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Valentine’s Day Cup: Model Sailboat Races in Middle Caicos

The Turks and Caicos are rich in history, and this Saturday will give visitors a chance to experience a unique tradition at the 17th annual Valentine’s Day Cup on Bambarra Beach in Middle Caicos.

Every year, crowds descend on the islands of North and Middle Caicos to watch and participate in the model sailboat races. Competitors build their miniature sail boats by hand — traditionally with bark from the gum-elemi tree — and race them along the shallow waters of Bambarra Beach every year the week of Valentine’s Day. The races offer spectators a chance to soak in some local culture, as model sailboat building was a big part of growing up for the older generation in the Turks and Caicos. And the Valentine’s Day Cup helps to keep that tradition alive.

The sailboat racing event began when Daniel Forbes, owner of the well-known restaurant Daniel’s Cafe on Middle Caicos, gave his wife Sara her own model sailboat for her birthday. That gift sparked an idea. One boat expanded to a fleet of six, and in 2000, the Valentine’s Day Cup began. The event has continued to grow every year, with hundreds of people—both local residents and visitors—heading to Bambarra Beach to partake in the festivities, which include food vendors and live music.

The Valentine’s Day Cup also gives visitors a chance to explore some of the islands beyond Providenciales. A 30-minute ferry ride takes visitors to North Caicos, from which they can rent a car and get to Middle Caicos by a causeway that connects the two islands. Both islands are vastly different from Providenciales. Both are sparsely populated compared with Provo. While Provo boasts a population of about 24,000, North Caicos is home to only about 2,000. Meanwhile, despite being the largest island in the Turks and Caicos, Middle Caicos is home to about 300 people.

But there is much to explore on the two islands, from the 250-foot deep Cottage Pond on North Caicos to the Conch Bar Caves on Middle. Not to mention, the islands are home to many beautiful, secluded beaches. If you decide to head to the islands for the Valentine’s Day Cup, we suggest you make a weekend out of it and take the time to explore all North and Middle Caicos have to offer.


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