Where the Figawi? Back on Nantucket.
After a three-year absence that began during the pandemic in 2020, the Figawi race has announced that it will make its much-anticipated return to Nantucket this spring.
The 52nd annual Figawi Race Weekend will be held on Memorial Day Weekend, May 26 to May 29, and race organizers have posted that "Figawi Is Returning to Nantucket in 2023!"
Figawi president Chris Kelsey confirmed that the race would once again finish on Nantucket, but said the organization was still in conversations with the town about the traditional "onshore" events, including the awards and party tent along the waterfront.
"It's definitely coming back to Nantucket, I can't say yet that it's back to normal," Kelsey told the Current. "We have a lot of things up in the air. Some are pandemic related and some are because we haven't been back in three years. We're in the middle of talks with entities on the island to mold how the event will be conducted. We want to be on the same page with the town, police and fire and the Boat Basin."
While the entire Figawi was cancelled in 2020 at the outset of the pandemic, it returned in 2021 and 2022, but organizers did not have the race end on Nantucket as it had done for nearly 50 years, opting instead to start and finish in Hyannis. The traditional tent party along Nantucket's waterfront was canceled those years, as Figawi executive director Shelley Crawford said there were "too many obstacles" and the race was unable to secure a venue due to the "uncertainty with the permit process of the island as well as the greatly increased logistics."
Kelsey said the interest in this year's race is already extremely high, as skippers have already been notified about the return to Nantucket.
"They were doing cartwheels when I said we're going back," Kelsey said. "We had 30 boats register before it was even open. It's something they look forward to every year."
While Nantucket's public safety officials have raised concerns about large-scale events in recent years, Nantucket Police Lt. Angus MacVicar said in 2021 that the Figawi race had not been an issue in recent years.
Reached by phone on Tuesday, MacVicar said no one from the Figawi race had been in touch with the police department yet, and the permitting process for any onshore events had not yet been initiated. But he reiterated that the race organizers have worked well with the town in the past.
"We at the police department and at licensing have received no applications and they haven't received any permits," MacVicar said. As far as previous years, he emphasized that "each time there's been an issue they've addressed. The problems often associated with Figawi are not really about the race, it's about people coming to Nantucket for Memorial Day Weekend and the party that ensues. It's not specifically related to or tied to the boat race...But it is odd that they haven't started permitting."