‘‘Nassau,” the US journalist turned racing driver Denise McCluggage wrote, “was a string of coloured lights across a tropical night. Nassau was the sharp blip of racing engines on a sun-drenched dock, the soft boiling-fudge speech of the Bahamians selling straw hats along Bay Street. Nassau was an umbrella-drink concoction of star-dipped nights, white sands, conch fritters, a sea rimmed in turquoise (and as clear as gasoline), and racing, racing, racing.”
On Stirling Moss’ first visit, before there was any racing there at all, he fell in love with the place. He enjoyed it so much during the short visit at the end of 1953 that he returned a few weeks later and would pay regular visits in the following years. It was part of the sterling area, which, in the days before the invention of credit cards, meant there were no restrictions on how much cash could be taken in or out, and its climate in the months of the European winter made it an attractive alternative to the popular French Riviera.
On his second visit, in February 1954, Moss spent a fortnight at the British Colonial Hotel. In conversation with its owner, Sir Sydney Oakes, and the holidaying English sports car manufacturer Donald Healey, talk turned to the possibility of staging a motor race on one of the island’s airfields. The initial idea belonged to an energetic and volatile American, Sherman ‘Red’ Crise, who had imported liquor from the Bahamas during Prohibition and promoted midget car racing in his native New Jersey. Crise invited the famous English driver to take a look at the disused Windsor Field. Clearly the advice was positive, because when Moss returned in February 1955, he was given reports of the first Nassau Speed Week, held three months earlier.