Having what it takes: Optimist /Jr. Laser Winter Championship
“Neither snow nor hail nor gloom of night...” is the mantra the we usually associate with the United States Postal Service, but it, in application, is not at all different from the philosophy of our own junior sailors.
When the BSA (Bahamas Sailing Association) planned the March 2-3rd, Optimist / Jr Laser Winter Championship Regatta hosted by the Nassau Yacht Club, no one imagined the weather that the Saturday start brought.
In true winter fashion, not the Bahamian winters we know anyway, temperatures sank to about 60 degrees with winds up to 25 knots and gusts dancing around 30. The conditions so great that they forced some Saturday races to be postponed to Sunday. These factors were of no real effect on the sailors. They came. They saw. They conquered.
|Spencer Cartwright, racing downwind|
At the end of the first round of sailing, pushing past chattering lips and teeth and completely submerged attired, the sailors beamed at their accomplishments and confessed the challenges of wind, water and rain. Overall all, it was a Red Letter day for the youngest sailors whose ages range from 9 to 11 years as this was indeed a major feat. Coach Dunkley, the director of the National Sailing School, lauded the conditions as being “great for the kids.” According to him, “It really helps to build their confidence. Once you have sailed in 20 knots, 15 becomes easy, once you have sailed in 25 knots, 20 becomes easy. Besides, if you travel to regattas away there is a good chance you will be sailing in conditions like these or even worse, so it is good we get used to it at a young age.”
As for the young sailors, when asked “How was it out there?” The echoed responses were short and frank, “Wet, cold, rough!”
The privilege of this degree of experience was not only afforded to our Nassauian sailors, but youth sailors from Freeport, Abaco and Harbour Island came and had their chances at taming their sails, against those wild winds as well. The annual event is one of four major championship regattas held each year for juniors. This was also the last of five events used as a qualifier for the Optimist World Championships and ISAF Youth World Championship to be held this summer in Italy and Cypress respectively.
There were four competitors in the Laser Radial Class, the four top junior Radial sailors in the country. There was very close racing between Nicholas Rolle from Freeport and Paul de Souza from Nassau. In the heavy winds, Nicholas dominated, winning 4 out of six races. When the winds were down a bit, Paul managed to get out ahead and win. In the end Nicholas won the class, beating Paul by just two points. After all of the points were gathered, including those from earlier events including events in Florida and the Junior Laser National Championship, which Paul won, he earned the right to represent The Bahamas this year at the ISAF Youth World Championships in the Boy’s Laser Class.
Paul, Nicholas and Audry O’Brien, likely to be our representative in the Girl’s Laser Class at the ISAF Worlds, along with Coaches Robert Dunkley and David Valentine from Freeport will be heading to Dominican Republic later this month for a high level coaching clinic for top coaches and Laser Radial Sailors in the Caribbean, sponsored by the International Sailing Federation.
Other major feats for the regatta were wins by Alande Forbes, in the Laser 4.7 class, who won five out of six races with Dwayne Dames was second and Nathaniel Major third. This is the class the kids advance to when coming out of the Optimist class as a result of their size or age: maximum 15 years old.
The Optimist Advanced (Gold) Fleet of 9 boats was dominated by National Champion Spencer Cartwright of Nassau, who won five out of the six races. Cochise Burrows (Nassau) was second and Branden Sands (Abaco) was third. This win secured Spencer’s place on the team going to the Optimist World Championship. The other two or three participants going to this event as team members will be decided on a later date.
There was very close racing in the Optimist Intermediate (Silver) Fleet of 11 boats. At the end of the first day Richard Spurlock lead with Hercude Estime one point behind him. His smart sailing in the first race on Sunday moved Hercude ahead to first in the series and he never looked back. Richard took second and Gustavo Perla – Ellison was third by way of a tiebreak between he and two other sailors. Results between the top five boats could not have been closer.
It is not to be said that the winds took no prisoners or had no casualties. Paul de Souza laid his mast to rest after Saturday’s second session, after it was successfully snapped by the aggressive winds. His defeat against the wind was but a minor battle as in true phoenix style, he rose to the occasion and captured a number of victories.
Parents and supporters alike applauded the tenacity and endurance of the sailors and sailing team against the unwelcome conditions, begging reflection and introspection, on the part of the spectator, “Do you have what it takes?”
Congratulations to all the sailors and a special thank you to the Nassau Yacht Club for hosting this event and again to the BSA junior program sponsors Bahamas Hot Mix, East Nassau Rotary, KPMG, Palm Cay, Bahamas Ferries, Royal Bank, Coca Cola, Odyssey Aviation, Cable Bahamas & Cable Cares, Kerzner Corp., Cardinal Co. Ltd. and Ministry of Sports.