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Anguilla’s Young Sailors Learn from a Professional

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The Anguilla Youth Sailing Association (AYSC) accepted an invitation to participate in a sailboat racing seminar hosted by the Sint Maarten Yacht Club on April 14.  Five members of the AYSC racing team attended the clinic led by professional sailor Phil Harmer, a member of team ABN AMRO, which won the 2005-2006 Volvo Ocean Race (VOR).

The VOR is an illustrious ‘round the world yacht race which stops in nine ports during the circumnavigation.  Sailors undergo a severe test of psychological and physical endurance as they ceaselessly exert themselves with little rest and can be at sea for up to one month at a time. Mr. Harmer was a helmsman and trimmer and helped bring ABN AMRO victory over her six competitors.  The team also raced to First Place in Spinnaker 1 Class at the 2007 St. Maarten Regatta.

The professional sailor gave the young sailors a tour of ABN AMRO—an ultra high tech boat made from carbon fiber and designed as a sleek, light racer.  All were impressed with the hydraulic canting keel which tilts the boat on a steep angle.  The young, up-and-coming racers even got a chance to try their hand at using the grinders which allow the crew to trim the gigantic sails.

Harmer conducted a question and answer session for the youth, who were eager to know all about what it is like being a professional sailor.  He was quick to point out that the lifestyle certainly has hardships including being away from family for years at a time, eating tasteless freeze-dried food, and often sleeping for only two hours each night while competing.  All of the young sailors’ ears perked up, however, when he told them that some professional sailors earn a salary of over $35,000 per month.

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Following the question and answer session, the kids each rigged their own Optimist dingy and launched off the dock at SMYC, closely followed by Harmer at the helm of a Laser.  He guided the pack of boats around the lagoon, where they played follow the leader, and gave the kids a variety of tips about how to maximize boat speed.  The highlight of the session came when the pro capsized his Laser.  There was lots of laughter and plenty of smiles throughout the day, exhibiting the positive influence sailing is having on the youth of the region.

AYSC has a fleet of eight Optimists.  We hope to continue to grow and help the youth of Anguilla reach the next level of sailing expertise.  The club has been raising funds to purchase a new fleet of boats that will be more suitable than the Optimist for older, heavier sailors.  One possibility is the Laser, a high performance, Olympic-class boat.  Another desirable option is the 420 or RS Feva, double- handed sloop rigged dinghies that fly a spinnaker.  Our goal is to purchase at least five boats in the upcoming months, increase the number of youth we can reach, and allow our experienced sailors to graduate to larger and faster boats.

Members of the AYSC racing team will be competing in several regattas around the Leeward Islands in the coming months, including St. Barth, St. Martin, and Anguilla, allowing the young sailors to make practical use out of the new knowledge they gained from the racing clinic at SMYC.

Sailing can be used as a method to foster discipline, respect, perseverance and team work.  We would like to see the youth of Anguilla excel in the national sport of their country and go on to travel and compete globally.  The sport can open up a great number of doors where opportunity awaits, including scholarships to sail at universities in the USA, jobs teaching the sport to others, and the chance to compete as a professional—whether in a single handed dinghy or on a 70-foot carbon fiber wonder boat alongside Phil Harmer.

For further information regarding AYSC or to make a donation, please contact the director, Ryan Kuja, at 265-584-SAIL

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So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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