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RBVIYC's Rafting

RBVIYC's Raft Splashes Down
Youth Programme Moves to Nanny Cay

Story and photos by David Blacklock

The BVI abounds with sailors of impressive calibre. From Olympians and class champions to America's Cup squad members, many have settled here to raise children and enjoy the bounties of the Caribbean lifestyle. Contributing to the education of the Islands’ children in the fun and exciting pursuit of sailing, the Royal BVI Yacht Club hosts a number of programmes for kids of various ages, under the watchful eye of Director of Racing Richard Wooldridge.

BVIPY met with Richard to discuss the club's programmes and recent changes in the way classes are being conducted. “The Yacht Club's Youth Sailing progamme is moving from town,” Richard told us, “from the beach next to VISAR at Road Reef to Nanny Cay. I've been Director of Sailing at the Yacht Club for the past three years and have been trying to run dinghy sailing from the beach there, and it's just like pushing string uphill. It's such a wreck beach, and it's never going to change. There's sewage works planned for there, a new boat slipway, scrap vehicles everywhere, and parents didn't want to bring their kids down there and drop them off—let alone get involved in the programme. It was really tough to get any momentum going. So we went and had a meeting with Nanny Cay and they said ‘Yeah, come down, and we'll put the boats in an area that's never going to be developed. We'll give you Saturday mornings, and we'll see how it goes.’  Well the first thing we found was it's fantastic. We launch off the beach there. But as soon as it's blowing more than 12 knots out of ESE, you're launching kids straight into what I call Cape Nanny Cay. It can be ferocious. When the current is going up channel, you get square waves there that can be really quite nasty. So we identified a need to build a raft that we could put into Sea Cow's Bay,” Richard said.
“The idea of the raft is very simple,” he continued. “With beginners, we start their sailing session from the raft in the sheltered waters of Sea Cow's Bay rather than try to drag them out into the maelstrom off Nanny Cay. We're storing Optimists on the raft, so we just load up the coach boats with the rigs, motor round to the raft where the water's pretty clean, and we can rig up in safety. Pretty soon we have them doing a reach/tack/reach/tack backwards and forwards to the raft. We don't have them all afloat at the same time—we have some kids kicking around on the raft where they can swim. It works a lot better.”
There is considerable overlap between the various sailing programmes in the BVI: KATS and the BVI Watersports Centre each serving slightly different constituents than the RBVIYC, whose participants are mostly children of the club's members. Richard did point out that his sailors would be joining with those from BVI Watersports Centre, also at Sea Cow's Bay, for the Christmas Regatta. As can be seen in the photos, the fun and frolic of playing around in boats is very much a part of the RBVIYC's programme.

2011 Sailing and Watersports Calendar
Feb 5-6 – Lowell Wheatley Anegada Pursuit Race & Cruise
Feb 11-13 – St Croix Yacht Club Hospice Regatta
Feb 18-20 – Sweethearts of the Caribbean and Classic Yacht Regatta
Feb 26 – BVI Dinghy Championships
Feb 26-March 5 – Billabong BVI Kite Jam

March 3-6 – 14th Annual Dark & Stormy Regatta
March 14-19 – 8th ClubSwan Caribbean Rendezvous
March 25-27 – International Rolex Regatta at St Thomas Yacht Club
March 29-April 3 – 40th Annual BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival

April 16 – Virgin Queen Pizza Pursuit Race
April 23-25 – Tortola Surf Classic
April 24-30 – Antigua Race Week

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