Despite the controversy that highlighted the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources’ Best of the Best Regatta, Minister Renward Wells said the four-day event over the weekend lived up to its expectations in Montagu Bay.
“It was an overwhelming success,” was how Wells summed up the event that cost more than $170,000 to stage.
“Last year we had 16 boats participating and this year we had 39. The crowd was exceptionally large every night, especially the last night on Sunday.”
On Saturday, the rain forced officials to cut down the final A class series race to one lap so they could complete it. However, Wells said they had to make a decision to suspend the Bahamian entertainment and just allow the vendors to stay open.
“Even though it was raining and it was cold, we still had a whole lot of people who were out and purchasing from the stalls,” Wells stated. “We just allowed the vendors to stay open until 10pm.”
From the feedback they received from the skippers, sailors and the spectators, Wells said they were quite satisfied that the Ministry put on a first-class production.
Once again, the Movie Group provided two large jumbotrons for the spectators to watch all the thrills and spills as it occurred on the water during the series of races held over the four days of competition.
When it was all said and done, It Ain’t Right, the Lonesome Dove and the Running Tide emerged as the champions in the C, B and A classes respectively.
However, there was one issue that took centre stage on the shoreline and that surrounded Wells’ decision to allow the Aliv PM Thunderbird, formerly the banned Tanqueray boat, to sail in the A class, despite an unanimous ruling by an appointed committee that it was not deemed eligible to sail.
“It was the right decision and obviously it didn’t have an adverse effect on the Bahamian people coming out to enjoy the Best of the Best Regatta,” Wells stated. “It was still an enormous success.
“We had four A class boats that sailed. All of the noise about the Thunderbird being the fastest boat on the planet in terms of it being able to dominate the boats, the proof was in the pudding.”
Throughout the weekend, there was a lot of discussion on the Aliv PM Thunderbird.
“Rev Dr Philip McPhee’s boat, in the words of the Bahamian people, they would say it came hot last. But it was good that he was able to compete,” said Wells on his decision to allow the Thunderbird to compete.
“According to the rules of the Best of the Best, he was able to compete. Looking back, it was the right decision that I made then and it was still the right decision that it should have competed.”
The Thunderbird was only able to beat the Good News in one of the series races. But in the grand finale for all of the marbles, the Thunderbird finished at the back of the pack with the Good News getting third.
The Running Tide emerged as the champion and the New Legend got second.
At least six other A class boats decided not to compete because of their stance against the decision to allow the Thunderbird to compete after the committee ruled that it was ineligible.
Wells, however, said the decision was only made to allow the Thunderbird to compete in the Best of the Best. A decision was also made to allow the other boats who didn’t win a regatta during the period from January to October to compete.
As a result. a total of 27 boats participated in the C class.
In moving forward, Wells said Dr McPhee will have to fight his own battle with the other regatta committees in order to be eligible to compete.
“The National Family Island Regatta has the rules on which the other regattas are held, so based on that, it’s clear that the boat has to be Bahamian designed, built and sailed,” Wells said.
“I made it clear to Dr McPhee that I was only going to allow her to sail in the Best of the Best. Beyond that, he will have to do his due diligence to make it eligible to compete.”
More specially, Wells said he has made it crystal clear to Dr McPhee that they will only entertain the Thunderbird in the Best of the Best.
Unless the rules change, or if he decides to do what he intends to do, which is to secure the services of a lawyer, he doesn’t see how the Thunderbird would be allowed to sail in any other regatta.
Only time will tell when the next major regatta is held.