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All 33 Optimist Sailors. Photo: Karen Stanton
All 33 Optimist Sailors. Photo: Karen Stanton

Cruzan Open Welcomes Large Opti Fleet

Small boat sailing is growing in a big way on St. Croix. So much so that the St. Croix Yacht Club’s (SCYC) April 20 to 21 Cruzan Open drew fifty-seven beginner and advanced dinghy sailors from all three U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands. This event also served to kick-off a new three-island Optimist series, the Triple Crown, although there were also classes for Sunfish, Club 420s and Lasers.

Interest and proficiency at dinghy racing is nothing new at the SCYC. Yet, Optimist sailing, which comes and goes in waves based on kids and parents interest, received a jump-start at the club last fall when Peter Stanton, the club’s Fleet Captain, and Kim Sanford started an affordable training program. The two expected half-a-dozen kids to come out for Friday night lessons but saw this number quickly swell to over 30, and added two Saturday classes and hired two more coaches. Stanton and Sanford organized the Cruzan Open to capitalize on this interest.

Winds gusting to 28 knots with stormy weather caused delays in racing on the first day, while conditions proved just as tough the second day with winds averaging 20 knots. St. Thomas’ Christopher Murphy, one of five members of the Virgin Islands Optimist Dinghy Association (VIODA) team that will compete in the Optimist North American Championships in Bermuda and the Optimist World Championships in Italy this summer, scored six first place finishes in 12 races to win the 13 to15-year-old Red Fleet and Optimist Overall.

“I usually do well in heavy wind, that wasn’t a problem for me,” says Murphy.

In other Optimist classes, the BVI’s Thad Lettsome took top honors in the 11 to 12-year-old Blue Fleet, while the BVI’s Rayne Duff won the ten and under White Fleet and St. Croix’s David Conhoff topped the beginner Green Fleet.

In other classes, St. Croix’s Morgan Dale won in the Sunfish; St. Croix’s Mack Bryan and St. Thomas’ Gulia Klein topped the Club 420 Class and St. Croix’s Beecher Higby finished first in the Laser Radial Class.

“The St. Croix kids are more motivated to practice after seeing the racing and being part of a regatta,” says Sanford. “For many of them, this was their first regatta. Now, we have Optimist classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well as Friday nights and Saturday. It was a huge success for us.”
For full results, visit: www.yachtscoring.com

The Cruzan Open was sponsored by Gold Coast Yachts, Scotiabank, Budget Marine, Michael P. Hand, Broadband VI and Sanford, Amerling & Associates.

Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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