What began as an event strictly for sailors has morphed into a community-wide celebration in one of America’s oldest seaports.
While retaining all of its offshore racing events, St. Augustine Race Week has added several new events that spectators can watch from the city’s downtown bayfront. In addition, the public is invited to two nights of free concerts featuring top touring bands and the best in local entertainment in the “Party Tent” adjacent to the municipal marina.
The five-day event includes all types of sailboat competition. Offshore boats from 30 to 45 feet compete in several classes including spinnaker, non-spinnaker and cruiser.
Slightly smaller racing boats compete in the “inshore” races held on the Intracoastal Waterway north of the Vilano Bridge.
For young racers, a Youth Sailing Regatta takes place in the Matanzas River just south of the Castillo de San Marcos.
New events this year include paddle board racing, kayak racing and dragon boats. All these events are in full view of spectators along the city’s bayfront.
At the end of each day’s aquatic events, Meehan’s Party Tent becomes the center of activity. Food and beverage vendors serve full meals along with beer, soda and rum drinks outside the tent. Inside the tent are two nights of top-tier bands. Thursday’s headliner is The Tailgaters, fresh from an international tour, plus local opening act Ancient City Keepers. Friday night’s headliner is award-winning writer, singer and guitar player Ira Dean formerly of the hit country band Trick Pony. His opening band will be St. Augustine’s own Paper City Hustlers. Admission to all concerts is free.
Numerous local sponsors help to put on St. Augustine Race Week and, after expenses, all proceeds go to support the Youth Sailing Scholarship Fund. This program introduces underprivileged children to the joys of sailing by paying their way to one of the many local summer sail programs for kids.
The event runs from Wednesday through April 3.
St. Augustine Race Week is organized by the First Coast Sailing Association. Members include St. Augustine Yacht Club, Florida Yacht Club, The Rudder Club of Jacksonville, North Florida Cruising Club, Epping Forest Yacht Club, Smyrna Yacht Club and Halifax River Yacht Club.