If boat racing was ever considered as low key in Barbados, then it is sure to come alive when the island hosts the largest ever GP (General Purpose) 14 World Championship slated for Sunday, March 27 to April 4 at Carlisle Bay.
Organizers told a media conference held at the Barbados Yacht Club today that there were 104 boats from around the world comprising 208 sailors from 14 destinations that included the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Sir Lanka and the North-eastern part of the United States, scheduled to compete n the major event.
Commodore at the Barbados Yacht Club, Geoffrey Evelyn, said he believed that the nine teams representing Barbados in the next few days stood a good chance of doing fairly well in the championship and perhaps even roll back the years to 1967 when Jack Hoad and Bill Tempro became the first two Barbadian sailors to win the World Championship class.
“ . . . When the whole event was proposed it was offering Barbadian sailors an opportunity to take part and I think eight or ten of them [boats] came in for Barbadian sailors to use and they [sailors] have been training for a month and a half and we brought in an ex-world sailor [Neil Marsden] to coach the Barbadians. So I think we have some excellent sailors here generally. They may not be familiar with the boats as some other sailors but they are learning and I think they can do fairly well,” Evelyn said.
Meanwhile Peter Gilkes of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) said the main reason behind hosting the championship was to give some recognition to Barbadian sailors and fortunately the planning and preparation had all come together.
“We started this programme with the expectation of forty or maybe fifty GP 14s and to that point we even reduced the number of officials expected for the event because we expected a smaller event. But as it turns out we ended up with the largest event ever to be held in Barbados,” he explained.
The racing will consist of a triangular course with inside marks approximately one and a half miles off the Yacht Club’s beach area and there will be two races each day with the best viewing point being Pebbles Beach, Trevor’s Way, the Hilton Point and Carlisle Bay itself.
There will be an opening ceremony to be held at the Barbados Yacht Club this Sunday at 7:30p.m. Chief executive officer of BTMI, Billy Griffith, said they continued to believe that sports tourism was a significant driver in tourism business for the island and their concentration on the sport of sailing was clear evidence of this.
“We are actually in the tailend of our winter season and some might think it’s longer but it’s almost the end of March and really to have an event with 400 visitors is a significant achievement in our opinion and it really does signify the importance of sports events of this type that we see today. I hope to see much social media activity as well because this is what keeps the event alive,” Griffith noted.
Defending champions Ian Dobson and Andy Tunnicliffe are expected to defend their title and event director Andrew Davies said Barbados was known as a world-class holiday destination and was fast becoming globally known as a world class sailing destination. He added this was why the 2016 GP 14 was the third World Championship event to be held in Barbados since 2010.
President of GP 14 International, Duncan Greenhalgh, said they were delighted that Barbados had decided to host the event. He added that pretty soon a Caribbean branch of the GP14 World Championship Association would be put in place in order to spread the class even more around the world.