Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 29th 2013 Contents Grant, the first powered vessel to
enter the races.
The year 1932 was a year of
tragedy, since two competing boats
collided and one of the competitors
drowned before help arrived.
World War II proved to be
another interruption in the festivity;
the resumption of the regatta in
1946 under Mayor Victor C Ram-
saran seemed to have lost some of
the spirit of years gone by.
Regattas were held sporadically
throughout the 1950s and 1960s,
but less than 100 years after its
foundation, the historic event was
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt December 29, 2013
For nearly a century, the pre-
miere event on San Fernan-
do s social calendar was the
New Year s Day Regatta at
King s Wharf. The elites and the hoi
polloi mingled freely, enjoying water-
sports, athletics and music in a spirit
of genial bonhomie and with none of
the class segregation characteristic of
the colonial period and the present in
The regatta was instituted on January
1, 1870, by Gustave Dieffenthaller, who
owned the largest pharmacy in the town,
the Naparima Dispensary. Gustave was
an enthusiastic sailor and at his call,
boats of all descriptions, from as far
away as La Brea and Oropouche, com-
peted in the lists---which involved a
speedy tack under oar and sail from the
steamship jetty on the wharf to Farallon
Roc,k which stood out in the Gulf of
Paria, almost two miles away.
The rock was the turning point for
the competitors to return and be judged.
Not surprisingly, Dieffenthaller and his
sleek barque, Enterprise, won the day
and the team did so for another two
The races were not the only feature
of the Regatta. Patrons were regaled
with the sonorous talents of the Napari-
ma Harmonic Society, which was found-
ed by the Vilain family---a prominent
coloured clan whose musical talents
were known throughout the colony.
The following year, the meet was
expanded to include athletic competi-
tions on the strip of land now occupied
by the PTSC terminus.
In 1872 Gustave Dieffenthaller died
suddenly at 36 years of age, but the
regatta persevered under the manage-
ment of a group of merchants and
planters called the Stewards of the San
In 1878 a purse was offered as a prize
in addition to the signature silver cup.
By the 1880s the regatta had become
something of a national phenomenon
and even attracted the attention of
crowds from Port-of-Spain. The Gulf
Steamer which plied between the two
towns even operated a special sailing to
accommodate the northern spectators.
The steamer also carried dignitaries such
as Sir C C Knollys, the Colonial Admin-
istrator, who became a steward in 1887.
Knollys was an avid sportsman and was
a fixture of the regatta for several years.
Another governor who participated fully
in the happenings of the day was Sir
Alfred Maloney, who even rolled up his
sleeves in 1902 and competed as an
A decade before this, however, the
regatta lost some of its character with
the death of Elvira Glassen. She was a
Grenadian by birth and a woman of
means who had fallen on hard times.
She ran a boarding house and dining
room at No 1 High Street called the
Royal Hotel (no relation to the pres-
ent-day San Fernando establishment
of that name). Elvira would turn out at
every regatta, including the inaugural
meet in 1870, with a stall that sold the
most delicious beef pies, mauby and
lemonade to patrons and spectators
The more upper-crust folks would
repair to her hotel s restaurant at the
close of the day for a lavish dinner,
dancing and cocktails and this had
become very much a fixture of the day.
In 1904 tragedy struck the regatta in
a sudden and gruesome way. As was
customary, a cannon on shore was fired
to signal the start of the races.
On January 1, 1904, the hapless
Charles M Pasea ( a steward of the
regatta) was standing in the firing line.
His head was blown off his shoulders
and far out to sea.
As a result, no regattas were held
until 1907. His grave-marker at Paradise
Cemetery was paid for by his fellow
stewards, which is commemorated on
the back of the headstone thus: "Erected
by the Stewards of the San Fernando
Regatta and other friends. A man greatly
The regatta was suspended temporar-
ily from 1914-17 during World War I
but resumed in the last war year (1918).
In 1920 Mayor Clarence Hamilton
Gopaul was named the first Indo-
Trinidadian Honorary Steward.
A year later, well known San Fer-
nando shipwright George Martin bested
the competition in a steam-powered
launch belonging to Thomas Geddes
San Fernando Regatta crowds at King's Wharf, New Year's Day 1900.
A copy of the San Fernando Regatta
programme for 1918 as published in
the Port- of-Spain Gazette.
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