Set sail! These boat battles celebrate a timeless tradition with a distinctive twist.

By Lisa M. Shaw
June 23, 2008
Sara Gray

I-LYA Bay Week Regattas―Put-in-Bay, Ohio
Each summer the Inter-Lake Yachting Association hosts an unforgettable boating competition. The location itself is also memorable: a Lake Erie island northwest of Sandusky, Ohio, known for its resort-like atmosphere and vibrant nightlife. Junior Regatta kicks things off with younger sailors showcasing their skills, followed by more than 100 motorized craft participating in the Power Boat Regatta. Deepwater races bring the remaining competitors for the three-day Senior Sail Regatta. Although the races are enough to keep enthusiasts entertained, onlookers are encouraged to test their own boating skills in a variety of contests, including weather predicting, compass navigation, chicane (a winding, curvy course), and inflatable-raft racing. Spectators shouldn't miss the East vs. West volleyball and softball games.

Mark your calendar: The Bay Week Regattas start in mid-July and last into early August.
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Eggemoggin Reach Regatta―Brooklin, Maine
More than 100 classic wooden boats gather at a mooring field off the coast of northern Maine every August. Some boats stay docked for a few days, while others compete in various feeder races, but everyone waits with anticipation for Saturday morning and the start of the annual Eggemoggin Reach Regatta. With spinnakers flying, seasoned sailors guide their wind-powered watercrafts through a 15-mile course. During the three-day event, daytime is reserved for racing, but the entertainment doesn't stop at sundown. Enjoy barbecue dinners, cocktail parties, dances with live bands, and an awards ceremony to honor victors.

Mark your calendar: Usually held the first weekend in August
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The Royal St. John's Regatta―St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
This prestigious rowing race, one of the oldest regularly held sporting events in North America, spans about a mile and a half on Newfoundland's Quidi Vidi Lake. The boat race, which dates to at least 1821, still keeps to the tradition of using fixed seat rowing shells, and challenges contenders with a mid-race "turning the buoys," which means the course doubles back to end right where it began. The city of St. John's honors the historic regatta by declaring a civic holiday for the entire area. Locals and tourists gather by the tens of thousands to watch the excitement on the water and to experience the carnival-like atmosphere―complete with lakeside booths, games, and concessions.

Mark your calendar: Weather permitting, these rowers rumble across the lake on the first Wednesday in August.
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Moth Boat Regatta―Elizabeth City, North Carolina
An expansive waterfront and winding river make Elizabeth City an ideal racing venue for this annual regatta. Nearly two dozen moth boats participate in this racing rivalry, held about 60 miles south of Virginia Beach, Virginia. The moth boat made its first appearance in 1929 as a sport craft that could be easily constructed by nonprofessional boat builders. Almost 80 years later, that same model can still be seen today, flitting down the Pasquotank River in a race to the finish line.

Mark your calendar: Usually held the third Saturday in September
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National Family Island Regatta―Great Exuma, Bahamas
Bahamians have been celebrating this test of boating finesse for more than half a century. The inaugural race, held in 1954 off the white sandy shores of Elizabeth Harbour, included about 70 workboats sailing a four-mile triangular course. Today, the races and boats have changed, but the tradition of honoring Bahamian craftsmanship and culture remains, as this regatta is open only to sailboats designed, built, owned, skippered, and crewed by Bahamians. In addition to watching sailors battle it out for the coveted "Best in the Bahamas" title, visitors can partake in the four days of festivities with fashion shows, volleyball tournaments, and weightlifting competitions.

Mark your calendar: Plan your visit in April to catch up with these sea-savvy sailors.
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Turkey Day Regatta―Long Beach, California
Escape the holiday hubbub for a weekend on the water and discover why this decades-old boat race is a Thanksgiving tradition. Each year, more than 200 yachtsmen from Seattle to San Diego arrive in Alamitos Bay, hungry for a taste of victory―and a bite of their turkey trophy, if they happen to place high enough. The regatta operates with divided boat classes and courses running through the bay and outer harbor. Win or lose, all competitors (and guests) can enjoy a full-scale Thanksgiving feast on Saturday night, making this a race with all the trimmings.

Mark your calendar: Held the weekend before Thanksgiving.
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