Sam Morrell has scored some impressive wins regionally and top ten finishes internationally in the Optimist. Now, the 13-year-old junior sailor has set his sights on representing the British Virgin Islands in the Byte at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in 2014.
Sailing with his family from the time he could walk, and windsurfing with his father Andy Morrell, organizer of the annual Highland Spring HIHO, since toddlerhood, Sam launched off on his own sailing career at age six following in the wake of his older brother, Josh.
“When I first started sailing I was sort of skeptical because I used to play a lot of soccer, but I pushed through it,” Sam explains. “Today, I have sailed all around the world – Argentina, Chile and North America.”
Some of Sam’s most impressive finishes in the Optimist include 1st place in the St. Maarten Optimist Championships, a tie for 1st in the singlehanded division of the Antigua Fun Cup, 4th overall in the Scotiabank International Optimist Regatta, and 5th in Blue Fleet and 20th overall in the Optimist New England Championships, all in 2011.
Internationally, he won a race in the South American Optimist Championships in Argentina in 2012 and finished overall in the top quarter of the fleet.
One fun story in the Optimist shows the depths of Sam’s competitive drive. In his first regatta, the San Juan International in Puerto Rico, he was in the Green Fleet and before the start of the first race asked the race officer if they could wait while he sailed back to the dock to get gloves. They race officer answered ‘no’, so Sam started the race, then rounded the weather mark and headed straight to the dock, got his gloves on and then hopped back into the boat and finished the race.
Sam plans to finish his last year of eligibility in the Optimist by competing in either the South American Championships in Brazil or Worlds in Italy. In the meantime, he took delivery of a Byte CII in November.
“I first got the idea of sailing the Byte when my Dad told me about Youth Olympics,” Sam explains. “I plan to train for the Youth Olympics by sailing my Byte through the week and Opti’s on the weekend. My Dad influences me to cross train so I play squash and windsurf too.”
While Sam hasn’t has much Laser experience (the Byte is a cross between a Laser and an Open BIC), he has sailed a lot in the Open BIC. He will spend this summer sailing at the American Yacht Club on Long Island Sound where he will get light air Laser and Byte experience. This will be a real asset as light air is expected on the lake in Shanghai, China, where the sailing portion of the 2014 YOG will be held.
“My advice for younger sailors is to never give up,” says Sam. “Always try your hardest.”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.