Catboats set for Easter battle

Tradition is about to set sail as a day of competition approaches at the annual Cayman Catboat Club Easter Regatta. 

It is organised it for Easter Monday at Tiki Beach from 11am-3pm.  

The Easter Regatta is the next event in the Cayman Catboat Club Championship Series, as teams race towards a place in the final event which is the Camana Bay National Catboat Championship, on Remembrance Day in November. 

The Championship Series works on the accumulation of points from races throughout the year and the Easter Regatta is the last qualifying event in the series. “It’s one of the most exciting races of the year,” said Jerris Miller, president of the Cayman Catboat Club. “We hope to have many boats competing, with teams of two or three people on each boat.” 

Along with an exciting day of races, spectators at this family-friendly event can enjoy traditional Cayman crafts and games on offer from Cayman Traditional Arts, such as conch shell blowing, Soldier Crab racing and Wari. Host Tiki Beach will also be offering a special Easter Menu, featuring traditional Caymanian dishes. 

Miller said the annual race is another step towards bringing the history and heritage of the catboat alive again.  

“We continue to grow each year and events like the Easter Regatta not only help to raise the profile of the Catboat Club, but also bring the tradition of catboat racing back to the Islands.” 

The catboat is an integral part of the maritime history of the Cayman Islands. The handcrafted wooden boats were vital to survival in the early days of Cayman – before modern transportation arrived. These venerable vessels were used for turtling and fishing as well as a means of transportation. 

“It was used for absolutely everything in Cayman,” said Kem Jackson, vice-president of the Catboat Club. “It was a lifeline.” 

Catboats were introduced in Cayman in the early 1900s. In their heyday, they were a common sight in the George Town Harbour and were used to unload cargo from ships and to distribute supplies and packages to the districts. As times progressed, however, their numbers dwindled. 

Today they are enjoying a revival, thanks to the efforts of members of the Cayman Catboat Club, as well as sponsors, such as the Dart Foundation. 

Last year, Dart committed $175,000 to the Cayman Catboat Club over the next three years. 

Sponsorship funds are being used towards the restoration of the Whittaker Cat, a 24-foot catboat that was built in 1962. Originally owned by Linton Whittaker. It was among the largest catboats in the Cayman Islands. Jackson has restored the vessel to its former glory and it will be among the vessels taking part in the Easter Race. 

Funds are also being used for improvements and restoration to the Catboat Club’s harbour front clubhouse, located next to the Lobster Pot restaurant in Whitehall Bay. Other projects include ongoing educational programmes and the Cayman Catboat Club Championship Series. 

“They’re wonderful boats,” said Jackson, who recalls sailing in the vessel as a boy. “The catboat is part of our history and our culture and it’s great that traditional events such as the Easter Regatta are still going strong.” 

S Story

See Her Go rounds the mark in last year’s National Catboat Championships.