Something is going right with sail training in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Both high school and college sailors are dominating major national and international competitions. We can only expect more of the same as these sailors, and the junior Opti sailors too, embark on summer vacations that will take them to the upper echelons of the sailing world.
In the last year, St. John's Max Nickbarg, a senior at Antilles School and member of the St. Thomas Yacht Club (STYC), won the Cressy Trophy or High School Singlehanded National Championship sailing Lasers in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Nickbarg is a member of the Antilles School Sailing Team that didn't just qualify – but won qualifiers – for the ISSA National High School Doublehanded Fleet Racing Championships for the Clifford Mallory Trophy, where they ultimately finished 8th out of 12 teams in 30-plus knot winds in Long Island Sound, and May's ISSA National Team Racing Championship for the Baker Trophy where they finished eighth.
"The biggest strength our team has is that they know what they need to do and do it," says Antilles School sailing coach, Kimberly Murtha. "They understand it's important to do their best in every race and that every race counts in the final score."
On the college scene, STYC sailors Cy Thompson, Thomas Barrows and Taylor Canfield have been making waves and racking up wins in New England where they sail for Roger Williams, Yale and Boston College, respectively, and in national competitions. The latest was the first weekend in May and the simultaneous East and West qualifiers for the ICSA/Gill Coed National Championship. Winning division A and B skippers in each semi-final qualifier numbered among them Thompson (A division winner in the West), Barrows (A division winner in the West), and Canfield (B division winner in the East). No other state, country or even region of the U.S. could count such a concentrated rack up of highly placed finishes as the USVI guys.
In addition, Barrows, who will graduate this year and return to Yale as assistant head sailing coach while pursuing an Olympic Laser campaign, was awarded the Senior Trophy and Sailor of the Year in the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association.
Canfield, while attending Boston College and sailing the dinghy circuit, also match raced his way to a rank of 41st (May 19, 2010) in the world. He'll head to Chicago for a third summer to both coach and compete in eight match race events all over the U.S.
Meanwhile, in the realm of Junior Sailing, Ian Barrows, Thomas' teenage brother, finished second at the Byte CII World Championships in Cannes, France, this spring. What's Barrows' comment about his near win? "Singapore next," he says.
Ian Barrows is STYC's pick to compete in the first Youth Olympic Games, to be held in Singapore, August 14 to 26. He'll be sailing a Byte. Before that, Barrows will join five other STYC sailors at the International 420 Worlds, held the last of July in Haifa, Israel. Joining him will be Ian Coyle as crew, as well as Alex Coyle as skipper with Alec Tayler as crew, and girls' team with Nikki Barnes as skipper and Agustina Barbuta as crew.
Coyle and Tayler as well as Barnes and Barbuta in the I420, and William Bailey in Lasers, will represent the U.S. Virgin Islands at the Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship, in Istanbul, Turkey, from July 8-17.
Before these two events, the Coyle brothers, Tayler, Barnes and Barbuta will attend a training clinic in Barcelona and then Coyle and Tayler and Barnes and Coyle will sail in Kiel Week in Germany, in June.
In addition to the ISAF Youth Worlds, Bailey will be competing in the Laser Radial North Americans in Galveston, the US Nationals in Milwaukee and U.S. Sailing's Youth Championships in California.
Bailey will be joined at Youth Champs by Tyler Rice, who will skipper a Club 420 with St. Croix's Billy Gibbons as crew. Rice will also sail in the Buzzards Bay Regatta and U.S. 420 Team Racing Nationals.
Rice, Bailey, and Christopher Cilliers are among the sailors that may sail in the Governor's Cup Youth Match Race in California this summer.
In the Optimist Class, five STYC sailors – Colin Brego, Nicholas Gartner, Thomas Walden, Scott McKenzie, Taylor Ladd and Christopher Murphy – will compete in the Optimist North Americans in Kingston, Canada.
The foundation for a strong future in any sport is in its youth. The STYC has built its house upon the rock with a strong and fun junior sail training program that will surely produce even more skilled sailors in years to come.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.