Parents like to steer their kids into worthwhile activities. Kids just wanna have fun. These two goals definitely converge when it comes to sailing. All At Sea asked several of the record-setting 96 kids from 14 countries competing in the June 20-22 Scotiabank International Optimist Regatta, hosted out of the St. Thomas Yacht Club, just why they liked sailing. Their answers are both ordinary and extraordinary.
“Going fast, especially downwind. That’s what I like best. You can just chill and not really have to do anything,” says St. Thomas’ C’Quan DeQuental, who has only been sailing for six months.
Liesl Brewster, who’s sailed out of the Barbados Yacht Club for the past two years says, "I like being on the water; the whole atmosphere of the wind and waves. And, the fact that I’m in control of my own boat."
Anguilla’s Kenny Richardson agrees and adds, “My family and most of the families on Anguilla sail local boats. They’re big and the crew often bosses the skipper around. I like Optimist sailing because there’s no crew and no one bosses me around.”
Abigail Affoo, from Trinidad, was one of the youngest and smallest sailors of the regatta. Her trip to St. Thomas marked the first time she sailed outside her home island waters. “I like the challenge,” she says.
Fellow countryman, Derek Poon-Tip, likes competition. “I really like competing. It’s fun when I can beat someone.”
There’s not much wind where Marie Jose Cucalon lives in Ecuador. Traveling to many destinations has offered her practice in windy conditions, experience that underscored why she won this Caribbean Sailing Association-sanctioned regatta and earned the title 2008 Caribbean Optimist Champion. “I like to travel. Sailing has taken me all over the world and now I have friends all over the world.”
Kelly-Ann Arrindell, from Trinidad, also likes the traveling aspect to sailing. “It’s fun,” she says. “I’ve been to Tobago, Bequia, Martinique and now St. Thomas – all through sailing.”
Donte Hodge will be headed with his team from the Royal British Virgin Islands’ Yacht Club to Curacao, and, he says, “It’s traveling and meeting new people that I like best about sailing.”
The Dominican Republic’s Sebastian Bros enjoys the fact he’s gotten to meet so many people from all over the world and sail in every kind of condition. “I like meeting new people when I go to international regattas. I’ve been to Sardinia, Uruguay, Puerto Rico and Mexico and next to Curacao and Turkey. The traveling has also let me experience almost every condition, great big winds, middle winds and almost no winds. I like all conditions now.”
Friends are an important part of why Puerto Rico’s Victor Rodriguez sails. Rodriguez won the regatta’s beginner Green Fleet on a near tiebreaker over his good friend. He says, “It was really tight between me and my friend Jorge (Gonzalez) to win. I felt bad for him when I beat him and I was happy for him when he did well. It’s hard to see your friend lose, even if you’re winning.”
Rhone Findlay, from St. Maarten, likes sailing because it’s “natural. There’s no motor. It’s just the wind and what you do to make the boat go.”
The BVI’s Jonathan Woods, who has followed in his families’ and brothers’ wake when it comes to sailing, agrees. “Sailing helps the environment. You’re on your own power, there’s no power from a motor.”
Sailing is more than a sport; it’s therapeutic for Puerto Rico’s Ivan Aponte. “It clears my mind,” he says. “If I have a bad day at school or a problem, I just go out and sail. I feel better and the problem goes away by the time I reach back to shore.”
If you’re living on an island, concludes St. Thomas’ Addison Hackstaff, “there’s no better sport than sailing.”
There is simply nothing like being able to pilot your own craft at the age of 9 years old. Riding a bike is one thing. Skillfully steering and docking a sailboat is quite another.