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Dinghy Championships Busy BVI Waters

Youngsters took to the water last month in numbers for the BVI Dinghy Championships, hosted by the Royal BVI Yacht Club and launched out of Tortola’s Nanny Cay. This event showed a resurgence of interest and participation by sailors outside of the Virgin Islands, bringing a true Caribbean international mix to compete. Participants from Trinidad, St Lucia, Antigua, St Martin, St Croix, St Thomas and St John came to race against our BVI Sailors in the Sir Frances Drake Channel. In total, 54 boats and 58 youth sailors crowded the waters for the competition.


Winds were light and shifty, making for very challenging sailing conditions under overcast skies with repeated rain showers. Nonetheless, our race committee, chaired by Bob Phillips, was able to get off 11 races for most fleets, 7 for the advanced Opti fleet, over two days of racing. The final results showed a very tight level of competition with multiple ties, including a three-way tie for Laser 4.7 first place. (When sailboats end up tied for overall score, the winner is determined by whomever scored more first-place finishes.) Both days the participants came out to the beach to enjoy packed lunches prepared by membersTyler Dawson and Juila Lambert. The kids also enjoyed their long sleeve regatta shirts and goody bags stuffed with swag donated by HIHO, Arawak and the BVI Tourist Board. Beautiful awards in the shape of the sail for each class were provided by Charterport and Charter Yacht Society BVI, with shipping covered by Tortola Express. On Saturday night, we had all our guest competitors, families and many local members down to the Yacht Club for a special dinner catered again by the chef moms. In total, the event was deemed an outstanding success, with more than 100 attendees who helped raise funds for the youth sailing programme.

The final results of the regatta showed the strong coaching skills of our new coach, Omari Scott, who has been with us at the yacht club for six months and has significantly improved the performance of many of our sailors. Fifteen youngsters competed in the beginner fleet for Optimist Dinghy, the class where sailors learn the basics of racing. In that fleet, Skye Erhart from St John took first place, followed by Jowan James of Tortola, and Sean Hughes of St Thomas in third. This year, we also hosted a mixed dinghy class consisting of Laser 2000, Wayfarer, Pico and Bug class sailboats which was won by BVI sailor Abi Maddox. The Laser Class sailboat is an Olympic Fleet boat and very challenging to sail. We had only two standard rig sailors, also the only two adults sailing, which was won by Mark Van Den Driesche from St Thomas. Laser Radial and Laser 4.7 are classes of primarily juniors and they have progressively smaller sails to make them manageable for smaller sailors. The Radial Class was won by St Lucian Marcus Sweeny, followed by Rhone Findlay from St Martin and Hosea Williams of Anitgua.

There was only a three-point spread from first to third after all races concluded. The Laser 4.7 class is the smallest rig for sailors just coming out of the Optimist dinghy and moving into Laser. This class showed perhaps the tightest level of competition with the final result a three-way tie which was sorted out by allocating first place to BVI Sailor Mollee Donovan, who won a total of four first-place finishes; followed by BVI Sailor Matthew Oliver with three firsts; and, in third, Kelly-Ann Arrindell from Trinidad with two firsts. The largest fleet of the regatta this year was the Optimist Dinghy. Opti, for short, is the premier class for training youth sailors the world around, providing a stable platform for the very beginners and serving as the elite class for sailors up to 15 years old. The BVI Dinghy Championships also served as the qualifier for the BVI Team that will represent our country this year at the Optimist Worlds meet in Dominican Republic this summer.

Of the 21 boats racing in the Opti Advanced fleet, they are scored collectively and additionally in age division fleets. The youngest fleet, White—for sailors 10 years old and under—and was championed by BVI Sailor Rayne Duff, followed by BVI Sailor Thad Lettsome and then St Martin racer Nathan Smith. The Blue Fleet, for sailors 11-12, was won by Teddy Nicolosi from St Thomas, followed by Rocco Falcone from Antigua and then Chris Sharpless of St Thomas. The Red Fleet, for sailors, age 13 to 15 was won by BVI Sailor Sam Morrell, followed by a second-place finish from St John racer Paige Clark, and third by the BVI’s Jason Putley.



The top five qualifiers for Opti Worlds are Sam Morrel (1st overall), Jason Putley (3rd Overall), Rayne Duff (4th Overall), Thad Lettsome (7th overall) and Sam Childs (12th overall). Sam Childs also won the Sportsmanship Award this year for showing good spirit, and helping his competitors to ensure they knew the course and starts. Whether young or old, sailing in the BVI and beyond remains an intricate part of the Caribbean region’s core—and successful events like the BVI Dinghy Championships remain a testament to this strength.

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