Figawi Returns Saturday For 53rd Race And The Party Tent Is (Half) Back Too

David Creed •

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The 53rd annual Figawi sailboat race from Hyannis to Nantucket will be taking place this Saturday, and after a cautious return in 2023 following a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will be nearly back to its original form. While the race itself returned last year, notably absent was the party tent that is typically full of revelers at the downtown Candle Street lot owned by National Grid. But this weekend the Figawi party tent will be making its triumphant return – albeit with a smaller capacity.

"It's half back actually," Figawi executive director Shelley Crawford told the Current regarding the tent. "The property down there that we usually put the tent on back pre-COVID – the National Grid property – half of it is fenced off right now. So we're putting up half the tent size that we normally have on that property.”

Nantucket police chief Jody Kasper said up to 450 people will be permitted into the tent on the National Grid property.

"It'll be fun to get everybody back,” Crawford continued. “Last year we did the beer alley behind the wharf cottages and that worked out really well because the weather was really nice. So we were lucky. But it's nice to be back in a tent for the tent party.”

A familiar face will be performing in the big tent – island native, comedian, and musician Brian Glowacki and his band Perfect Day will be on stage from 7 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, May 25, and Sunday, May 26.

“We are thrilled to be the soundtrack to the triumphant return of Figawi as we all remember it,” Glowacki said. “The boats, the party, the charity work that Figawi does, I’m here for all of it. We recognize that it’s Memorial Day weekend first and foremost and we are happy to gather everyone back to Nantucket and celebrate.”

"We'll have entertainment in the smaller tent too,” Crawford added. “That's the VIP/media tent that we have. We have never had a problem with that tent (having to close).” The VIP tent permits 100 people.

There will also be a sponsor marketplace during the day on Saturday as well as Sunday afternoon in the Boat Basin area.

"That's where all of our sponsors are going to exhibit what they have and it's open to the public," Crawford said. "There's no cost to get into that. You don't need a bracelet but if you were to want any of the beverages from some of our sponsors, obviously it's 21 and over so they'll be carding.”

The weekend’s main event will begin on Saturday at 10 a.m. The regatta will begin in Hyannis and the sailors will make their way to Nantucket’s shores throughout the day – with groups of boats leaving at staggered start times.

Last year 125 registered boats and hundreds of participants were part of the Figawi race – which was down relative to previous years in which the race would get upwards of 150 registered boats and sometimes even hit 200. This year, the race has over 130 participants as it continues to return to normal. Crawford said as of Wednesday, May 22, they had 135 registered boats.

Another signature event will be the Crawford Cup, which supports youth sailing. That regatta will take place on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. off of the docks. The event is named after Crawford’s father, J. David Crawford, who passed away in 2021. Crawford was an instrumental figure for the charity – serving on the Figawi board for over 30 years and was the charity’s chair for most of those years.

“We use the Nantucket Community Sailing boats, and we sail out of Great Harbor Yacht Club so there's a lot of people that make it happen,” Crawford said. “We have 13 high schools from across the Cape (participating, including Nantucket)."

The award ceremony will take place on Sunday at 4 p.m., Crawford said. As for the charitable work Figawi will be supporting, Crawford said the main focus is three key areas that touch close to the event: youth sailing/youth sports, veterans & first responders, and the environment. They are in the process of determining which specific entities they will be making donations to.

As for security, the Nantucket Police Department will once again have a strong presence in the boat basin area on Saturday and Sunday according to Kasper. She said that staffing levels will be consistent with last year. In previous years, Straight Wharf businesses generally hire a police detail as well to manage the restaurants and bars.

You can learn more about the charity here.

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