By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
Morgan's Bluff, Andros will host the sloop sailing competition during the return of the Bahamas Games next month – with all other events being staged in New Providence.
The Rev Harrison Thompson, who serves as the acting chairman of the Games Secretariat, confirmed over the weekend that Andros has been granted the rights to stage their All Andros Regatta as the sloop sailing on competition for the Bahamas Games from July 13-16.
"I support that. I trust the day will come when we have other sports in different islands," said Rev Thompson, who recently took over from the ailing Martin Lundy as the chairman of the Games Secretariat.
The Rev Dr Philip McPhee, who is working with the regatta committee, expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Philip 'Brave' Davis for securing their bid to the Games Secretariat to hold the regatta as a component of the Bahamas Games.
"We are very delighted and pleased to announce that the All Andros Regatta is on and will be held in conjunction with the Bahamas Games," Rev McPhee said. “There has been some glitches with that, but it has finally been crystalised now.
"But the sloop sailing segment of the Bahamas Games will be held in Morgan's Bluff, Andros. The Prime Minister has given his blessing to it. It will be the only sailing competition during that time."
Since the formation of the regatta as a part of the Independence celebrations from 1973, sloop sailing has been staged in Morgan's Bluff and Rev McPhee said it's only fitting that they continue that tradition with the Golden Jubilee celebrations.
Frank Hanna, Alphonso Smith, Carl Spencer and Sir Durward 'Sea Wolf' Knowles, all now deceased, were a part of the organising committee that got the All Andros Regatta up and running. Rev McPhee, however, said over the years they lost some of the luster, but they hope to rejuvenate the interest this year.
Rev McPhee, who was also a part of the steering committee for the All Andros Regatta, said they owe a debt of gratitude as well to the then Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Algernon Allen for making the provisions for the construction of the Regatta Village in Morgan's Bluff.
With sailing having been declared the national sport of the country by the government during the National Family Island Regatta in Georgetown, Exuma in April, Rev McPhee said Androsians are going all out to ensure that the All Andros Regatta is a tremendous success.
"This year alone, Androsians have built six E Class boats and by the end of the year, we should have 8-10 boats being build this year by young Androsians, who have come together because they want to be a part of the sailing fraternity in our nation."
All E Class boats from the length and breath of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas have been invited to participate in the All Andros Regatta at the Bahamas Games, according to Rev McPhee. He thanked Dallas Knowles and Buzzy Rolle from Exuma for helping to facilitate the two-man sailing class.
However, in the other class of competition, Rev McPhee revealed that only one boat will be allowed to represent each island or grouping of islands, as constituted by the Games Secretariat.
In Andros, Rev McPhee said, Revelations 3:21 will represent the C Class; a boat will be drafted for the B Class as there's none attached to the island and they have also drafted the Ruff Respect out of Long Island to represent Andros in the A Class.
"Hopefully at the next Bahamas Games, Andros will be able to sail with its own boats in all of the classes, but we don't have one on the stern of a B and an A boat that is Andros owned," he said.
Rev McPhee joined Rev Thompson in expressing his sentiments that the Bahamas Games could and should be spread around the archipelago with the possibility of softball being played in Eleuthera, basketball in Grand Bahama and swimming on another island.
"I think it defeats the purpose when everything is centre in and around New Providence," Rev McPhee said. "The government is prepared to spend a lot of money on developing these islands and so we hope that they can benefit in the future like we are doing with sloop sailing in Andros."
It's the second time that Morgan's Bluff has played host to the sloop sailing in the Bahamas Games. Andros Sports Council chairman Brian Cleare said they are ready to welcome the rest of the Bahamas to Andros, known as the Big Yard.
"I think it will stimulate the economy in Andros and it will give the local youth on the island, who are interested in sailing, the opportunity to see a high quality of sailing from some of the best skippers the country," Cleare said.
"For the past two summers, we had a number of sunfish sailing as a part of our youth month and summer activities and those kids who sailed in the sunfish are some who have expressed an interest in sailing in the main regatta."
Having staged the arm of sloop sailing for the Bahamas Games in Andros before, Cleare said they are eager to duplicate their efforts, but this time they are intensifying their efforts because of the economic boost that will come to the island.
"The preparation for the Regatta Village is ongoing. We did some repairs to it last year and so we have some minor repairs to be done to the site and so hopefully it will be ready in time for the regatta," Cleare noted.
The North Andros District, according to Cleare, has also approved the naming of the regatta site after the Alphonso Smith, who was the commodore for the regatta for many years. He said they are working towards the possibility of having that done during this year's regatta and Bahamas Games celebrations.
Cleare, who doubles as the Sports Officer for the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, said although they had some damage to their facilities during the hurricane season, they are still optimistic that Andros will be ready for the games.
"We will be bringing out a very young team for the Bahamas Games, especially in track and field, but the kids are excited," Cleare said. "A lot of the older athletes who participated in the last Bahamas Games 20 years ago have retired, but they are now assisting the younger athletes.
"The last Bahamas Games, a lot of the younger athletes were not born, so we have to teach them about the concept of the games and they are now enthused. The games are coming along very well."
This weekend, Cleare said they will host the Battle for Andros where all settlements of Andros will come together in their basketball competition in North Andros – they will then make their final selection for the Andros team.