Thirty-six sailors signed up for the Royal BVI Yacht Club’s annual dinghy championships held last weekend.

Regatta organiser Richard Wooldridge said he was “over the moon” to see such a strong turnout with nearly half of the competitors travelling from St. Thomas and the St. Croix.

“We had 18 sailors in the Optimist Green Fleet, half of them from the USVI,” Mr. Wooldridge said. “You can always judge how healthy a sailing programme is by looking at the Green Fleet where they are just starting to learn some racing moves. It was great to see these youngsters meet and bump into each-other for the first time, they were having a ball.”

The Optimists raced inside Sea Cows Bay, because the channel was way too rough for beginners. Three advanced Optimists joined competed on the channel race course with the 15 lasers, along with race officers Chris Haycraft and Ron Noonan.

Big waves and strong winds made for some exciting sailing that was not for the faint-hearted, said Mr. Wooldridge.

The St. Croix trio of Peter Stanton, Sam Watterson and David Lorshbaugh made a clean sweep of the laser division; Peter Stanton won every race. Veteran laser sailor Ron Gurney got through the first race, but retired shortly after. George Lane tried to chase Mr. Gurney around but multiple capsises saw him taking an early bath and calling it a day.

In the afternoon Mr. Wooldridge and Mike Hirst jumped into the vacant lasers and battled around the course managing three races posting what can politely be described as ‘mixed results.’

Mr. Wooldridge described the conditions as “fresh to frightening.”

“I couldn’t believe how well the kids were sailing, I just couldn’t shake them off and they often beat me around the course, which was a shocker.”

The Laser Radial Division was dominated by Mack Bryan of St. Croix who had only bullets. Becky Rowlette showed great character and perseverance to come in second, while Jonathon Woods came in third. Ms. Rowlette later won a bottle of champagne for being the “most spirited” sailor on the big course.

The five strong laser 4.7 fleet was swept up by Challis Diaz of St. Croix. She won every race with ease. She also scooped a prize for being the “standout performer” on the big course.

Curtis Walker also from St. Croix came in second with the VI’s Jason Putley in third. Mollee Donavon and Matthew Oliver were not far behind, all three junior sailor were having their first taste of laser sailing.

“They handled the tough conditions really well,” Mr. Wooldridge said.

The Optimist Blue Fleet was won by Sam Morrell who has just returned from Chile where he was representing the VI at the South American Optimist Championship. Ryan Wooldridge did manage to sneak one race win and came second overall. Ryan Hunter from St.Croix sailed well to take third.

In the Green Fleet, the wind got a little gusty, which made things interesting for the fledgling racers. Coach Omari Scott from Antigua ran the course with Mike and Di Kirk assisting.

Mr. Scott set the windward mark just a few feet off the dock at Manuel Reef Marina where parents got a good view of the action as the fleet clattered around the mark.

“I’ve never seen kids learn so quickly, you could actually watch them getting better, tacks, gybes, port and starboard…it  was the most incredible green fleet racing I have ever seen,” Mr. Scott said.

By Sunday afternoon it was clear that the VI’s Rayne Duff had done enough to win overall. At 8 years old he was also the youngest sailor.

Chris Sharpless of the USVI was second with the VI’s Sam Childs in third. Both Rayne and Sam have been practicing racing every Wednesday afternoon with Rayne’s father Brian Duff.

At the award ceremony, Rayne was named the standout performer in the Green Fleet. Mr. Scott also presented Chris with an Oppie training manual for showing the race committee great respect by thanking them each time he finished. Olivia Messum picked up a SOL goodie bag for showing great spirit and determination.

Nanny Cay General Manager Miles Sutherland-Pilch helped hand out the prizes and said, “This has been a terrific regatta and I’m already looking forward to next year’s being bigger and better.”