Hermit crab racing isn’t just a fun beach diversion in Grenada: it’s a pursuit that punters take seriously. From bookies to good luck rituals and team names, the crab racing sport is one of the most unusual Grenada attractions on offer. A bucket of hermit crabs, a circle in the sand, some $2 wagers and a crowd of friendly sponsors makes crab-racing night at The Owl a winner – even if your chosen crustacean is on go-slow.
In Grenada, it’s customary to kiss your crab before the starting gun is fired. Regulars swear this intimate good luck gesture spurs the crustaceans on to the chequered flag. Grenada’s biggest sporting draw isn’t a swanky affair – far from it. Expect a circular sand pit for a circuit and a handful of tiny hermit crabs. Oh, and a sheet of numbered stickers and some thirsty punters. Race-goers squat or kneel around the ring to ensure they have “the ear” of their claw-heavy exoskeletons. Sadly, their sideways gait – so useful when used as an aid to scurrying or a swimming paddle – equips them poorly for sprinting in a straight line, even when an unruly punter yells “mayonnaise!”. Thankfully crabs are hard of hearing.
At the crab racing venue, the Owl Sports Bar at the south end of Grand Anse Beach, the bar manager is referee, bookie and race official. He plays his role straight: refusing all bribes, accepting cash only and ignoring any offers of other bizarre collateral. This well-attended racing highlight has an amazing atmosphere, attracting a lively mix of locals and holidaymakers of all ages. A drink from the bar is part of the deal for anyone who bets. Spectators are given ample opportunity to study each crab’s form. But which will beat the shell off the rest?
Each crab is christened with a new team name, chosen by his punter. Then, once placed in the middle of the circuit, an overturned bowl is placed over his head so that no crab gets a start on the others. When everyone is ready, and all wagers have been bet, it’s time to let the race begin! Usually at around 9pm.
Loud cheers, hollers, whoops and much cajoling helps to encourage these scuttling decapods past the post – and patience is a virtue. They scuttle towards the outer ring before edging sideways and changing their minds and scuttling a little more. Once the first crab passes the line in the sand, the place erupts in a frenzy of victory dancing and winnings are duly paid. A hermit crab’s asymmetrical abdomen makes a lap of honour most unlikely and not every crab plays by the rules: most travel at their own pace, in their own time in their own way.
There is also a prize awarded for the punters who backed the slowest in the line-up. Crabs are well-cared for to ensure an exciting, popular and humane race night every Monday and Friday – arrive early to grab a prime ring-side spot at Grenada’s premier sporting event.
Have you placed a wager on a Caribbean crab race? Did you win big? Share your experience in the comments below.