSE

NASSAU, Bahamas – The Bahamas’ hosting of the 5.5 World Championship 2008 Regatta March 2-14 is another opportunity to showcase the country’s world-class amenities and attractions to  “a discerning group of travelers,” Minister of State for Tourism and Aviation the Hon. Branville McCartney said recently.

“We are all well aware of the significant interest that this event is generating and will continue engender among sailing enthusiasts around the globe,” Minister McCartney said during a press conference announcing the event.

“We intend to provide a warm, hospitable welcome to all attending this event during the month of March and, of course, whenever they may choose to our shores again.”

The event, presented by Lombard Odier Darrier Hentsch Private Bank and Trust, is sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation; the Department of Sports in the Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports, and Culture and other private sector partners.

It will be sailed under the auspices of the Bahamas Sailing Association and will be sailed off the east end of New Providence, approximately five nautical miles from the Club.

The Scandinavian Gold Cup, the Bahamas Open Nationals Duke of Edinburgh Cup and the World Championships will be the three races making up the 5.5 World Championship Regatta 2008, which will be host by the Nassau Yacht Club.

Regatta Chairman John Lawrence said that among the three races, the Scandinavian Gold Cup is slightly different in that only one boat per country can register to participate.

“We will have a team from Great Britain, Finland, France, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, the Netherlands and, of course, The Bahamas vying for that trophy,” he said.

The Scandinavian Gold Cup is also one of the oldest sailing trophies in the world, second only to the America’s Cup in age.

Mr. Lawrence added that The Bahamas has had a “very long history” in the 5.5 metre class.

“Over the years The Bahamas has won multiple 5.5 world championships and also has won the Scandinavian Gold Cup numerous times, as well,” Mr. Lawrence said.  “We are hoping to continue that very active tradition with The Bahamas being successful in this class.”

“I think we have much to be proud of and we need to advertise this and promote this more so that young people could know what we are all about and what we are doing in this type of sport,” Minister McCartney said of The Bahamas’ past accomplishments in this event.

According to information provided by the Regatta officials, the 5.5 metre is “classic” 3-person keelboat of about 30 feet in length that is designed to a formula involving the boat’s length, weight and sail area.

There is considerable scope for boat owners and designers to make changes in their boat’s design, as long as they stay within the 5.5 metre rule.  This makes for boats that are unique in their make up, even encompassing modern technology in their design.

Minister McCartney pointed out that The Bahamas would be fielding no less than three competing boats in the regatta series, skippered by Messrs. Craig Symonette, Gavin McKinney and Thierry Huguenin.

“Since two of them; Mr. McKinney and Mr. Symonette, both hold medals in international sailing events in this class, we no doubt anticipate an exciting regatta from this very competitive field,” Minister McCartney added.

Minister of State for Youth and Sports the Hon. Byran Woodside said it is a “welcomed regatta” to The Bahamas and having hosted the event in 1992, it is appreciated that the event returned.

“We are delighted to support this event and build upon The Bahamas’ rich sailing tradition,” said Minister Woodside.

He added that The Bahamas is proud of its past international sailing success – for example the Olympic Gold Medal in 1964 – as well as the indigenous sloop sailing, which plays an important role in “our country’s sporting cultural heritage.”

“We have great waters,” Minister Woodside said.  “We have a great sailing tradition and, so, The Bahamas is a most appropriate place to host this international event.”