About 240 teenage kids from 58 countries came from all over the world to sail the 38th edition of the ISAF, International Sailing Federation, Youth Worlds, which took place in Arhus, Denmark from July 10-19. The Caribbean was represented by 5 young sailors from Trinidad & Tobago, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands and Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. Most of the young athletes knew each other from the Optimist circuit and now had an opportunity to meet each other again. Imagine more than 240 teenage kids between 15 -18 years of age from 5 continents competing on the water and having a sailors’ party afterwards! It was a lively and vibrant scene with a lot of different languages – and everyone sharing the same passion — sailing. The Youth Worlds is an extremely prestigious event resembling the Olympics for teenagers in 4 different classes: Laser, 29er, Multihull SL 16, RS:X Windsurfer.
At the opening ceremony in the center of Arhus, all sailors brought water from their home countries and mixed it together as a symbol of unity. Crown Prince Frederic of Denmark, patron of the event and an avid sailor himself, wished all sailors good luck and unforgettable memories; and Goran Peterson president of ISAF opened the event officially.
All Caribbean kids were enrolled in the Athlete Participation Programme (APP), an ISAF initiative to expand the global reach of key events by assisting with entry and travel cost for athletes from those countries who might not otherwise be able to participate in the championship. In addition to the financial aid, ISAF provided the sailors with coaching on site. Jim Saltonstall, an inspirational coach who led Ben Ainsley to his gold medal victory in the 2000 Olympics, gave them top-level coaching during the event and analyzed each day’s racing after dinner. It was amazing to see how this man, a 30-year veteran of ISAF youth coaching, motivated the sailors with his acute interpretation of the races. His enthusiasm and passion made it seem as though he were doing it for the first time.
The Caribbean Guys: Aaron, Alec & Vincent
Trinidad & Tobago was represented by 17-year-old Laser sailor Aaron Barcant who sailed a very consistent championship and finished 27th. The British Virgin Islands with only 23,000 inhabitants was proudly represented by Alec Anderson who has been sailing Laser 4.7 and Radials. He also has been doing yacht racing since he aged out of the Optimist. In Arhus, Alec had to sail the Laser Standard which was quite demanding for the light sailor and he finished 34th. Unlike the other Caribbean sailors, Vincent Pietersz from Curacao does not have a background in the Optimist and learned sailing only three years ago. Vincent had a great experience in the Laser Standard and finished 37th. Pavlos Koutidus from Cyprus managed to win the Laser title for the second time in a row and is on his way to represent Cyprus in the 2008 Olympics! The silver was won by Luke Lawrence from the USA and Sam Meech from New Zealand took Bronze.
Caribbean girls: Mimi & Philipine
Mayumi Roller better known as Mimi, from the tiny island of St. John represented the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Girls One Person Dinghy, the Laser Radial. Mimi has been sailing Laser 4.7 and Laser Radial since she left the Optimist in 2005. She was also campaigning for the Olympics and sails 420 in high school. Weighing only 52 kilos, Mimi hoped for light winds in Denmark. Considering that the winds were often strong, she did remarkably well and ended in 25th position. Since children in Curacao move from the Optimist to the Splash, Philipine van Aanholt was sailing the Laser Radial for the first time. She finished a very respectable 30th out of 40 girls. Most important, she enjoyed the event enormously. From now on, she will sail both Splash and Laser Radial. The top three girls in the Laser Radial fleet were: Gabrielle King from Australia, Susana Romero from Spain and Cushla Hume-Merry from New Zealand.
Next year, the ISAF Youth Worlds will be held in Brazil. The Caribbean sailors who participated in Denmark will definitely try to qualify again because it is quite an honor to represent your country at this prestigious youth sailing event. After all, who doesn’t want to be part of high-level competition with compatriots from all over the world while doing what you love? Sailing and having fun!