Organizing the Mango Bowl Junior Regatta was the idea of the St Lucia Yacht Club as a result of disappointment experienced by the young Opti and Laser members who had trained so hard for the 2009 Schoelcher Week in Martinique, cancelled due to strikes.
Invitations and a NOR were sent to Caribbean youth sailing groups and, due to the presence of a very experienced coach, organizers decided to add a few days of Optimist clinic and race training in advance, open to all participants.
Serious contenders were a young Lucian, Marcus Sweeney, a member of the Red Fleet (13-15 year olds), considered the local champion, and his competitor and top female junior, Stephanie Lovell, another Red fleet member, who both previously participated in the Schoelcher Week. Marcus had proved his ability with two bullets and Stephanie one bullet on the first afternoon. They were closely followed by Thomas Meixner and Marc Spurway (both red fleet sailors) also strong contenders for a podium place, giving tough competition for St. Maarten’s Rhone Findlay, racing as a Blue Feet competitor (11-12 year olds).
Sunday dawned clear with a strong wind forecast, courses were particularly long and the up-wind runs challenging. For the first time, the winner was recorded as crossing the finish in less than an hour, and Rhone Findlay won with a lead of one minute, 55 seconds ahead of Marcus Sweeny and the rest.
The next three races had spectators on the edge of their seats as Rhone and Marcus fought for position at every tack, with Marcus showing his experience and competence by beating Rhône into second place in each of the next two races.
The fourth and final race of the day was a replay of the two previous battles. At the final rounding of the leeward buoy Marcus was in the lead by half a boat length but by the time they reached the finish line for the final time, victory went to Rhone. With two bullets, three seconds and two third places, the St. Maarten sailor made the podium in second place, three points behind victor Marcus Sweeny and nine points ahead of Stephanie Lovell’s well-deserved third place.
Senior coach Rob Hemming videoed most aspects of the races and organized a final de-briefing for members of the clinic, ensuring that every child benefited the very maximum from their instructive experience.
Prize-giving followed and the organizers distributed the awards and keepsakes, promising that due to the success and appreciation from all local and other country participants, the Mango Bowl 2010 will be a definite fixture on the Caribbean’s Youth Racing program.
Report and photographs from St. Lucia courtesy of Ruargh Findlay, St. Maarten Yacht Club