The Caribbean will be well represented at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games (YOG). At least six of the island’s junior sailors will compete in this multi-sport event of which the sailing portion will take place on Jinniu Lake in Nanjing, China, from August 18 to 23. This isn’t the first time the region’s sailors have taken part in these Games. In fact, the USVI’s Ian Barrows earned a Gold Medal sailing the Boy’s Byte CII in 2010. The 2014 YOG will feature four classes: Boys and Girls Byte CII and Techno 293 Windsurfers.
“The Byte CII is not sailed very much in the Caribbean, so this has been a challenge,” explains the USVI’s Scott McKenzie, who has wanted to defend the territory’s title at the YOG ever since Barrows brought home the Gold. “It was hard to learn an entirely new boat in a few months, but with the right training I was able to do it and to earn a berth to the Games at the North American Byte CII Championship in Florida in March.”
Trinidad & Tobago’s Abigail Affoo, who qualified for the YOG at the same event as McKenzie, says, “The Byte CII is very different from a Laser or Optimist because of the high performance sail and adjustments necessary to make it go fast.”
Celeste Lugtmeijer, who will represent the Dominican Republic at the YOG after qualifying at the 2013 Byte World Championships, agrees and adds, “Everything is different about Bytes and Optis; the shape of the sail, it’s material, the haul, the sailing technique, the traveler, the functioning of the controls. I mean some great Opti sailors are terrible Byte sailors and vice versa.”
The Byte CII may be perfect for the conditions expected at the YOG venue.
St. Lucia’s Luc Chevrier, who qualified for the YOG at the St. Lucian National Championship in Laser 4.7 last June, explains, “The Byte has tremendous acceleration, and although it is very tippy, it is very easy to steer. It is as if you are hovering over the water. It’s a perfect boat for light winds due to its full battened main sail and carbon fiber mast.”
These young sailors are employing a variety of training techniques to prepare them for the YOG.
The BVI’s Sam Morrell explains, “I will be trying to train in areas with light and shifty conditions like Long Island Sound or on a lake in Canada over the summer. The regatta venue is a lake three hours inland of Shanghai. By what I’ve heard the venue will be light and shifty.”
Working out on land is one way the USVI’s Paige Clarke, who like McKenzie, Affoo and Morrell qualified at the Byte CII North American Championships, will train. “I’m working out with a trainer one to two times per week and running to build strength and endurance so as to work the boat properly. I also plan to compete in some Laser and Byte regattas over the summer before the Games.”
The YOG are not the culmination of these sailors’ careers, but a stepping stone towards the future.
The BVI’s Morrell explains, “After I qualified, I sat down to decide what I wanted to do after the Youth Olympic Games. I talked with my Dad about buying a 29er and starting an ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships campaign, then hopefully start an Olympic campaign in the 49er with my crew.”
Puerto Rican Laser sailor Juan ‘Juanky’ Perdomo, who won a Gold medal at the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship last year in Cyprus, has been named an Athlete Role Model for this summer’s YOG. Perdomo will play a key role in supporting, mentoring and offering advice to the 100 young sailors who will be competing.
In the meantime, the USVI’s Barrows offers some sage advice from his personal experience and success. “It is a very long regatta, so take it one race at a time,” Barrows recommends. “Be consistent, and remember it’s about having fun; but stay focused on your sailing.”
For more information, visit: www.nanjing2014.org