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The British Virgin Islands Watersports Centre

Nothing is
more important to our islands than the education of our youth. Colin &
Alison Bramble have lived in the BVI for almost a decade and during that time
have dedicated their talents towards the teaching of water sports. Recognizing
the need for a year-round facility operated solely for the benefit of the BVI
community, they recently opened the BVI Watersports Centre with its HQ at
Manuel Reef and satellite bases at East End, Brewers Bay and Jost Van Dyke.

“We firmly believe that BVIWSC should
provide and maintain a credible, safe and enjoyable environment for students,
of all ages, for the purposes of pleasure, certification and potential
employment in the Marine Industry and for the training of athletes representing
the BVI in local, national and international sailing events.”

The International President of the Royal
Yachting Association (RYA), HRH Princess Anne The Princess Royal of the UK,
officially opened the BVI Watersports Centre in February – thus making it the
first RYA Training Centre to offer the full National Sailing Scheme in the
Caribbean. RYA Chairman, Eddie Ramsden MBE, and his wife Jean, also visited
Tortola for the celebrations and continue to take a keen interest in the
developments here.

Colin and Alison have considerable
experience in running similar centers and have proven records in training
Assistant, Full & Senior RYA Instructors and coaching sailors of all ages,
both in the BVI and in the UK. The center began in January 2004 with the
formation of Sailon (BVI), a launching vehicle for the operation –to instruct
youth groups, high school students and adults in sailing, kayaking, swimming,
snorkeling and power boat handling. The Manuel Reef location was made possible
by generous donations received from John Richardson and Ali Bascher with
considerable help from the Mark Simmonds family, owners of the Marina, and from
Nanny Cay Marina – suppliers of the floating dock equipment and other
materials.

Through these combined efforts, the center
has established a basic fleet and infrastructure from which to safely operate.
With the full blessing of the BVI government, The BVI Watersports Centres
Limited is now a registered non-profit company generating its funding from
tuition fees, private and commercial sponsorships and soon expects to receive
official annual government contributions. Currently, applications are being
made to professional sailing organizations for help towards equipment and
training costs.

A
separate Trust ‘The Noble Harty Foundation’ administered by the appointed board
of Trustees has been formed for the purpose of issuing scholarships for
international events, individual coaching and the acquisitions of equipment.
The foundation has already established US Charitable credibility and has 501(3)
taxation exemption status. The foundation was named in commemoration of two
teenagers tragically killed in a boating accident during a sailing vacation in
the BVI last year.

The work that Colin and Alison have done so
far on behalf of the community has already resulted in a board that reads like
a “Who’s Who” of Tortolans. These supporters are now ultimately responsible for
ensuring the wellbeing and lasting future of the organization.

The center also has the advantage of using
sailing vessels and equipment available from many charter companies in the BVI
and access to the Sunsail Antigua base & RYA facilities and resources in
the UK. Ministry of Education & Culture Director of Youth Affairs & Sports,
Mr. Robert Chalwell, last year arranged a summer program providing for
approximately 400 BVI children to experience the facilities at different venues
around Tortola, Sea Cows bay, East End (Trellis Bay) and Cane Garden Bay,
Brewers Bay and Jost Van Dyke. This Easter, an additional 27 children from Jost
Van Dyke took part in a weeklong watersports program operated by the center at
Diamond Cay. Recently, a new group of ‘special needs’ students started regular
training courses at the center, arranged through the education department and
are known as ‘Sailability BVI’.

Colin quoted to me a recent headline from
an RYA Magazine article stating “We see no disabilities, only possibilities”.
However, it is the granting of RYA accreditation that will enable the center to
issue the internationally recognized RYA certification to students undertaking
specific, practical training courses that promises to make the center a
destined success.

For Colin & Alison, the on-going
accreditation training, as well as preparing individuals and groups for
potential employment within the BVI’s Marine Industry, and work programs for
young BV Islanders, remains top priority. With water safety and great
instruction for safe enjoyment of the waters surrounding the British Virgin
Islands, the BVIWSC is destined, not only to be a success, by to well serve the
needs of the BVI Community.

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