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Most adults could learn a thing or two from the kids on the BVI Youth Sailing Team about hard work and dedication. The team of five youth sailors, ranging in age from 11 to 13 years old, had been training five days a week, all the while finishing up their school year with full days of class, studying for exams and wrapping up final projects.

The team had stepped up their training schedules in order to prepare for two international level regattas, the Scotiabank Optimist Regatta in St Thomas, and the Optimist North American Championships in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. The commitment put forth by every member of the team to push each other and improve their skills paid off when they competed in these top-level youth regattas.    

The Scotiabank Optimist Regatta hosted by the St Thomas yacht club saw close to 90 sailors from all over the Caribbean and North America. Although many of the BVI Youth Sailing Team members could not attend the pre-event training clinic due to conflicting exam schedules, they arrived in St Thomas the night before the event excited to sail and to have some large fleet practise before heading to Canada for the North American Optimist Championships. The regatta started off with a great day of racing seeing Jason Putley and Robert Poole in 1st and 2nd of the blue fleet. Unfortunately, Saturday morning brought a huge cell of low pressure with torrential downpour and severe winds. After the weather cleared up, the fleet was sent out and raced in massive seas and variable wind. The breeze was very shifty and gusty throughout the races, ranging from 5 knots to 25 knots with a six-foot swell. It proved to be an extremely difficult day of racing, and Putley and Poole fell back to 5th and 8th in the blue fleet.

  Sam Morrell at the Optinam. Photo by Optisailing.com.

Sunday did not bring any better weather, and after an onshore postponement, the fleet was sent out to race. After two general recalls, a black flag was put into effect, and a race was started in very light breeze. When the fleet was three-quarters of the way up the windward leg, the breeze started to build but also came with a severe 120-degree wind shift which ultimately led the race committee to abandon the race. The fleet waited for an hour and a half in cold downpour while the race committee tried to set a new course, but the time limit for the day was quickly approaching. The race committee eventually called it a day with no races, and sent the cold, wet fleet back to shore. Jason Putley was awarded 5th in blue fleet and was 23rd overall.

Just two days after returning home from St Thomas, the team had to pack their gear back up and travel to Canada for the Optimist North American Championships, competing against 200 other sailors who represented 22 countries from all over the world. The entire team was worried their sails would not make it due to the size of their sail tubes, but it was the other 10 pieces of luggage that ended up getting lost, and the sails arrived just fine! After finally receiving the rest of our gear, the team proceeded to Kingston to get on the water and get used to the sailing conditions before the regatta began.

  Coach Justin preps his team for a day of racing. Photo by Optisailing.com.

The day before racing officially started, a practise race was scheduled but could not be started due to lack of wind. The first day of racing saw light winds as the massive fleet was sent out to the race course. After a short on-water postponement, the famous Kingston thermal kicked in, and the wind picked up to a solid 15 to 20 knots. The team was very keen on the great breeze, but the cold water had them shivering between races. The second day of racing resulted in the BVI Youth Sailing Team qualifying for North American Team Racing Championships the following day, which was the first time the team had ever qualified for this event. The wind was so strong for the team racing event that simply finishing a race was an accomplishment in itself. The team lost their first race in a tough match against a Canadian team, but went on to win their second race against Mexico, eliminating them from the competition. The fleet was sent in when the winds picked up to 30 knots and were postponed on shore which resulted in racing being abandoned for the day.


The team racing championship would carry over to what was supposed to be a day of rest. The first race on the second day of the team-racing championship brought another victory to the BVI in a tough match against the Trinidad & Tobago team. This victory pushed Team BVI forward to the final eight of the team-racing championships. The next race proved to be Team BVI’s last in the team-racing event as they lost a challenging match against a USA team that went on to take 2nd place. Fleet racing resumed after the Team Racing Championship was completed, and two more great days of sailing were had. By the last day of the event, the sailors seemed to be running on fumes in the morning while rigging their boats but managed to have their best day of sailing in the entire event.

The team is looking forward to a little time to relax, but they are all keen on getting back to training and preparing for another international event. This level of enthusiasm and hard work, as well as their sheer love for the sport of sailing is extremely admirable and inspiring.   

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