Catboat regatta still purring

One of the gentle pleasures of Easter Monday is watching the Catboats dance by.

But that’s not to take away from the competition itself; handling these traditional Caymanian craft is a real skill and the expertise on show in these races is as hard-learned and hard-fought as any sport.

The latest event in the Cayman Catboat Club Championship Series is, of course, the Easter Race at Tiki Beach.

While cheering on the sailors as they jockey for position in these graceful boats, spectators can also enjoy traditional Cayman crafts and games on offer from Cayman Traditional Arts, such as conch shell blowing, Soldier Crab racing and Waurie.

It takes place from 11am to 3pm at Tiki Beach and is truly Caymanian culture at its best.

Davina Tresidder, Camana Bay events manager, says that the wind plays a big factor in the races.

“With a stiff wind, the races can become very interesting. However, because they can take some time we do incorporate other cultural activities in to the event, such as conch shell blowing, Soldier Crab racing and Waurie.

“The emcee will usually explain the history and terminology of traditional Catboat racing to spectators – and he always has some great stories to tell,” she tells us.

Tiki Beach will be offering a special Easter menu featuring traditional Caymanian dishes, Davina says.

Become a member

In order to enter, you must be a member of the Cayman Cat- boat Club, she says.

“However, the Catboat Club is open to everyone and should anyone want to join in time for Monday’s Regatta, please contact Club President, Jerris Miller.

“The Easter Regatta is the next event in the Cayman Catboat Club Championship Series. Teams will compete toward the final event in the series, the Camana Bay National Catboat Championship, held in November – as well as the right to be named the island’s top catboat sailor,” says Davina.

Quite the bragging rights on offer then from this wonderful event.

It takes place from 11am to 3pm at Tiki Beach and is free.

The history

Although the exact origins of the catboat are uncertain, it has been a very popular style of small fishing boat on the eastern seaboard of the United States for more than 200 years.

Unlike many small boats, the mast of a catboat is always at the front, not in the middle.

The first person known to have made a catboat in the Cayman Islands was Daniel Jervis of Cayman Brac, in 1904.

It was a vast improvement on the old turtle boats, which were long, narrow and unstable.

Soon everyone wanted one and the seamen of Cayman Brac became skilled at the construction of catboats.

Initially wood growing on the island was used, but as demand for catboats grew, materials were imported from the US.

It became custom to paint the catboats blue to minimise the glare of the sun on the sea being reflected back into the fishermen’s eyes.

The first sailing regatta took place in 1935.