It was the awards banquet for the 2009 ICSA College Sailing National Championship in San Francisco and Thomas Barrows had just accepted the Allan Trophy for winning A division in fleet racing. His team, the Yale Elis, had placed second overall, behind St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
After thanking his teammates, coaches and all the competitors for a great regatta, Thomas turned to walk off the stage. Just as he got to the stairs, he paused and rushed back to the podium. “I also want to thank all my VI boys; Cy [Thompson], Taylor [Canfield] and Nate [Rosenberg]. I grew up sailing with them in the Virgin Islands, and if it wasn’t for you guys, I wouldn’t be here today. Thank you. ” With that, he exited the stage to a round of applause and a few shouts of “VI Massive,” which could be heard coming from various sections of the room.
The 2009 “Nationals” offered a satisfying end to the collegiate sailing year for the six kids from the Caribbean who took part in the competition. Serving as the final regatta of the school year, the regatta is held at a different venue every year, and is comprised of three three-day events: women’s fleet racing, coed team racing, and coed fleet racing. This year’s location for fleet racing, right in front of the prestigious St. Francis Yacht Club, allowed those who had grown up in the islands to showcase what they knew best: sailing in big breeze with a lot of chop.
Aside from Barrows’ big win in A division, Cy Thompson, who sails for the Roger Williams Hawks, received third in B division, and Taylor Canfield, Marco-Teixidor Latimer, and Nathan Rosenberg all made appearances for their teams over the course of the regatta. They were able to contribute their knowledge to their teams’ successes. As Thomas put it, “In college I learned more about boat handling, and how important it is, especially in light, shifty conditions and flat water. At home we get pretty good breeze and big waves, so I came in knowing a lot about downwind boat speed and surfing waves, which was definitely helpful at nationals this year.”
Both Barrows and Thompson were named All-Americans, and Canfield received an Honorable Mention.
The team racing portion of the event was held separately in a protected cove off of Treasure Island, and the Boston College Eagles, who counted sophomore and native St. Thomian Taylor Canfield among their top skippers, took first place. In fact every team with a Caribbean sailor made it to the final four, including the third place Georgetown Hoyas who had their very own Caribbean boat of Marco Teixidor-Latimer and Andrea Bailey, and the Yale Elis, who were led by Barrows.
These kids are used to seeing each other at the top, though. Besides the Virgin Islanders, Marco, who is from Puerto Rico, would come over to St. Thomas for some of the bigger regattas. When asked if competing against each other in college was different than competing against each other as individuals, the answer was a definite no.
“We’re still very competitive with each other. We race really hard, but at the same time we have a lot of fun and are able to be really close friends off the water,” Barrows said. Taylor Canfield agreed, adding “It’s a little different because there’s less of an individual aspect to it. You’re on a team, so you’re not always sailing but you’re supporting your team no matter what, and doing whatever you can to help them get better. But it’s also always good to see our guys do well. If my team isn’t going to win, I want to see one of them win.”
Because they all go to school on the East Coast, everyone gets to see each other a lot as well, which keeps the spirit of camaraderie going strong. Canfield, Barrows, Thompson and Rosenberg all attend schools in New England, so they see one another almost every weekend for conference regattas. Canfield even found a summer job for Thompson; they’re working together as coaches at the Chicago Yacht Club. “It’s going to be sweet, we get to travel together and do regattas together all summer” he said. So even though these boys aren’t practicing hard together in the warm blue waters of the Caribbean, they still talk “at least once a week.” When you’re making it home for maybe a few weeks a year, it’s nice to be able to keep in touch with friends who know where you come from.
Andrea Bailey is a recent graduate of the College of Liberal Arts at Georgetown University, Washington, DC and a former collegiate sailor who has returned to her home island of St. Thomas.