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Anguilla Youth took on the Caribbean at Annual Anguilla Dinghy Regatta

Optis crowd the start  Photos: eyeLand Images Photo Group. Fred Randall, photographer
Optis crowd the start Photos: eyeLand Images Photo Group. Fred Randall, photographer

Heavy weather sailing

No other island has seafaring in the blood like that of Anguilla where sailing is the national sport.

This was evident in late January when youngsters from the Anguilla Youth Sailing Club (AYSC) took on top sailors from St. Maarten, Puerto Rico and St. Kitts during the Annual Anguilla Dinghy Regatta. Competition was fierce and would have been even fiercer had the eight youngsters from St. Barth been able to attend. They couldn’t get to the island because of rough weather.

Thirty two youngsters sailing in four classes: 420, Laser, Optimist Gold and Optimist Silver, battled boat-breaking conditions that forced a number of retirements.

“From the vantage point of the committee boat, I was thrilled to see these young sailors ignore the heavy seas and take full advantage of the more than brisk winds that prevailed on regatta day,” says Race Director Fred Porter. “I can tell you they were far more focused on competing, on taking every advantage to move ahead of the pack, than they were worried about coping with the challenging conditions.”

With winds hovering around 20kts the conditions tested some of the young Optimist sailors from St. Maarten, who were more used to sailing in a sheltered lagoon than an open roadstead.

“The number of boats that went over and had to be righted was a telling indication of how close they were sailing to their absolute maximum ability. It was a wonderful and unforgettable thing to see,” says Porter.

Anguilla’s Kenny Richardson and Starling Rosario reveled in the conditions to finish first in the 420s. They were followed by countrymen Jordan Peabody and Butchie Gumbs. The all-girl St. Maarten team of Saskia Looser and Bodine Beentjes had bad luck when their 420 developed equipment problems and forced them out of the first race.

Revenge for St. Maarten came in the form of Rhone Findlay who stormed to victory in the Laser class with six points. To sweeten the results Johanna Looser and Alec Scarabelli, also from St. Maarten, shared second place with 14 points each.

In the Optimist Gold Fleet (Age 12 and over), Lucas Miranda raised the flag for Puerto Rico. He fought off a strong challenge from local sailor Shemorie Richardson and St. Maarten racer Leonardo Knol, who finished second and third, respectively.

None were braver on this blustery day than those in the Optimist Silver Class, for 11-year-olds and under. Here St. Maarten dominated with top three places going to Ilian Halbertsma (11 points), Luke Bacon (14 points) and Nathan Smith (17 points).

“Regattas like this are tremendously important,” says AYSC Sailing Director Hazen Grant. “It gives the AYSC a chance to show our neighboring islands that we can put on a fantastic regatta that is well organized, efficient and fun. Also it makes our sailors more motivated to excel because there is a matter of inter-island pride and bragging rights at stake. But more than this it gives other islands the chance to see what our small AYSC community is all about. We have strong supporters, a dedicated board and a fantastic group of young sailors that are truly in love with the sport and it gives them a chance to show it.”

Gary E. Brown is the Editorial Director of All At Sea. He is a presenter on Island 92, 91.9 FM, St. Maarten, and the author of the thriller/sailing adventure Caribbean High. For more information visit: garyebrown.net

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