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Welcome Aboard!

Welcome to the official blog for the Abaco Rage, Abaco’s pride, and all those who support her via the Abaco Rage Sailing Syndicate.

First, let’s talk about the All Bahamian regattas and how that led to the creation and resurrection of the local and national sailing sensation known as the “Abaco Rage.” It’s a great story, all about the Bahamas and more particularly about the Abacos!

Regattas – 

It’s a Bahamian ‘Ting!

Regattas, the great unofficial national sport of the Bahamas, got their start in the 1950’s when skippers and owners of local fishing boats (sloops or “smack boats”) got together at various times and inevitably bragged about the speed of their boats and the skills of their crew (and themselves!). The boasting and bragging led to competitions to see who really could claim “braggin’ rights” and not just who had the loudest voice or most vivid imagination. And one ‘ting led to another ‘ting, and lo and behold, official regattas and the one true Bahamian sport were born and “off to the races” so to speak.

Bahamian regattas are a competition between traditional wooden work boats from the major islands of the Bahamas which helps to preserve a way of life from a time when such boats were the glue that held this country of far-flung islands with their disparate populations together, both in terms of fishing as a livelihood and communication and freight transportation between islands.

For the national All-Bahamian regattas through out the islands over 50 traditional wooden boats compete in 5 different classes, ranging in size from 14 to 28 feet. All Bahamian work boats in these competitions must follow certain rules: all cotton sails (though recently Oceanus sails allowed), no instruments besides a compass, no tell tales on the sails, no winches.

The boats are built according to traditional designs out of wood – sails (until very recently, all cotton) are hoisted by hand (no winches), and all races start from a dead start – this means at the starting signal, the crew must pull up the anchor and raise the sails. Most of the crew start pulling on the anchor line to give the boat forward momentum so the helmsman can start steering and then the rest of the crew start hoisting the main sail and foresail to catch the wind. Another feature of these traditional-style Bahamian sloops is “pries,” planks that can be put out on either side of the boat with crew members to give necessary ballast as the ship leans into the winds – the more wind, the more the weight needs to be on the high side.

The scene at the start line is a mess of sail and limbs trying to pull up anchor and hoist the main sail and catch a favourable wind, all without without tangling with the sails of other boats or ramming them in the process. It’s a seeming chaos at the start, sprinkled with some choice salty language, but it makes for great and exciting competition. As one member of the Rage crew stated rather directly – “These are work boats, and well, let’s just say, it takes a lot of work to sail them!” Not to mention all the work in between to maintain them.

The Rage is On!It’s an Abaconian ‘Ting!

Pride in their sailing tradition, in their history of overcoming adversity, and in doing something well, not to mention a proud history of masterful boat-building – that’s the Abacos and Abaconians.

Buddy Holly sang a song called “Rage On!” He could have been singing about the Abacos and the peculiar behavior of the ocean at certain times of the year, when easterly winds far out at sea drive the ocean waves westward. When these waves hit the reefs, cays and shallows of the Sea of Abaco, they compress and produce a tremendous surge, swelling up to three times their usual height, and coming in a short, powerful rhythm. It’s as if the ocean was being churned up by a powerful underwater turbine. At these times, the locals say that the “rage is on.” Its an Abaconian ‘ting.

The powerful energy of the ocean epitomizes the local spirit of adventure, determination and independence. It is, thus, fitting that when a traditional Bahamian work boat was built locally to compete in the all-Bahamian sailing competitions held annually, the boat was named “Abaco Rage.” Initially built and raced out of Man ‘O War, “the Rage” as she is popularly known, was very successful, winning several trophies in the early 80’s, but then sat neglected until a group from Elbow Cay took her over and brought her back to her fomer glory.

Winning against sometimes overwhelming odds is also an Abaconin thing. But more than that is the enduring spirit of adventure, rising to challenges, and just the over-riding sense of enjoying oneself in friendly rivalry. Win, yes, but safety first and above all let’s have fun doing it! That’s the guiding spirit that prevails amongst all those who support the Rage and who sail on her.

How it All Began – Resurrecting a Proud Tradition and Starting a New One!

It was 1996, and Chief Administrator, Mr. Everette Hart was determined to bring the tradition of Bahamian regattas, already an annual  fixture in Georgetown, Exuma and Long Island, to the Abacos. The best work boats, a select few, as proven in previous regattas would be invited to compete in the pristine and beautiful sailing waters of the Abacos. In announcing his plans, he also noted that it was regrettable that the Abacos no longer had their own sloop to enter. While Man O’ War residents and boat builders had built several fine, sturdy sloops to compete in the regattas, this participation waned and then ended, despite several national wins. Forward to the fall of 1997. Plans are now well underway for the First All Abaco Regatta to take place in April of the following year. Hope Town competitive sailors, Christopher “Big Red” Lightbourn and Jeff Gale hatched the idea of rescuing the pride of Abaco, the Abaco Rage, a sloop built by Man O’ War craftsmen in 1980 to revenge various defeats in years past, but sadly left to rot quietly after having won several Bahamian championships in a row.

While she was in bad need of repair, she was solidly built and still a beauty to behold despite the several years of neglect. Between the dream, hatched no doubt one night over a few local beers amidst stories of competitions gone by and fueled by a pride in an Abaconian sailing tradition, and the reality of getting the Abaco Rage and fixing her up was several months. It was an 11th hour reprieve for the Rage and as Christopher recalls, “We arrived at the start line with the paint still drying!”

The 28 foot Abaco Rage, aptly named after the famous sea conditions around these islands in the fall months and also expressive of the competitive spirit of her sailors, willing to sail in all conditions and against all comers, came through for the original crew and sponsors. Surprising everyone but those who knew her well and what she was capable of, she won the Class A championship in the very first All Abaco Regatta in April 1998 with Jeff Gale as tactician and Christopher Lightbourn at the helm, ably assisted by a crew of 12 other sailors from Elbow Cay. It was a great start to a new Abaconian tradition! Between 1998 and 2002, the Rage, as she is affectionately known locally, won 3 out of the four Class A championships.

Despite a bad start in the very first race of the second All Abaco Regatta in October, 1998 Regatta, the Rage pulled ahead to third place by the first mark, and on the down wind leg they passed the other two boats, crossing the finish line three minutes ahead of the nearest contender. Despite another bad start in the second race, the anchor line becoming fouled, they were up to full speed by the first mark, showing everyone what the Rage was capable, able to come from behind like the legendary horse, Secretariat, coming in second despite a very short up-wind second leg. By the third race, the crew performed the anchor pull flawlessly, hoisted sail and never looked back – except to see all the other contenders far behind. Abaco pride in its sailing history was now solidly re-established.

The original members eventually formed a group call the Abaco Rage Sailing Syndicate (A.R.S.S.) to support on-going efforts to keep the Rage in sailing shape and competitive trim, raising funds needed for on-going maintenance and repairs plus new sails and other gear. Keeping the Rage ready to race locally and nationally in the various regattas and to do Abaco proud takes a lot of time, dedication and funds. The ARRS has over 50 members who support in various ways. Current Admiral is Jeff Gale, Vice-Admiral is Chris “Big Red” Lightbourne, Treasurer Richard Cook and Secretary Stafford Patterson.

Have a Warm Spot for the Bahamas? Love the Abacos? Then Support an Abaconian Legend and Become Part of a Living Tradition.

The Abaco Rage is a 28 foot, 32 year old, locally built traditional fishing sloop, an Abaconian beauty as solid and trustworthy, as challenging and rewarding, as demanding and fun as these islands and their people. Whether sailing nationally in the only Bahamian national sport, or sailing locally in various regattas and races, the Rage carries the name and spirit of the Abacos everywhere she and her crew go. She’s a national symbol, as famous as the Elbow Cay lighthouse, and as enduring, ably supported by a local volunteer group.

Be a part of Abaco’s living heritage, its sailing tradition and competitive spirit by supporting the Abaco Rage Sailing Syndicate to raise funds to keep the Rage in fighting trim and in the shape that makes us all proud. Whether you are a part-time visitor, a regular, a second-home owner or a local resident, there’s room for everyone in this “more fun than a person should be allowed to have” sport of traditional sloop racing. In today’s age of modern materials, electric winches and auto-pilots, the Rage takes you back to the demands and rewards,  the sheer exhiliration of sailing by the seat of your pants, with nothing but your skills and determination against the elements. It’s the kind of sailing that makes you come alive and bless the day you woke up to the steady winds, deep blue skies and azure seas of the Abacos. It’s another reason to come and all the more reason to return year after year.

The A.R.S.S Fleet or Sailing by the Seat of Your Pants!

The Abaco Rage Sailing Syndicate has three Bahamian work boats that are raced in the national regattas, the first, the Abaco Rage, being used in local sailing competitions and the annual Regatta Time in Abaco weekly racing event up and down the cays.

Abaco Rage

LOA: 28′

Beam: 10′ 4″

Draft: 6′ – 6′ 6″

Mast: 65′ (61′ 11′ over deck)

Boom: 38′ long and 6×8″ tall

Crew: 10-20 people depending on wind

Builder: Man-O-War Boat Builders

Lonesome Dove

LOA: 22′

Beam: 6′ 2″

Draft: 5′ +

Mast: N/A

Boom: N/A

Crew: 5-7 people depending on wind

Builder: Mark Knowles, Long Island

Conchy Joe

LOA: 14′

Beam: 49 1/2″

Draft: 32″

Mast: 29′

Boom: 19′

Crew: 2-3 people

Builder: Mark Malone/Chris Thompson, Hope Town

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Racing Schedule

Wednesday, April 4
Hope Town Sailing Club
Triangular Course
Charles Pollack Trophy

April 24 - 28
George Town, Exuma
National Family Island Regatta



Help Keep The Legend Racing!

Ever dream of racing on The Rage?
Well now you can! Join us for any of our scheduled club races and get a seat on the Rage for only 50 Bucks. You will have the experience of a lifetime and help keep the legend racing!
Become a Sponsor!
Sponsor the A.R.S.S., get your name on one of our classic Bahamian racing sloops AND your ad on our Rage Blog!

Dave Pahl

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