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The BVI’s 2016 Olympic Hopefuls – Anderson Brockbank

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Anderson/Brockbank – Ride to Rio

Photography by Shannon Gore

On a breezy, sun-dappled Saturday afternoon at Nanny Cay, sailors of all ages showed up for a chance to ride along with BVI Olympic sailing hopefuls Alec Anderson and Chris Brockbank on their 49er—a high-performance racing dinghy.

When it is out of the water, before the sails have been hoisted, the 49er looks more like a paper airplane than a sailboat with its flat hull and white wings on either side. On the water, its aquadynamic design is boosted by its main, jib, and spinnaker, allowing the skiff to skim the waves like a seagull or a flying fish.

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After Chris and Alec showed off their world-class sailing skills by doing a few laps around the Channel (they ranked 9th overall at the Junior World Championships in July), they invited the life-jacket and rash-vest wearing kids on board for a fast and wet ride in the white-capped turquoise sea. With each ride, the smiles got bigger, and the kids got wetter. At one point, Alec and Chris had seven kids aboard, but it didn’t seem to slow down the 49er as they tacked across the Channel. After the kids had their fun at pretending to be Olympians, a few more experienced seamen climbed aboard—not all at once—and got to try their hands as crew while Alec helmed. aLookingGlass CEO Colin Rathbun went for a spin which resulted in some silly sailing with the boat almost turning turtle.

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The day, which included a party on the beach with a barbecue and drinks provided by the team for a small contribution, was part of the Anderson/Brockbank Sailing Team’s campaign debrief—an opportunity for the young men to update their supporters on their spring and summer sailing endeavours in Europe and give their fans an opportunity to buy their swanky sailing gear.

The most recent leg of their European tour included the aforementioned Junior World Championships in Aarhaus, Denmark, where they placed 9th overall.

Coach Chris Watters said, “I was most proud of the guys when I came to the last day at Junior Worlds. They were only one point out of the top ten and looking to secure a spot in the medal races…they pulled out their best race ever, with a 4th, to jump two places to 9th overall. I still remember holding back excitement as they came alongside after the race.”

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After Denmark, the young men, accompanied by Coach Chris Watters, headed to Helsinki, Finland for the 2014 49er European Championship. In the Europeans, the team did not do as well as they would have liked, finishing 10th in the bronze fleet, but the experience only encouraged them to work harder once they returned home for more training until the next set of competitions.

I asked their coach about the boys’ progress over the spring and summer season, and he said, “They showed the most improvements in their accelerations and getting off the start line. Down-speed boat handling is key in the 49er class, and we really focused on this a lot over the time spent in Europe. Whether on our own or with a group, it was a main focus. Video of the practices really helps.”

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The team’s goal is to compete in Rio at the 2016 Olympic Games. The ‘Qualification Pathway’ for their event is outlined as follows, according to the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition Qualification System on the International Sailing Federation website: “50% of the entry quota in each event shall be qualified from those best ranked NOCs [National Olympic Committees] in the corresponding events at the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships.

“The remaining places in each event shall be qualified from the 2015 Class World Championship and in a series of Continental Qualification Events sanctioned by ISAF, to finish by 1 June 2016 at the latest.”

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Alec and Chris have an advantage over sailors in other countries because they are the only team competing for these spots, and each NOC is only allowed to enter one boat per event, according to the site. That means that even though Anderson/Brockbank may rank 14th in a qualifying event, if Spain, Australia, Great Britain, and Canada all have two or more boats who have placed ahead of them, that race will still count as a qualifier.

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It’s a little confusing to this non-athlete, but I’m sure Alec and Chris have got it under control and know what they need to accomplish to earn a spot in Rio in 2016. In the meantime, they will continue training in the BVI and competing all over the world. Coach Watters added, “The boys made huge gains from when I saw them in November to June, and the next time I see them this year, I really hope they are nailing their heavy air corners…”

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We wish them luck and a little bit of fun, too.

SUPPORT ANDERSON AND BROCKBANK

The Anderson and Brockbank Website

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Traci O'Dea, English Lecturer - HLSCC

Traci O'Dea, English Lecturer - HLSCC

Traci O'Dea is a poet, journalist, editor, educator, and essayist. She lives in the British Virgin Islands where she teaches at H. Lavity Stoutt Community College. Her work has appeared in Poetry, 32 Poems, Poetry Daily, Bird's Eye View, Virgin Islands Property & Yacht, Limin' Times, and elsewhere. She also serves as an editor for the poetry journal Smartish Pace.
Traci O'Dea, English Lecturer - HLSCC

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