By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
ALTHOUGH his PM Thunderbird received permission from the Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Renward Wells to sail in the Best of the Best Regatta this weekend, a number of the A Class boats said they won’t be at the starting line this weekend if Rev Dr Philip McPhee sails his boat.
The Best of the Best Regatta is scheduled for Friday to Sunday in Montagu Bay when the local sloop sailing boats will be a part of the Star Sailors League Finals that is currently underway.
According to Sydney Forbes, chairman of the committee appointed for the inspection of the PM Thunderbird, they had two meetings with the boat owners who have agreed that they will not sail if the PM Thunderbird sails.
“They have said that because a committee that was selected and formed by the ministry made their report to the ministry and they wished the ministry would respect the report from the committee,” Forbes said.
“We had seven members on the committee who agreed unanimously and signed the agreement that the PM Thunderbird was not worthy to sail. We have since had a meeting with the minister and we told him why we arrived at the decision that we made.”
Forbes, who made it emphatically clear that he doesn’t own a boat, was representing the Bahamas Boat Owners and Sailors Association (BBOSA) and elected as chairman of the committee.
The other members were Captain James Wallace of the Nassau Sailing Association (NSA), Gerrad Moxey of the Commonwealth Sailing Association (CSA), Danny Strachan of the National Family Island Regatta Committee (NFLRC), Stefan Knowles of the Long Island Sailing Club (LISC), Jason Knowles, a boat owners representative and Stafford Armbrister, who was appointed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources as their representatives. After the completion of the inspection of the PM Thunderbird, Forbes said they discovered that there were some cosmetic works done to the boat, but it’s still in its original form as the Tanqueray, a boat that was banned from sailing in the National Family Island Regatta in 1979.
“The eligibility rule number one states that the boat must be Bahamian designed, Bahamian built and crewed by Bahamians,” Forbes said. “There is correspondence that we have documented that showed that the boat was designed out of Miami, Florida.”
Forbes said that while they credit Dr McPhee for undergoing some cosmetic work to the Tanqueray and changing its name to the PM Thunderbird, the hull of the boat has not changed.
“He changed four frames in the boat and the changing of those four frames did absolutely northing to change the hull of the boat,” he declared. “So we concluded that the boat we inspected was the same Tanqueray that was not allowed to sail for almost 30-something years.”
And if they had abandoned that rule, the criteria set by the ministry for the boats to compete in the regatta would then deny the PM Thunderbird the right to compete.
“They say that the boat must have won a regatta during the course of the year. That is the rule that they state that qualifies the boats to compete in the Best of the Best Regatta,” Forbes stressed.
“To get more boats involved this year, we understand that they are allowing all of the boats who sailed this year on the racing circuit from January to October to be eligible to sail. The PM Thunderbird has not sailed in any regatta, but yet the Minister agree that the boat should be allowed to sail.”
As a result of that decision, Forbes said the A class boats have agreed that they will not sail in the Best of the Best Regatta this weekend.
The Red Stripe, the Original and the New Courageous, Ed Sky, the Tida Wave are among the A class boats that have made it clear that they will not sail if the PM Thunderbird is allowed to sail.
“We understand that a committee was first formed by Dr McPhee, who gave the names to the commodore of the Best of the Best,” Forbes said.
“But when they found out that the committee was hand picked, that was when the ministry decided to form the new committee, including myself that represents the major sailing bodies in the country.”
At a press conference, Wells did not address the controversy surrounding the PM Thunderbird, but he invited the public to come out and support the Best of the Best Regatta.
“It’s going to be a cultural extravaganza as it was last year,” he said. “We’re seeking to improve on it and expand it and at the end of the day, I think the Bahamian people are going to be justly proud.”
He said all of the local entertainers are expected to be on stage and will be performing a number of the late Ronnie Butler’s songs as a tribute to the legendary entertainer.