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An interview with Richard Hamilton on the Jamin’ Jamaica J/22 Regatta

by David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor 5 Dec 2017 16:30 GMT 9 to 10 December 2017
Jamin Jamaica J/22 Regatta © Jamin Jamaica J/22 Regatta

Plenty of regattas bill themselves as friendly to visitors, but few take steps to accommodate and welcome new friends to their starting lines like the Jamin Jamaican J/22 Regatta (December 9-10, 2017), which famously offers entrants free in-home hosting. Cooler still, the regatta is open and welcoming to sailing teams from any nation, and the event works with the local J/22 fleet to secure boats for all visiting teams (which are provided to visiting sailors to use, free of charge, by their owners who are keen to support the event and the class), thus solving the logistical headaches that could otherwise present themselves as barriers to entry.

Instead, the Jamin Jamaica J/22 Regatta does its best to make everyone feel welcome, while also boasting great racecourse competition and memorable nightlife fun.

The Jamin Jamaica J/22 Regatta is hosted by the Montego Bay Yacht Club and is supported by the island nation’s local J/22 fleet, which helps to secure more than (ballpark) eighty percent of the available J/22s on Jamaica for the event.

For interested participants, the Jamin Jamaica regatta represents an amazing opportunity to forge much deeper, stronger friendships with locals (say, one’s host family) than at most typical travel regattas, while also offering great, warm-water competition. For locals, the influx of new friends and on-the-water competition helps keep starting-line skills sharp while also making for fun après sailing conversations.

I caught up with Richard Hamilton, who serves as regatta chair of the Jamin Jamaica J/22 Regatta, via email, to learn more about this unique event.

Can you describe the level of competition that you generally see at the Jamin Jamaica J/22 Regatta?
In the very early days (before my time) the regatta was more of a way of promoting sailing on the island through the open invitation of USA sailors and their families, with a focus both on the water sailing and off the water touring for the rest of the visitors.

These days we are blessed with continued interest from skippers and crews active in the U.S. fleet and many-time World Championship entrants.

Are most competitors local, or do you attract a lot of off-island interest?
The majority are visitors. We have a grand total of 11 boats on the island and typically 60 to 70 percent of the fleet on the line is from overseas.

We can always rely on teams from the USA, Canada and Cayman [Islands], and [we] have attracted teams from Holland, Germany, Italy, France, South Africa and the UK in previous years.

How has the regatta evolved and grown during the years that you have been involved with it?
The first running of the regatta was in 1989 [and was billed] as the JamAm invitational; at the time a local crew on a boat called Jamaica J was doing the all the regattas in the U.S. and the Jamaica America (JamAm) was created as a way to invite down all the friends Jamaica J made during their competitions.

These days, [the] Jamaica International (JamIn) is open to the globe to come and compete in the warm waters of Montego Bay. The majority of our teams are repeat visitors, we get wonderful support from friends in Cayman particularly, and this year was the first year that all of visitors claimed their places without any promotion of the regatta through usual means.

The regatta is still about Jamaica and experiencing the warm welcome of the local culture, and hopefully we have a good balance of fun and serious racing. It seems to keep people coming back, which must be a good sign!

If you were a gambling man, who would you be betting on to be in contention for Top Three finishes?
Montego Bay is protected from the typical Christmas 20-knot trade [wind]s by the town, which generally means flat water with lots of shifts. Regattas have been sailed in the past in ten-foot swells left [over] from a passing front–either way, challenging conditions.

If the breeze is blowing, the Caymanians and fellow Jamaicans from Kingston are very accomplished and stand a chance but the local shiftiness still brings an element that can suit a local crew.

This year we will have the watchful eye of Mike Marshall, J/22 2016 World Champion, bringing a strategic commentary to the fleet that we hope will help level the playing field.

What sets the Jamin Jamaican apart from J/22 regattas on the mainland?
The offer of no rental fees and home hosting with local families is certainly unique on the island. Montego Bay was the genesis of J/22s on the island and remains the more active racing venue with an all-year-round calendar of events.

The Montego Bay Yacht Club is very central to the community, easy to access, easy launching, [and is] a great venue with a long tradition of welcoming visitors

Have you or the event taken any steps in recent years to green-up the regatta, so as to reduce its environmental footprint? If so, can you tell us about these efforts?
Jamaica has a lot of social and community issues and a history of violence that is well documented in the media every day with a murder rate amongst the highest in the world. The yacht club and this regatta helps provides contribution to the island’s economy in a small way providing sustainable local employment directly and indirectly supporting local tourism and commerce.

The focus on the larger issues at hand and, on a personal level, assisting local charities such as the Sandals Foundation with their environmental focus is of far more impact than trying to green a two-day annual event.

Anything else that you’d like to add, for the record?
Youth are the future of any club and its sport, and the club does have an active seasonal youth sailing program with Pico’s being the weapon of choice. Despite this, there are always places on local boats during the year, and-in the spirit of welcoming visitors for the Jamin’ Regatta every December-anyone is welcome to come and sail during the year.

The calendar is on the MBYC website and we look forward to meeting y’all! Yeah Mon!

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