It’s an amazing sight to see kids as young as eight braving the unpredictability of the sea in a small boat by themselves! I was fortunate enough to witness this first hand last weekend as the St. Croix Yacht Club hosted its first annual Cruzan Open regatta over the weekend. The event was a huge success with sailors traveling from the British Virgin Islands, St. John and St. Thomas to compete with our local Cruzan sailors from St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. While the event was open to sailors of all ages, the majority of the competitors were kids ranging in age from eight to sixteen. All “one design” classes were represented with Optis, Sunfish, Lasers and 420’s with a total of 57 sailors.
As the weather forecast grew more worrisome in the days leading up to the regatta, the race committee quickly made some adjustments to the course for the novice green fleet, bringing the kids in closer to shore and out of the white caps that were forming outside the yacht club dock. The more advanced opti sailors, comprised of the Red, White and Blue fleets, as well as the Sunfish, Lasers and 420’s, raced just inside the reef with four different courses throughout Saturday and Sunday.
The regatta began early Saturday as the sailors left shore to get ready for the first race of the day. But as the sky unexpectedly turned black, the race committee made the decision to send the sailors back to shore to wait out a squall. Although several boats experienced problems as the weather blindsided them, the kids training kicked in and all sailors were able to make it back to shore with no injuries. I, on the other hand, had to fight my motherly instinct to jump into the water to help some kids “right” their boats as the winds howled and the sea churned. I have a new level of respect for these kids…they remained calm and persistent and they managed to keep smiles on their faces in spite of the rough conditions.
Shortly after the squall blew through, Mother Nature gave us a reprieve and it wasn’t long before all boats were back out for a full 7 hour day of racing, finishing 6 races in all for Day 1. It was an exciting day on the water with winds blowing at 25 knots and 2-3 foot chop inside the reef. The boats were cruising at great speeds and we were all impressed at the level of expertise these kids exhibited in maneuvering their boats through the waves and the winds! We were able to get some great footage of the sailors with a GoPro Camera mounted on multiple boats over the two days…we caught some great tacks, some extreme hiking, and some funny capsizing!
Sunday’s weather proved to be sunnier but just as windy. The kids arrived early in the morning, looking a bit worn out but once again they donned their life jackets and gloves and braved the elements to race nearly four hours through to the end of the regatta. Toward the end of the afternoon, the sailors were in good spirits as they enjoyed a late lunch and geared up for the awards ceremony…and the parents and the race committee all quietly breathed a sigh of relief that the challenging weather conditions didn’t cause damage to boats or sailors!
The final results were as follows:
Green Fleet (Novice)—1 David Conhoff (STX), 2 Rider Odom (STX), 3 Nathan Haycraft (BVI)
White Fleet (10 and under)—1 Rayne Duff (BVI), 2 James Rajic-Knight (BVI), 3 Lake Sanford (STX)
Blue Fleet (11-12)—1 Thad Lettsome (BVI), 2 Teddi Nicolosi (STT), 3 James Dawson (BVI)
Red Fleet (13-15)—1 Christopher Murphy (STT), 2 Scott McKenzie (STT), 3 Ryan Hunter (STX)
Top Female—Paige Clarke (STT)
Overall—1 Morgan Dale (STX), 2 Ethan Hanley/Taylor Hasson (STX), 3 Casey Bergstrom (STX)
Top Junior—Ethan Hanley/Taylor Hasson (STX)
Radial Class—1 Beecher Higby (STX), 2 David Lorshbaugh
4.7 Division—1 David Kleeger (STX), 2 Thorn Nelthropp (STX)
Overall—1 Mack Bryan/Gulia Klein (STX/STT), 2 Owen Sanford/Annie Hardee (STX)
The Cruzan Open is the first in a series of three race weekends for Opti sailors competing for the “Triple Crown Trophy”. Racing continues next weekend in St. John with the VIODA Championships. The third and final regatta is hosted in Tortola on the weekend of May 4th where they will announce the overall winners of the Opti Fleets. As of the end of Cruzan Open, the overall standings for the Opti Class is as follows:
1. Christopher Murphy 9. James Rajic-Knight
2. Scott McKenzie 10. Lake Sanford
3. Ryan Hunter 11. James Dawson
4. Sam Morrell 12. Mia Nicolosi
5. Thad Lettsome 13. Atlee Kohl
6. Paige Clarke 14. Rachel Conhoff
7. Rayne Duff 15. Dawson Kohl
8. Teddy Nicolosi 16. Robert Hunter
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