St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Record-setting is the perfect way to describe the largest junior sailing regatta in the U.S. Virgin Islands and in the Caribbean. A first-time ever 127 8- to 15-year-olds representing 15 countries will set sail in the 20th Anniversary Scotiabank International Optimist Regatta, June 22 to June 24. That’s not all! An all-time high of 78 sailors competed in the pre-regatta Sea Star Clinic June 18 to 20 and record 15 teams raced in the Sea Star Team Racing Championships on June 21.
“Unbelievable and beautiful” is how St. Thomas’ Henry Menin, who is now chairman of the International Sailing Federation’s Match Racing Committee, describes the growth of a regatta that he and former St. Thomas Yacht Club junior sailing instructor, Karen Paige, founded two decades ago. “The regatta happened because it needed to happen. There was fertile ground for junior sailing to take hold here and in the whole of the Caribbean,” Menin says.
The Scotiabank International Optimist Regatta is an event that has grown exponentially, and welcomed hundreds of international sailors over the years, yet it’s a regatta that has literally stayed in the family too. Trinidad & Tobago’s Joe Affoo, for example, is back for his 17th year. Affoo first came with his three sons and now with 13-year-old daughter Abigail, who participated in the Sea Star Clinic.
“I had a lot of fun in the clinic,” says Affoo. “Best of all I was able to improve my starts and get accustomed to racing in bigger fleets.”
The clinic was run by internationally-recognized coaches from OptiSailors.com, who included St. Thomas Yacht Club Coach, Agustin ‘Argy’ Resano; Gonzalo ‘Bocha’ Pollitzer, Manuel ‘Manny’ Resano and Esteban ‘Pilo’ Rocha from Optisailors.com, Eric Bardes from Team FOR (Florida Ocean Racing), Santiago Galan, US Virgin Islands team coach and Justine O’Connor, and USA team coach.
Fifteen teams of five sailors each took to the seas off St. Thomas’ east end to compete in the Sear Star Team Racing Championships on June 21. At the conclusion, it was the USA Worlds Team, made up of Roman Screve, Ivan Shestopalov, Wiley Rogers, Nic Muller and Will Logue, which emerged victorious.
“It’s difficult racing in cold water but we acclimated better here and I think that helped us,” says Screve, from California.
“Working as a team,” is how Miller, from Florida, described the reason for the team’s success.
For Will Logue, from Connecticut, “it was the breeze here. I love the winds in the Virgin Islands.”
“Not getting into any problems,” is Florida-based Shestopalov’s winning explanation.
Finally, Wiley Rogers from Texas, added, “We worked well together and it was a solid winning combination.”
Rogers is the 2011 Scotiabank International Optimist Regatta champion. He’s ready for the challenge of defending his title.
“I’m training for the World Championships in the Dominican Republic in July and I just want to improve and do as well as I can,” says Rogers.
Keith McSwain, District Manager of Sea Star Line, says, “Sea Star Line is very pleased to sponsor the 2012 Sea Star Line Clinic & Team Race for the fifth consecutive year. Because we believe lessons learned on the water are life changing, we take great pride in promoting the youth in events that help them build a sense of self-confidence, purpose and discipline in an environment where sportsmanship is as important as just having fun.”
The 20th Annual Scotiabank International Optimist Regatta gets underway Friday. Sailors representing Antigua, the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, Curacao, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Russia, Spain, St. Maarten, Trinidad & Tobago, the USA and USVI will compete in this three-day regatta that ends Sunday.
Lawrence A. Aqui, vice president of Scotiabank for the U.S. Virgin Islands, says, “Scotiabank has been a strong supporter of the International Optimist Regatta since the very beginning, some 20 years ago. As a title sponsor of this annual event, through our global philanthropic vision, the Scotiabank Bright Future Program, we bring together the passion of our employees, the insight of our partners and the spirit of our community. Scotiabank believes in the importance of encouraging kids to get active and involved in sports. It helps them lead healthy lifestyles, improves self-esteem, and fosters a sense of belonging.”
In addition to the hi-caliber racing, shoreside activities included tonight’s Parade of Nations and Welcome Party, as well as a Caribbean-themed night that include fire blowers and finally a beachside barbecue and Awards Ceremony scheduled for 3 p.m. on Sunday June 24th.
Trophies will be awarded to the top five finishers in each fleet and top three overall. Additional trophies include the Peter Ives’ Perpetual Trophy, the Chuck Fuller Sportsmanship Award and the Top Female sailor.