Junior Sailors from St. Croix, St. Thomas, the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico will test their skills in the Buck Island Channel this weekend at the Crucian Open Regatta.
A one-design regatta hosted annually by the St. Croix Yacht Club, the Crucian Open kicks off the 2019 Caribbean Cup Series.
Morgan Dale, fleet captain and soon-to-be commodore of the St. Croix Yacht Club, expects to see as many as 50 sailors vie for honors; 35 have already registered to race. Optimists, age eight and older, will skipper their own boats. Older youth sailors will race 420s and 29ers in teams of two.
Stakes are high for the Optimist sailors.
The Crucian Open, an ISV (Virgin Islands) qualifier for the 2019 Optimist North American Championships in Nassau next September, also marks the second of three qualifiers for the Optimist World Championships in Antigua this July.
“The Optimists are the big thing in this race. They can end up going all around the world,” said Meg Deegan, SCYC waterfront manager.
Five Optimist sailors from the Virgin Islands raced in the 2018 World Championships in Cyprus: Milo Miller and Jeffrey (J.J.) Klempen from St. Croix and Katherine Majette, Tanner Krygsveld and Winborne Majette from St. Thomas.
Dale expects stiff competition among Miller, Klempen, and Krygsveld this Saturday and Sunday. He counts on a strong contingent of talented Puerto Rican racers to compete and advises spectators to keep an eye out for Rayne Duff, who sails 420s for the St. Thomas team.
Advanced Optimists, 420s and 29ers will race in the Buck Island Channel, while the less experienced Green Fleet Optimists will sail in Teague Bay, where waters are more protected.
“The courses are located according to weather,” Dale said. “If conditions are heavy, all Optis will stay within Teague Bay.”
SCYC invites the public to watch the races from the club and will offer food, refreshments and entertainment.
“The more the merrier. We love people to come and see how much fun the kids are having,” Deegan said.
Thanks to lead racing coach Santiago “Tino” Galan, St. Croix boasts a community of accomplished youth sailors, as does St. Thomas under the instruction of Austin Resano, aka Argy.
“We have the most enviable sailing conditions in the world, year around: consistent breezes and warm aquamarine water,” Dale said.
The St. Croix Yacht Club has long offered scholarship funding for its summer sailing program and is now extending that into its after school program, too.
“We want to expose sailing to those who might otherwise not have the opportunity,” Dale said. “We are proud of our sailing programs. Our summer program gets larger each year and is expanding out into STEM,” he said.
In a February 2014 article for “Live Science,” contributor Elaine J. Hom wrote that “STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – in an interdisciplinary and applied approach.”
According to Deegan, sailing has all of that: physics, math, engineering and technology. Care for the boats is a marine maintenance responsibility of a Junior Sailor, too, she said.
“Sailing can open doors to opportunities that kids never knew existed – diesel mechanics, engine mechanics, repairing fiberglass fabrications, carpentry, rigging sail making, marine management, crew and captain positions, and sailing instruction,” Dale said.
“It develops all kinds of life skills,” he said, skills that can be applied to jobs right here in the Virgin Islands.
“The marine industry here is subject to local support; we want the kids here,” he said.
The SCYC will host a welcoming party from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday evening during registration.