The Figawi Race has been a staple on the island since 1972. But due to the pandemic, it has been three years since sailors have come to Nantucket for the event. That will change this weekend when the 52nd annual Figawi Race takes place on Saturday with over 125 registered participants set to sail from Hyannis to Nantucket to renew the tradition.
“We like to say we are the kickoff to the summer,” Figawi President Christopher Kelsey told the Current. “I would say it is absolutely unique having a race here. There are several races throughout the region and the country, but this is one of the longest standing. We are very proud of that. We have been embraced by the community or else we wouldn’t be there for over 50 years. That number is incredible really.”
The regatta will be held in Nantucket Sound, beginning in the area of the Hyannis Port jetty. It will conclude at the entrance of Nantucket Harbor. There will be a welcome party on Friday, May 26 at the Hyannis Yacht Club, the race and events on Saturday, May 27, and a continuation of events into Sunday on Nantucket.
Much of the weekend remains status quo compared to the last time it took place in 2019. Participant sign-ups are slightly down compared to the pre-pandemic numbers, but Kelsey said they are very happy with the number of people who have registered for the race’s first year back in its traditional format.
One noticeable difference will be the absence of the big Figawi tent along the waterfront on Nantucket, which will not be returning this year. But the possibility of bringing that element back in 2024 is possible, Kelsey said.
“(A return) is not off the table,” Kelsey said. “Between the Boat Basin, the town, and Figawi - we are discussing what we could possibly do for next year. But I think we are all in agreement that with this being the first year back, let’s go this route and let’s have a little more time to plan (the big tent) for next year. They have been great conversations and I think everybody has been on the same page.”
The absence of this tent will be one less thing for the Nantucket Police Department to worry about, but the department is planning to have a presence downtown in the area of the Boat Basin regardless, as the normal crowds are expected for the holiday weekend.
Lieutenant Angus MacVicar told the Current that while Figawi is scaled back considerably from prior years, there will be a return of the small VIP tent that holds 100 people. This tent is private and for individuals invited by Figawi organizers such as sponsors and media. He said because of that and the other crowds the race will inevitably bring, there will be a police detail presence down in the area of the Boat Basin Saturday and Sunday but not nearly to the extent that it has been in the past.
“We are still going to have a good presence down there,” MacVicar said.
The NPD is currently 10 full-time police officers short of its allotted 41 funded and approved positions, but MacVicar said they will be prepared for this weekend. The department also hired 40 community service officers after struggling to hire half that number in recent years, which should help alleviate some of the pressure on the full-time personnel moving forward this summer.
MacVicar said Straight Wharf businesses normally hire a police detail as well to manage the restaurants and bars, but have not as of now. He said he expects this to be a busy weekend, but he doesn’t believe it will be to the level of years past or what a typical weekend between the Fourth of July and August has become.
“It is always busy, but I said to the Chief a while ago when he got here that the reason Memorial Day is always such a shocking thing is because of how many people arrive so quickly,” MacVicar said. “But if you were to sit at the top of Broad Street looking down South Water Street in August, it would be far busier than it would be on Memorial Day even though we feel it is this massive amount of people. It really is not – it just happens so fast and then as quickly as it comes it is gone until July 4th. But any weekend in July or August is far busier than it is on Memorial Day. It just ramps up slowly to that point.”
While Kelsey wouldn’t go into specifics about what events will be available for the sailors and participants, he said there will be a number of different hospitality options for people.
“That is pretty much where we are leaving it,” he said.
As for the charities Figawi will support, that remains an unknown given a major fundraising event has not been held in three years. Kelsey said the mission remains to support charities that involve environmental causes, youth sports in sailing, and veteran services.
“Right now, we are going to evaluate where we are,” he said. “We have a couple of events we are trying to put together for the fall and next spring, but obviously we will support some local charities throughout the year. As of right now, we are really just reorganizing for the race and then we will be able to determine what we do down the road.”
Kelsey said Principal Race Officer Tom Duggan has done great work setting up a course for this race that will, of course, be dependent on weather and the wind. He said this year’s race - between its set up and its return - has all the makings of being an incredible event.
“It is super exciting,” Kelsey said. “I mean, there is definitely a buzz. We are looking forward to it. It is going to be a new type of event in regard to the onshore activities as I mentioned, but the race is going to be an incredible race.”