Nineteen-year-old Stephanie Devaux-Lovell has two clear goals. First, to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics in the Laser Radial. Secondly, and even closer to her heart, is to win her home island of St. Lucia it’s first-ever Olympic medal. Devaux-Lovell’s sailing achievements to date put her well on the road to accomplishing both ambitions.
A friendly rivalry with her brother launched Devaux-Lovell into the sport of sailing at age eight. “We were very competitive and I wanted to do whatever he did,” she says.
Devaux-Lovell and her brother started lessons at the St. Lucia Yacht Club. Michael Camps, who volunteered his time each Saturday, taught the two and other children to sail the Optimist dinghy.
“I wasn’t serious about sailing when I was in the Optimist, it was more about having fun. Tennis is what I played competitively. However, I did go to some regattas. The biggest was Optimist North Americans in Kingston, Ontario, in 2010. All that changed when I received a wild card into the Youth Olympics in Singapore. That’s when my career in sailboat racing really began.” she says.
The teen sailed in the Girl’s Byte CII class and finished a respectable 23rd in a field of 32 in what was her most competitive international regatta to date. This experience is what inspired her to aim for a spot and a medal in the adult Olympics. Back home, she jumped into a Laser 4.7 and started sailing for several hours every day.
A few of Devaux-Lovell’s best Laser 4.7 results were winning the class at Schoelcher Week in Martinique and finishing second overall and first girl in a fleet of 72 at the UK National and Open Laser Championships in 2011. In 2014, and in the Laser Radial, she qualified for the Gold Fleet at the ISAF Youth World Championships and finished fourth at the Caribbean Central American Games. So far this year, Devaux-Lovell has traveled the world to compete and hone her skills. She’s raced in the USA’s ISAF Sailing World Cup in Miami, the Garda Trentino Olympic Week in Italy, the Delta Lloyd Regatta in the Netherlands and Pan American Games in Canada. Next up is the Laser Radial World Championships in Oman, which are an Olympic qualifier.
“I feel like I have a natural talent for sailing. I’m happiest on the water, especially when completely surrounded by the natural beauty of St. Lucia, which has ideal sailing conditions. When I’m not training, I enjoy sailing aboard J24s. I like these boats because it’s very sociable. Almost every year I try to compete in St. Lucia’s J24 Nationals and the Mango Bowl Regatta as well as in the Bequia Easter Regatta.”
Sailing is Devaux-Lovell’s entire life right now. She has taken two years off from university and trains daily with gym sessions in the morning followed by sailing for several hours and a cool down run in the evening. When she’s not on the water, she’s biking, kitesurfing or swimming.
What advice does Devaux-Lovell have for Caribbean junior sailors who would like to follow in her footsteps?
“Just because you live on a small island nation and face many challenges such as lack of competition, funding and sometimes the proper coaching you need, once you have the drive and determination to keep training and to keep pushing yourself then nothing else really matters. Once you have a dream there is nothing and no one standing in your way but yourself. So keep sailing and keep believing.”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.