The ever enterprising Union Island Tourist Board is again rolling out another socially relevant and potentially economically viable festival event.
Come October 27th 2020, the day on which Vincentians celebrate their 41st national Independence anniversary, the Southern Grenadines territory is expected to revel in the revival of their age old model boat regatta.
This unique Union Islander tradition features miniature, though seaworthy, “gum boats” of up to 3 feet in length made simply for the pleasure of racing around the tranquil Grenadine waters.
Chairman of the UITB, Stanton Gomes, reported to Asbert News Network, “1989, I think, was the last race… because of that there has been a decline in the sailing tradition on the island. So you don’t find youths getting involved in sailing… who might just want to build a boat that they can sit in and go sailing.”Gomes further observed that this correlation, though presented anecdotally, when married with the near 12 year absence of the Union Island based full sized regatta are, together, major contributing factors to the less than ideal employment rate on island.
“We think that by bringing back the model boat regatta, because it’s the same mast and you have to use 2 sails etc… we might be able to jump start an interest – especially with the youths – and maybe they can go on to building bigger boats and by extension jump start the sailing tradition here on Union Island.
The potential employment opportunities that come with a seafaring culture is another motivating factor behind the UITB’s push to revive the miniature boat races. Already Union Islanders prowess at sea is evident if the number of Islanders currently employed with locally based yacht companies is any indication. However Gomes is adamant that many more young Unionites can be gainfully employed in that industry.
“If a new yacht company wants to be based in Union it would be a big scramble – most of those sailors and crew would have to come from outside of Union…. There are a lot of persons who didn’t perform well academically but who could possibly end up having seafaring careers – whether it be crew or captain once we get our sailing traditions back on track.”
Another element of the socio-economic focus of the Model Boat Reggatta and Funday is its objective to help generate higher domestic tourism benefits for the local economy. As such it forms part of a 2 year plan to monetize Union Island traditions and continually market the island, Gomes noted.
Taxi drivers, vendors, event management staff and the Union Island based trophy maker would all benefit as a direct result of the gum boat races.
“On the day of the event we have the races in different classes based on the different lengths and sizes of the boats, marble pitching, volleyball, cricket, drafts (with cash prizes), swimming and tug-o-war competitions. Admission is free but we have a donation box because part of the event is both to raise awareness and funds in other to continue the work that we’re doing at the Richmond Beach,” Gomes said.
The venue for the family centered event forms part of the Union Island Tourist Board’s renaissance movement as they are currently engaged in enhancing that locale.
“It was a popular beach for Union Island families over the years but it needed better infrastructure there. A bathroom was built some time ago but recently the Board we got some donations and we built 7 benches and renovated a shed that was there and turned it into a grass gazebo, painted the washroom and put down some tyres and we’re installing a volley ball court.
“Basically what we want to do is create a recreational park because … the entire Grenadines don’t have a recreational park… so what we are trying to do is to create that space.”
Activities are expected to get underway from 10:30 a.m. and patrons from across SVG are invited to flock to the island via any of the 2 boat rides that are scheduled to make their way down.
The producers expressed their gratitude to corporate SVG for its response to their sponsor call. Digicel SVG, Wind and Sea Charters, Coreas Distributors and the SVG Tourism Authority all contributed to a total of 30 per cent of the UITB’s event budget.