In a remarkable ceremony on July 28th, a group of 22 talented students aged 13-18 proudly graduated from the Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association (VIPCA) Junior Sailing Program. The event, hosted at the St. Thomas Yacht Club (STYC) near Red Hook, marked the culmination of a month-long journey where these young sailors honed their skills and discovered their passion for the sea. With a blend of education, fun, and family participation, the program offered an unforgettable experience that will forever be cherished by the graduates and their loved ones. Sponsored by RapierMed, a locally based medical and healthcare investments group, VIPCA’s Junior Sailing Program is dedicated to empowering the youth and nurturing the future leaders of the Virgin Islands’ marine tourism sector. Let’s dive into the inspiring journey of these young mariners as they set sail towards a brighter future.
Setting Sail for Success:
On a sunny day in July, the Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association (VIPCA) witnessed a proud moment as 22 students graduated from their esteemed Junior Sailing Program. These young sailors, aged 13-18, embarked on a thrilling adventure that not only taught them the art of sailing but also instilled in them the values of discipline, teamwork, and perseverance. Held at the picturesque St. Thomas Yacht Club (STYC), near the vibrant Red Hook area, the graduation ceremony was a testament to the hard work and dedication of both the students and their instructors.
From Swim Lessons to Sailing Mastery:
Before taking to the open waters, the students participated in a month of swimming lessons, a crucial skill for any aspiring sailor. Guided by the St. Thomas Swimming Association, the teenagers gained confidence and proficiency in the water, laying the foundation for their upcoming sailing journey. Once the swimming lessons were completed, the students were ready to embark on the next phase of their maritime education.
Fun-Packed Days of Sailing:
Under the expert guidance of the St. Thomas Sailing Center, the students spent 10 exhilarating days learning to sail aboard IC24s and Hobie Cats. These hands-on sailing experiences were filled with excitement and joy, as the young mariners honed their navigational skills and learned the ins and outs of handling a boat. What made these days even more special was the presence of their families – parents, siblings, cousins, and even grandparents – who joined them for the final sail, creating unforgettable memories on the azure waters.
A Comprehensive Curriculum:
VIPCA’s Junior Sailing Program not only focused on practical skills but also ensured a well-rounded education in all aspects of sailing. The students received instruction both on land and at sea, covering topics such as understanding the various parts of a boat, mastering navigation skills, reading weather conditions, and grasping safety basics. Of course, the heart of the program was the sheer thrill of sailing itself, as the students took the helm and felt the wind guiding them across the waves.
Sponsorship by RapierMed:
The success of VIPCA’s Junior Sailing Program is attributed in part to the generous sponsorship of RapierMed, a locally based medical and healthcare investments group. With a firm belief in the power of education and the potential of the Virgin Islands’ youth, RapierMed took the initiative to support VIPCA’s efforts in shaping the future of the territory’s marine tourism sector. As Trey Goldsmith, Chief Operating Officer, and General Counsel for RapierMed, LLC, rightly emphasized, familiarity with ocean-going vessels and life on the water is crucial in continuing the rich tradition of marine expertise in the Virgin Islands.
A Bridge to the Future:
Graduation day was not the end of the journey for the young sailors; it was a new beginning. All those who completed VIPCA’s Junior Sailing Summer Program were extended a warm invitation to participate in a year-round after-school sailing program at STYC. This opportunity allows them to further develop their seafaring and sailing skills, as they continue to explore the wonders of sailing aboard IC24s and Hobie Cats. Thanks to the sponsorship by IGY Marinas, this after-school program is offered free of charge to all graduates of the Junior Sailing Summer Program.
A Legacy of Maritime Excellence:
VIPCA takes great pride in nurturing and supporting the next generation of sailors and maritime professionals. Over the years, the association has graduated a total of 44 juniors, including the recent batch of 22 accomplished students. The journey of maritime education at VIPCA starts young and extends to the senior level. Among the recent graduates, VIPCA proudly celebrated the accomplishments of twelve 18-29 year-olds who completed the four-week VIPCA Marine Apprenticeship on July 14th.
Mentorship and Scholarships:
One of the most distinguishing features of VIPCA’s programs is the mentorship and scholarship opportunities offered to the graduates. The association is committed to guiding these young Virgin Islands sailors towards rewarding careers as captains and crew members in the marine industry. To support this, VIPCA raises funding to sponsor their USCG OUPV (Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels) Captains certifications. Thanks to the backing provided by IGY Marinas and the Island Foundation, numerous past apprentice graduates have already been awarded their captain’s licenses, paving the way for a prosperous future.
A Vision for the Future:
Oriel Blake, Executive Director of VIPCA, expressed her enthusiasm for continuing the organization’s mission of supporting and advancing the career prospects of Virgin Islanders in the marine industry. The impact of VIPCA’s programs is evident in the passion and dedication seen in the students, and this is only possible through the valuable contributions of the St. Thomas Yacht Club and its Sailing Center staff. Whether the students are introduced to sailing at a young age or during their senior years, the club’s supportive environment and expert guidance ensure the success of their boating journey.
Celebrating the Graduates:
As we celebrate the accomplishments of these young mariners, let’s take a moment to applaud the achievements of the senior graduates and junior graduates. Their names echo with promise, determination, and a bright future in the maritime world:
Senior Graduates: Charles Jones, Jayaire Dawson Henry, Kalan Bernier, Ayanna Remie, Clemrick Bryan, Kiernan Corbett, Elijah Rabsatt, Chervaunté Lewis, Kemio Andrews, Jevon Browne, Alewdys Peguero, and Ameda Smith.
Junior Graduates: Aden Stapleton, Ajoni Stapleton, Ana Maria Fuertes, Angel Carrion, Arianna Fuertes, Cameéra O’Neal, Jaden sweet, Jayden Brown, Kaj Baron, Keony Ambo-Garrett, Makisha