Little Compass RoseCaribbean Compass September 2020

Hodge Taylor and the Bequia Sailing Club

by Sir James Mitchell

Hodge Taylor many moons ago sailed into Admiralty Bay and became a vibrant part of Bequia. He made an outstanding contribution to the yachting that is now an integral theme in our progress.

In the late Sixties, Caribbean Sailing Yachts took up home in Blue Lagoon in St. Vincent. Vincentians who were without boats could rent one for a weekend. A St. Vincent Yacht Club came into existence, created by distinguished lawyer Alec Hughes and based on his property, also on the lagoon.

Thus began the Whitsun regatta, sailing from St. Vincent around Bequia and back to Villa. Sir John Compton (Prime Minister of St. Lucia on three occasions: briefly in 1979, again from 1982 to 1996, and from 2006 until his death in 2007) and I had bought our first boat, which was idling in a corner of Castries Harbour, a twin-keeled Westerly Centaur designed for squatting on the fluctuating tides in England � not really racing material.

The St. Vincent Yacht Club eventually folded, which meant no Whitsun regatta. I decided to find a way to bring the regatta to Bequia.
On the beach in front of St. Mary�s Anglican Church I ran into Hodge one afternoon and the conversation concentrated on yachting. I proposed to Hodge that we form a sailing club in Bequia to continue the Whitsun regatta and base the event in Bequia. Hodge�s knowledge of calibrating the yachts for the handicaps was an area of my silence, and I knew he could take this on.
I told him clearly that I did not want a �yacht club,� which sounded too elitist for Bequia, but a sailing club that would embrace the Bequia fishermen with their double-enders, the skippers of visiting yachts, and any resident, local or foreign, with an interest in the sport of sailing.

I duly called a meeting one night at the Frangipani Hotel, with Hodge, Ermina Antrobus, Kenneth Allick and my wife, Pat. Although it was proposed that I become commodore, I declined, pointing out that I had recently created a political party (the New Democratic Party, 1975) and that I wanted our Bequia Sailing Club to be free of politics. Hodge accepted the leadership as commodore, with Pat appointed secretary and Ermina and Kenneth to coordinate the participation of the fishermen. Ours was to be a fun regatta, with Hodge bringing in the other captains to set the courses around Bequia and the timing of starts for each category of yachts. As the Frangipani Bar became central to the club�s administration, Kenneth�s La Pompe International rum shop became the center of the planning of the fishing boat activities. There the meals were cooked to be shared among the fishermen at the conclusion of the races, under the supervision of Ermina.

We did not intend to match the formidable structure of Antigua Week with shining trophies that we could not afford. The fishermen were pleased with their prizes of paint and engine oil, and the yachtsmen were happy with their prizes of model boats built on the island.

But Whitsun (the seventh Sunday after Easter) was not a great time for the regatta in Bequia. After Easter, most yachts moved north to Antigua and then on to Europe or the United States.
Then, in March of 1979, came the revolution in Grenada. Most of the yachts based there rushed to Bequia, as they were seen by the revolutionary government as a threat, possibly bringing in weapons to destabilize the new Communist regime. I proposed that we seize the opportunity to capture Easter on the Caribbean racing calendar. By the time Grenada recovered from the revolution, the Bequia Easter regatta would be firmly established.

In all this exercise, Hodge Taylor played an equal role � and he loved it.
The Bequia Easter regatta became a national festival, bringing in more tourists and foreign exchange than Carnival.

Hodge Taylor leaves a legacy that is linked to yachting in our islands.
May he rest in peace.

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