The wind was blowing 15 - 20 knots, the sky was overcast and threatening rain but the spirits of 24 young sailors, ages 6 - 16, soared as the 3rd annual BVI Schools Regatta got underway in Road Harbour on Saturday, December 6.
The conditions might have intimidated sailors not so determined but these "young salts" were ready to go. Gusts, a three foot short chop and photographer Armando JENIK taking split shot photos from in the water made the day interesting and challenging.
The event began with a skippers' meeting and orientation by sailing school instructor Alison KNIGHTS BRAMBLE. This was followed by words of encouragement given by BVI Governor and Principal of the Sailing School, Tom MACAN. Finally, after sitting quietly and patiently for about 20 minutes, the young sailors set off to man their boats and prove themselves against the elements and each other.
Sailors competed for individual prizes and the coveted overall School's Trophy. Before the event started, participating schools had to name one team member to represent them in the Laser 4.7, Pico and Opti-Gold classes. Three schools entered the team event, BVI High School, Century House Montessori and Cedar School. This year's competition was exceptionally close with second place being a tie between the BVI High School and Montessori. For the third year in a row, Cedar School took the top spot placing first in the Opti-Gold and Pico classes and second in the Laser 4.7 class.
Just like their older counterparts, some of these sailors were somewhat confused about the configuration of the course. Winner of the Opti-Silver Class, Amanda PUTLEY, was third to the windward mark, but the leader rounded the mark the wrong way and then headed directly downwind rather than towards the wing mark. Although Amanda tried to hail her fellow skippers, she was the only one that sailed the proper triangle course in the first race. Interviewed following the day of racing, Amanda said, "I tried to get them to follow me during the first race but Chirs (BROCKBANK) is a better sailors and so they all followed him."
With a wide grin, she added, "I was just lucky the second race."
The tightest racing was in the Laser 4.7 class. Kyle BENJAMIN won but was followed closely behind, with four points each, were Sean ANDERSON, Marley DONOVAN and Jamie Bidbby. As per the ISAF Racing Rules of Sailing, the three-way tie was broken with Sean placing second, Marley third and Jamie fourth.
Following the day of racing prizes were given out and there were plenty to go around. Elsa Myers was recognized with the sportsmanship award as she was the only person to complete a 360 degree penalty turn. The only problem was that she most likely had not been in the wrong and it was the other boat that should have completed the turn. Mac MCKIE and Eliott FRETWELL were recognized with the Achievement Awards as it was the first time that they had raced and the weather conditions were less than ideal for beginners. Amanda PUTLEY, sailing in the Opti Silver fleet, won the Navigation Award after being the only Opti Silver or Gold sailor to sail the proper course during their first race. Taking top honours in the Opti Green class was the youngest sailor in the group, 6 year-old Daniel PETROVIC, Amanda PUTLEY won the Silver Optimist fleet with Cedar School team member Christopher BROCKBANK winning the Gold Optimist fleet. Alec ANDERSON sailing with Mitchell BAILES, both from Cedar School, took top honours in the Pico class and Kyle BENJAMIN, of the BVI High School won the Laser 4.7 class.
The heroes and the stars of the day were the young sailors who handled the conditions well and demonstrated excellent skills. Alison KNIGHTS BRAMBLE, event organizer and sailing instructor, spent the day on the beach, assisting kids in the change-overs and dealing with all equipment issues said, " Given the weather conditions, the kids did a fantastic job. It was also incredibly wonderful to be able to rely on the team of safety boats and the race committee on the water while I was on the beach."