NASSAU; MORE THAN JUST PARADISE

Credit: The Ocean Club, a Four Seasons Resort

An unpredictable year filled with unpleasant surprises, 2020 is certainly one many of us will choose to distance ourselves from in the future. Indeed, travel bans and second lockdown periods are creeping back into effect around the world, but in our book it’s never too early to plan for the next escapade involving an early morning flight, white sand, and the occasional ocean drive.

The Bahamas is a destination famed for its paradisiacal qualities. Sun, sea and sand are in abundance, as are palm trees, superyachts and seafood. In other words, the perfect ingredients for a recipe of indulgence; a chance to unplug from the normality of home. The capital city, Nassau, has a multitude of hotels to choose from, but The Ocean Club - a Four Seasons Resort - stands out as the most enticing.

Located on an 8km stretch of natural, white-sand beach on Paradise Island, The Ocean Club has been the destination of choice for the jet-set since 1962. The 35 acres of Versailles-inspired gardens owe themselves to the seclusion of the hotel, and provide the perfect setting to relax, unwind, and enjoy a unique culinary experience in the hands of Michelin-starred chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Credit: The Ocean Club, a Four Seasons Resort

But there is more to The Bahamas than just white beaches and cocktails. For Nassau played host to the Bahamas Speed Week from the glorious years of 1954 to 1966. Owing to its lifespan of a mere 12 years, the festival is often forgotten. But the now defunct Speed Week was once the place to be for any motoring enthusiast.

Following World War II, the conversion of airfields into rudimentary race circuits was common practice, and Nassau officials were keen of the possibilities a motoring event could bring to The Bahamas. The newly established Bahamas Automobile Club was given the support necessary as well as the all-important green light, and the Bahamas Speed Week was born soon after in 1954. Originally a gathering for the playboys and young gentleman drivers, the event began to snowball into something bigger than was ever imagined.

Credit: Slim Aarons

Within no time at all the main event – the Nassau Trophy – had attracted the world’s best drivers as well as constructors. Masten Gregory, Phil Hill, Stirling Moss and Dan Gurney are amongst the few iconic names to win the festival’s most prestigious race. These drivers had full support from the likes of Ferrari, Maserati and Aston Martin in achieving victory at The Bahamas Speed Week, so it was clear that Nassau had become host to a highly competitive mix of drivers and teams. If anything, the festival was an excuse to drive cars, fast, and throw parties in paradise!

Credit: Slim Aarons

Near the end of its lifespan, the festival began to attract other talent such as Bruce McLaren and his iconic orange racing machines, as well as cars from the Can-Am series. But all good things must come to an end, and by 1966 the racing circuits were in need of significant repairs and maintenance. However, lack of funding from the Bahamian government coupled with an increase in more serious races being held towards the end of the year, marked the end of an era for the Bahamas Speed Week.

Realising The Ocean Club was around for the latter half of the Speed Week’s lifespan is quite remarkable. Whilst lying under the Caribbean sun on the white shores of Nassau, it’s easy to forget the history of such a place, and more so its significance in motor racing folklore. So next time you’re sitting at the Dune Bar enjoying the finest drinks the Four Seasons can concoct, take a moment to imagine the scenes of a young Stirling Moss, driving to victory behind the wheel of a Ferrari 290MM in 1957. After all, that was just around the corner…

 

 


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