Regatta: a seaman celebration

A ballet of boats adorned with colourful sails criss-crosses the emerald waters in the bay of Mahebourg. Today is regatta day. For the inhabitants of the south-east, this equals to full celebration.
All Mauritian fishermen consider the regatta as a real must to attend. Mahebourg and Grand Gaube are two major sites for the lovers of sailing according to local traditions. The participants meet at these sites according to the racing schedule, not only to be part of the competition, but also to meet with other fellow seamen and share a typical fisherman meal while recalling the best boat stories and sea anecdotes.
Regatta involves mainly the traditional local pirogue, a boat that has evolved from the 18th century French chaloupe. The pirogues are usually made of wood known for their resistance to splitting. The sail is most often made of unbleached woven cotton, but since a few years, these are being tinted with vivid colours, while fiberglass is gradually winning over wood for the hulls.
On the morning of the race, the crowd gathers on the shore while the participants attend to final preparations around the boats. The challenge will be run in different categories, depending on the size of the boats. Starting time is close. Everyone holds their breath ... and here they go. The bright sails fly spectacularly over the lagoon. The skippers show full concentration in handling the pirogues and tacking past a buoy with remarkable agility before heading again towards the finish line. On land, excitement is at its peak and people cheer the winners. What a great show!
The regatta tradition started in the south of the island in the 19th century, thanks to the initiative of some sailing enthusiasts. The first races were so popular that special trains were organised to allow the public to attend the event. Nowadays, the same passion prevails and the regatta is always an opportunity for popular gatherings ending with tasty local snacks and vibrant sega tunes.
If you hear of a regatta in the vicinity, head for the beach. Don't miss it!