Founded eight years ago as the brainchild of ISAF International Judge and St. Thomas resident Henry Menin, the Scotiabank International Optimist Regatta came into existence after the St. Thomas Yacht Club purchased a fleet of used Optis. Hoping to attract some off-island competition for the region's young sailors,
Class rules stipulate that young sailors can compete in the Optimist class until they reach 15 years, then they must move on to other boats. Graduates of the Optimist Dinghy have won hundreds of national, continental, and world championships in every conceivable type of boat, and scores of Olympic sailors have evolved through the class's powerful racing circuit. The international scope of the class gives young sailors the opportunity to travel and meet other young sailors from diverse regions of the world. Certainly the chance to sail in the beautiful waters of the Caribbean was not lost on foreign competitors this year. Sailors from the US, Spain, and England came to play with their South American and Island peers, making this year's Scotiabank International Optimist Regatta the most competitive and international yet.
Green Fleet racers are younger, less-experienced sailors who are just beginning their Optimist careers. The Green Fleet has its own start, but these sailors compete on the same racecourse as the older sailors. Offering a lower-impact environment to these youngsters encourages them to keep improving and gives them the achievable goal of moving up to the White, Blue, and Red Fleets. The White, Blue, and Red Fleets each start together. Scores are tabulated for overall winners and for winners within each of the color-dependent age brackets. The result is an event that allows for plenty of winners.
|"If all Optimist racing is like the Scotiabank Regatta, then this definitely is fertile ground for young sailors."|
The Eternal Optimist
My name is Thomas Barrows, I'm 12 years old, and I come from St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. I've been sailing Optimist Dinghies for five years. This year I raced in my fourth Scotiabank Optimist Regatta. The St. Thomas Yacht Club has been hosting this event for eight years. What began as a small regional event has grown into a really tough event attracting 77 sailors from 11 different countries. This year the competition was at a very high level. The US had a very good sailor, Spain had two great sailors, Puerto Rico was strong, and the Virgin Islands had a really tough team, including the winner of the regatta, Cy Thompson.
This regatta can be a learning experience or a just-for-fun regatta. I consider it a warm-up for the summer, just to get in the mood for racing. For the regatta, my teammates and I practiced twice a week during the spring. A week and a half before the regatta, we had a coach come down and he coached us during the event.
The wind blew from a 10-knot breeze to about 17 knots. The land affected the wind a lot. In some places it would lift you up to the windward mark and in other places it would cause a major hole. At the top of the course the wind wouldn't matter that much because there was such a strong current, but sometimes if you got a 50-degree shift, the current would lift you up the course. That made it very tricky.
The current was a major factor in the mornings of the regatta. It would flow straight through a cut and head right, going straight through the top of the course. The current wouldn't affect the bottom and middle of the course because a point would be blocking the current. In the afternoon, the current wouldn't be a big factor because it wasn't as strong and it benefited both sides equally.
This regatta wasn't the best for me, but it was fun. I came into the last day in seventh, four points behind the sixth-place person. In the second-to-last race I was doing really well and beating the person I needed to beat and then I had an equipment failure and had to retire. In the last race I got smothered at the start and had my worst race. This is all OK though because I still got ninth and won an award.
As a result of this international regatta, the USVI sailors have really improved. My teammates and I worked hard for this regatta. Cy has always practiced really hard and he is really awesome. Addison Caproni has improved and Taylor Canfield has become an excellent racer and a fast light-air sailor.
Optimist sailing really helps to make you a better sailor because this is such a good learning boat. It goes fast, teaches you how to tune your sail, and teaches you how to get your boat up on a plane. I also like Optimist sailing because you get to travel all over the place and meet great people.
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