“It was some of the best and most exciting racing we’ve ever had,” said Tom Gerker, about the 2007 Chief Minister’s Youth Regatta Cup, sailed July 7 and 8 out of Tortola, British Virgin Islands. “This was due to the fact that we didn’t have a team that was clearly dominant. St. Thomas was the best team. But they did not completely dominate as they, or St. Croix, have in the past. During much of the racing St. Croix and Antigua both had good chances of contending.”
Gerker organized the event for many years and, describing what makes the annual racing special, says, “The Chief Minister’s Cup is the only youth ‘team’ sailing event that I’m aware of in the Caribbean. The idea for the event came from the now defunct Governor’s Cup held in St. Thomas. We noted that the kids were just starting to get to know each other by the end of the day. Then, they wouldn’t see each other for another year, if ever at all. So, a big part of the event is to establish friendships as well as competition and hopefully develop relationships between countries that will last a lifetime.”
Six teams—St. Thomas, Tortola, St. Croix, Puerto Rico, Antigua and Anguilla—competed in this 9th annual event. Racing took place in IC-24s on windward-leeward courses off Nanny Cay Marina, host site for the event. The Tent Village for all teams set up on the grounds of Nanny Cay Marina added to the fun, noted this year’s event coordinator, John Lewis. “All participants were closer and bonding was quicker.”
Tyler Rice, skipper of the St. Thomas team and a first-time entrant to the Chief Minister’s Cup says, “We were a new crew. I mean, we are all pretty good sailors and we had all sailed on ICs before, but we hadn’t all sailed together as a team before.”
A bullet in the first race put the other teams on notice that the St. Thomas team wasn’t to be discounted. Rice continues, “I didn’t make the majority of the calls. The crew made the decisions. It was a real team effort. All of our smarts, skills and strengths all came together. I just sailed the boat as fast as I could.”
Each team member contributed to the win, Rice says. “Addison (Hackstaff) is an 11-year-old Optimist sailor. He’s good and he called our lay line.” He adds, “It was good to have a girl on our team. We guys would get joking and Sarah (Burks) would yell at us to ‘focus’. That really helped too.”
Team St. Thomas members were Rice, Hugo Roller, William Bailey, Addison Hackstaff, Sara Burkes and Rian Bareuther. Christine Thompson served as coach.
The end tally on the scoreboard showed St. Thomas with 23 points, Tortola 30 points, St. Croix 39 points, Puerto Rico 50 points, Antigua 56 points and Anguilla 75 points. Team St. Thomas made it a 5-peat by winning, breaking a tie with St. Croix, who finished third this year and who won the first four editions.
Next year, says Lewis, “We would like to have participation from the Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and St. John.”
The Chief Minister’s Youth Regatta Cup is hosted by the Rotary Clubs of the BVI, whose members welcome the kids, transport them, feed them, house them, supply them with boats, and fix the boats when they break. Many Rotary Clubs in participating teams’ home islands sponsor the junior sailors’ airfare to Tortola.