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Women on the Water

This summer, windsurfer Anna Bullimore will be representing the British Virgin Islands in the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. YG spoke with Anna about her love of the sport and her gratitude to be wearing the BVI colours.Anna’s first experience with windsurfing was when, as a child, she’d watch her brother learn the sport from Jeremy Wright at Boardsailing BVI.

“After his lessons, I used to hang off the board while he windsurfed around Trellis,” she said. But she didn't pursue windsurfing until she was at the University of Exeter. “There was a fresher’s week with lots of clubs to join, and I joined the windsurfing club,” she told me, but she didn’t instantly take to the sport that had attracted her since childhood. “I hated it. You'd go out there and mill around in this muddy pond. It was rough. But then I’d watch professional windsurfing videos, and I wanted to try to be that good, so I stuck with it." The more she stuck with it, the more it paid off. "It’s like a plateau at first,” she continued, “then you get to stages when you get encouragement.” Anna recounted the first time she was able accelerate using the "mini waves" in Daymer Bay, UK. “I didn't want to wipe out in a set, so it taught me to commit in my harness and sheet in.” After playing with her speed for a while, the next stage was planing—gliding over the water at optimum performance instead of plowing through it. “But the best part was when I began water-starting,” she added, “it allowed me to venture out in rougher seas and I had more freedom to choose where to launch from.”

When asked about the differences between windsurfing in the BVI and the UK, Anna first mentioned the obvious temperature contrast. “It’s so much easier to get out there when you’re in your boardies and a rash guard versus a full wet suit,” she said. But more than just the difference in climate, “There’s a lot more freedom here, too. You don’t have to worry about tides and such. In the UK, you have to have a plan. The wind is a lot punchier, so you have to be careful with your sail selection. Here, you have the nice, constant easterly tradewinds. Also, you can windsurf everywhere. You’re not going to get yelled at for windsurfing in a shipping channel.” She added that another advantage is that since there are so many people out on the water at all times, she can go out windsurfing confidently on her own without worrying about getting stuck. “I used to go out with other people for safety, but it can be hard to coordinate,” she said, “so now I go out on my own. If there are any issues, anyone would help—other windsurfers or kiteboarders or sailors. It’s busy on the water, and everyone’s friendly.” I can’t imagine anyone turning down a request for help from Anna—one of the most cheerful, upbeat people I’ve met in the BVI.

Photo courtesy of YachtShotsBVI.com

As we chatted, I wasn’t surprised to learn that Anna had grown up around boats. She has done deliveries between France and the UK with her father, a yacht broker in England, and she lived on a boat for nine months, island-hopping from Trinidad to St Martin. “I’m still very much learning everything—sailing, windsurfing, but I love them both,” she said. “Windsurfing is my favourite sport, but the sailing knowledge helps. When I’m teaching someone, if they have sailing experience, they catch on quicker because they have wind awareness.”

When I asked Anna about any future windsurfing goals, she said, “I would love to be able to do push loops and master the carve gybe.” She paused then earnestly said, “I hope to represent the BVI positively. That would be an accomplishment of a goal. I feel like it’s an absolute blessing that I get to go [to the Caribbean Games], and I’m glad to be going with BVI athletes. It’s a real community.”

Jeremy Wright, along with YG editor Owen Waters, encouraged Anna to participate in the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games. “To represent the BVI would be an honour,” she said. “I will have to work hard, for sure.” When she claimed that she’s not a naturally competitive person, I didn’t believe her. Though she may not thrive on beating other windsurfers, she is clearly pushing herself to improve. Her training includes extensive time on the water every weekend and as much as she can during the week. “I try to sneak in a cheeky session before or after work,” she said. “Jeremy is training me on the water and giving me DVDs for theory lessons.” She called Jeremy “the go-to person for windsurfing,” and it’s only appropriate that he’s the person who is coaching her, but she has come a long way since the days when she’d hang off her brother’s board. 

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