Since 1972, the Figawi Race from Hyannis to Nantucket, MA, has attracted racing aficionados from across the U.S. and Canada. This year’s event, May 29 – 31, 2010, reached registration capacity early, with 229 sailboats and 28 power boats entered.
This classic all-abilities racing regatta marks the kick-off to the summer sailing season while attracting over 3,000 visitors and sailors to Cape Cod during Memorial Day Weekend. Starting on Saturday, racers sail from Hyannis to Nantucket; Sunday is a lay day for fun and entertainment, followed by a race back to Hyannis on Monday.
The Beginnings: Figawi Race Weekend
In May of 1972, four sailing buddies decided to start a “friendly competition” by racing their sailboats from Hyannis to Nantucket over a weekend. With wives and pals as crew, they set out to see which of them could reach the island first.
The trip was such a good time that it became an annual event, with new participants showing up every year. By the late 70’s, the now organized committee decided adding a lay day and return leg to the race. This turned the original weekend outing into an annual three-day Memorial Day weekend event.
There are a few folklore stories as to how the Figawi Race got its name. The first suggests the three co-founders of the race created a fictional Indian tribe (as depicted in the Figawi Race Weekend logo) who then got lost and questioned, “where the —- are we?”
The second version is routed in the same saying, although, in this scenario it’s rumoured to have been uttered by sailors during the very first Figawi Race when they encountered fog. Either way, the phrase became the more acceptable shortened version known as ‘Figawi’.
In Good Company
The Figawi Race Weekend has attracted notable sailors over the years, including the Kennedy family. As avid sailors, the Kennedys have often participated in the prestigious Figawi race including Edward M. Kennedy when he sailed his 50’ Concordia schooner Mya. The John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum is a popular attraction to visit. It provides a somewhat intimate look at the Kennedys while on Cape Cod.
It’s Not Just About The Race…
The allure of the seas helps to make this very prominent three-day event as much about the social aspect as it is the actual racing. Not-to-be-missed activities include the Figawi Tent Party on Saturday evening; an afternoon Clambake and Race Weekend Tent Party on Sunday; and Awards Presentations on Monday.
A major highlight of Figawi Race Week is the Annual Figawi Charity Ball held on Saturday night at The Resort & Conference Center at Hyannis. As the largest one-night fundraising event in Cape Cod, the formal attire Charity Ball generates almost $200,000 annually, and has raised over $2.2 million since it was first added to the race weekend itinerary in 1987. Festivities include a gourmet dinner and dancing, with over 200 items being offered during the evening’s raffle and auction.
Figawi Race Weekend Travel Tips 101:
- If you’re driving, obey parking rules as ticketing is in full effect.
- Layered clothing is the key to enjoying the weather throughout the day; nautical themed clothing is always preferable
- Visit the finish line at Brandt Point (Nantucket) on Saturday afternoon
- Check out the happenings at The Chicken Box, a popular local venue
About the Figawi Race Weekend Area
entrally located in the middle of Cape Cod, Hyannis (population 20,000) has become the perfect home base for many a sailing trip or vacation. Main Street offers a large selection of shops, vendors, antiques, entertainment, plus over 40 restaurants. Nantucket (population 10,500) is located about 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod and offers a plethora of pre-Civil War homes, beaches, galleries, shops, marinas and restaurants.
Visit the following local links for up-to-date information on weather conditions, tourism, and maps, in Hyannis and Nantucket.