From January to December, Tobago’s sporting calendar is packed with festivals and events from the small-scale to the international that highlight there’s a beating pulse to this laidback tropical island. You can join the excitement, see some famous stars and get a flavour of authentic Tobagonian culture.
February and March herald carnival season in Tobago, with traditional celebrations such as parties and street parades swinging to the rhythm of steel bands. Another highlight is the annual Tobago Carnival Regatta, with four days of yacht racing at Pigeon Point. Also known as the festival of wind, there are countless events, games and social gatherings. The water-based activities continue in March with the Tobago International Game Fishing Tournament. Fishermen flock to the water to try and land some of the best examples of species such as marlin, wahoo, kingfish and bonito before the season finishes at the end of the April.
Easter is the time to see one of Tobago’s most unique sporting highlights. The annual Buccoo Goat and Crab Racing Festival and Mount Pleasant Goat Race are authentically Tobagonian pursuits – the local interpretation of thoroughbred racing. Crowds gather on Easter Monday at Mount Pleasant and on the Tuesday at Buccoo to watch and bet on the goats, prodded by their “jockeys” running alongside them. Crabs are also shooed over the finishing line, but even the winner finds its way into a pot of crab’n’dumpling (buccoointegrated.org).
The island’s muscle-straining peaks and crystalline waters provide a scenic backdrop for the annual Massy Rainbow Cup international triathlon (rainbowtri.com) taking place this year on 13 June. Local and international competitors push themselves to the limit in an Olympic-distance triathlon, but there is a host of other events including an open water swim, 5k fun run and kids’ triathlon. This being the Caribbean, everyone will need to find some hidden energy reserves for the legendary after party.
From 15-22 June the first-ever British Airways Tobago Football Legends Challenge will kick off. Some of the most popular faces from the UK’s Premier League will join local boy and former Manchester United star Dwight Yorke in a six-a-side tournament made up of legends as well as PFA and Caribbean All Stars select team players. On 19 June, Yorke will be temporarily trading in his jersey for some irons when he and several of his celebrity pals tee off to mark the Dwight Yorke Celebrity Golf Day, giving a taste of what’s in store at the first Dwight Yorke International Golf Tournament next year.
In August, high-speed powerboats will be lining up in Port of Spain, Trinidad to compete in the annual Carib Great Race. Rivals such as Total Monster and Fire One will battle it out along the 85-mile route to see who crosses the finishing line at Scarborough first.
Tobago’s challenging terrain sets the scene for the Caribbean’s premiere cycling event, the Tobago International Cycling Classic 2015 (trinbagowheelers.com), 28 September- 4 October. Over six days, amateur and professional cyclists from all over the Caribbean and further afield will compete in four separate categories that include an adrenalin-fuelled Mountain biking competition.
China is a long way away, but Tobagonians have taken dragon boats to their hearts: there is a dazzling display at the Tobago Dragon Boat Festival on 11 October. More than 20 teams compete, with powder-white sands of Pigeon Point providing the perfect vantage point.
The much-anticipated Tobago Rugby Sevens Tournament takes place on 5 and 6 December. Rugby fans from all over the world will descend to soak up the sun and watch over 25 international teams competing in this annual tournament (tobago7s.com).
December draws to a colourful close with the annual Flying Colours Kite Festival in Plymouth. It’s spectacular against the azure Tobagonian skies. Find out more at visittobago.gov.tt