Sailors battle Tortola currents

Cayman was strongly and proudly represented by a team of five youth sailors this month at the Kids and the Sea Premier’s Cup in Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

This year marked the 14th annual regatta, held just off Nanny Cay Marina in Sir Francis Drake channel. The event was well attended with representatives from Anguilla, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, the US Sail Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago and the British Virgin Islands, making for stiff competition.

Cayman was generously sponsored by the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman, which enabled helmsman Pablo Bertran and his crew of Florence Allan, Jesse Jackson, Ronan Jennings and Justino Rodriguez to compete. They participated in this prestigious international event, gaining important racing experience and meeting other young Caribbean sailors.

After a long day of travelling to Tortola, the team was able to practice and become familiar with the boat. Cayman coach Kelvin Browne said, “The team trained on J22 keel boats at the Cayman Islands Sailing Club, but as the racing in the BVI was on a Caribbean one-design IC24, it was imperative that we were able to practice and that the full attention and concentration was required from all team-members.”

Racing conditions were similar to Cayman, windy – around 15 knots with gusts up to 20 knots with big swells, making it relatively easy for the team to adapt quickly and race into a top position. At the end of the first five races, Cayman was tied for third with 19 points behind Anguilla (seven points) and the Bahamas (17 points). Brown states his side struggled with consistency.

“Throughout the first five races, the team showed great strength in sailing downwind and I was impressed by the team’s ability to stay with the regatta’s top contenders. After the lunch break, the Cayman team struggled with consistency and due to the rules of the regatta, which did not allow for discarding the lowest position achieved, the team found themselves tied for fifth after a total of 11 races.”

Although the sailors felt physically exhausted, their spirits remained high and they improved. The conditions got tougher, with winds around 20 knots gusting to over 22 knots, but this did not stop Cayman. In two of the races, Cayman placed second, narrowly being edged out at the finish line.

In the 17th and final race of the regatta, one of the crew members slipped overboard while rounding the leeward mark. Helmsman, Bertran and his remaining crew executed an expert man-overboard pick-up before the team lost too many spaces.

At the end of the regatta, Anguilla raced to a convincing first place, while the Cayman team achieved a promising sixth place out of a total of eight teams. Overall, the results were extremely close with only nine points separating second and sixth place. Browne is hoping for more success in the future.

“The kids performed extremely well, but the final result did not reflect how well they really sailed, nor how talented this team is. Unfortunately the regatta’s no discard rule negatively affected our overall placing, but the team learned a lot throughout the regatta about competition and teamwork.

“I look forward to bigger and better things at next year’s Premier’s Cup with some more consistency and I hope that the team continues to compete in the local club racing on a more regular basis.”