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Sailing Regattas Continue Pensacola’s Racing Heritage

Since the Spanish first landed here in 1559 and later pirates hid in Perdido Bay, the Pensacola Bay Area has been a natural playground for sailing and racing.

Numerous yacht clubs serve the area, and junior sailing programs teach the next generation of sailors while sailing regattas in the Pensacola area bring the best competition from the region.

Sailing competition is fierce and friendly. The Pensacola Yacht Club, Pensacola Beach Yacht Club and Navy Yacht Club Pensacola all are members of the Gulf Yachting Association, which includes clubs from Houston and New Orleans to St. Petersburg. Regattas are held almost weekly throughout the year all along the Gulf Coast.

Races are scored on a Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF)— a rating “handicap” to take the design, build and speed of a boat out of the equation. That means everything is down to the skipper and crew to get the best out of their boat. The clubs also host “One-Design” regattas for particular types of race-bred boats.

Sailors in these regattas race courses set inside the bay, as well as open ocean races and even international contests. Many of the races are part of the Bay Championship, which is scored over races in the series and won by the top crew over the course of the year.

The Regatta del Sol, held in even-numbered years, covers 550 miles over open Gulf from Pensacola to Isla Mujeres, Mexico. And in 2016, the Pensacola Yacht Club re-launched the Race to Havana, Cuba, after a 50-year hiatus.

The Pensacola Bay Area leads the way in women’s sailing events as well. Pensacola Beach Yacht Club launched the Race for the Roses as an all-women crew sailing event in 1986. The regatta is held in July in Pensacola Bay, and has been designated by the Gulf Yachting Association as the GYA Women's PHRF Championship.

Here are a handful of the established regattas in the Pensacola Bay Area:

Pensacola Beach Pier Race — An open water race held the first Saturday in September. Spectacular viewing from the Pensacola Gulf Pier.

The Race for the Roses — Women prep for this race, held in Pensacola Bay in mid-to-late July by Pensacola Beach Yacht Club. All crews and skippers are female.

Bikini Regatta — The Navy Yacht Club hosts this race in Pensacola Bay, featuring crews that are 50-percent female with a woman at the helm.

Lost Bay Regatta — Hosted in October by the Point Yacht Club in Perdido Key and Alabama, the Lost Bay Regatta is held in Perdido Bay and draws clubs from throughout the Gulf area.

Memorial Day Regatta — Pensacola Yacht Club holds this event in Pensacola Bay on Memorial Day Weekend to kick off the summer sailing season.

Fast Women Regatta — The last of the Ladies Racing Trilogy, the Fast Women Regatta in Perdido Bay, requires at least a half-female crew and a female skipper.

Regatta del Sol — an open-water race from Pensacola Bay to Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Covers some 550 miles of open Gulf of Mexico. Scored on PHRF rating.

The Maxine Series — A trio of races held by Navy Yacht Club Pensacola, Pensacola Yacht Club and Pensacola Beach Yacht Club.

  • Maxine #1 —The Commodore’s Cup. Held in February by the Navy Yacht Club Pensacola.
  • Maxine #2 — Held by Pensacola Beach Yacht Club in early March
  • Maxine #3 — Held by Pensacola Yacht Club in late March. The Maxine Series Champion is named.