Sailing is all about winning, having fun and meeting new people for Trinidad's Jeffrey Chen. More importantly, it's also about 'giving back'. Chen accomplishes this by doubling as both a sailboat racer and serving as the Chief Measurer for the Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA).
Born and raised in Trinidad, Chen embarked on his sailing career in high school as a Sea Scout crewing Mirror dinghies and captaining Lasers. He later was recruited onto bigger boats where he did several deliveries to and from regattas to the north and crewed foredeck. Notable achievements include class wins with Dougie Meyers on Legacy at Antigua Sailing Week in the late 1980s, and with Mike Rostant on Moonshot in 1985 and Tim Kimpton on Crash Test Dummies in the 2001 at the Mount Gay Rum Barbados Regatta. Most recently, Chen and crew Gregory Loe, Bastien Pouthier and Chis Chan Chow aboard Chen's Melges 24, Wasabi, were awarded '2010 Boat of the Year in the Melges 24 Class' by the Trinidad & Tobago Sailing Association (TTSA).
"Those early experiences were very formative," says Chen. "They influenced my goals, my career and who I am today."
Chen left the island to attend the University of Texas where he graduated with a Master's Degree in Geology. Since then, and for the last decade, he's managed a facility in southern Trinidad that builds custom powered multihulls and most recently managed the scaffolding and access vision for Caribbean Insulation Services, Ltd.
"I feel strongly that sailing and boating in general needs to become an intrinsic part of the Caribbean people and not just an activity for visitors. In addition, I have always felt an obligation to 'give back' to the sport that had such an influence on me as a youngster," says Chen. "Contributing to regional race management and exposing as many persons as possible to the sport of sailing is my way of helping this to happen."
Chen's entry to the position of CSA Chief Measurer happened appropriately through sailing. He was out on the water one day with TTSA measurer Anthony Farrell who mentioned that he was giving up the job. Chen immediately volunteered to measure a few boats with Farrell as instructor and soon after became the CSA measurer for Trinidad.
"As the local measurer, I attended a couple of measurers' meetings and thought that I could make a difference by contributing to the improvement of the administrative part of the CSA Rule," says Chen, who succeeded David De Vries, from St Maarten, as the organization's Chief Measurer.
The CSA, an association of yacht clubs that are stakeholders in the sport of sailing in the Caribbean, actively promotes the use of its regional rating rule to enable boats to race throughout the region using a system that has been specifically tailored to the local conditions, courses and events. The CSA's Chief Measurer's job includes rule development, policy and procedure development and training.
"In 2011," says Chen, "we have launched our new multiple rating certificate. This is a new certificate format that will enable owners to measure in two different sized headsails. The objective is to offer more rating choices for the owners depending on the wind conditions. If it is windy, for example, then an owner can choose to rate with the smaller of the two headsails listed on the certificate. This must be declared at the beginning of an event or regatta, so the owners must choose wisely. Also we are continuing along our path of synchronizing our data with IRC so that we may share some of our measurement data. We are also now allowing bow pole boats to carry a standard spinnaker pole so that they can fly symmetrical spinnakers."
Chen looks forward to a busy year ahead, not only in overseeing the new rule changes but also in racing. "Our goal," he says, "will be to defend our 'Boat of the Year' title in Trinidad."
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.