Two Category 5 Hurricanes Can’t Stop USVI Sailors from Competing in China
Seven U.S.V.I. sailors representing all three islands will travel to Sanya, China in December to compete in World Sailing’s 2017 Youth World’s Competition. The undertaking began almost a year ago, when sailors from St. Croix undertook a campaign to compete in the annual event – it escalated from there with one sailor from St. Thomas and another from St. John joining in the effort rounding out the team.
At the time, the sailors did not know what 2017 had in store for them. Back then, the venue had not even been decided. They simply knew it would happen and started training. Sailors will be racing in the waters off Hainan Island, in Sanya, China at a venue that previously hosted the Volvo Around the World Race. This year competition will include 400 sailors from 60 nations. Teams from each country compete in different boats. This year, the Virgin Islands are racing in three different fleets. Sarah Hardee (skipper - St. Croix) and Lucy Klempen (crew-St. Croix) will compete in the Women’s 29er and Taylor Hasson (skipper – St. Croix) and Steven Hardee (crew – St. Croix) will compete for in the Men’s 29er. Gillian Perrell (skipper – St. Thomas) and Kate Klempen (crew – St. Croix) are competing in the Women’s i420 and Mateo DiBlasi (single-handed – St. John) will be competing in the Laser. Two coaches are making the trip as well; Tino Galan (St. Croix) and Edgar Diminich (from Ecuador and last year’s Antilles Head Sailing Coach, who coached the team to a National Championship).
The Team is young and eager for experience. They used this year to prepare and train. Going into the fall, a full schedule of regattas were planned leading up to the competition in December. Then Irma hit. Training stopped. Communications were impaired. Registration deadlines were looming and no internet was available to complete them. Likewise, the logistics of securing VISA’s to even travel to China were in jeopardy as was transportation to and from St. Thomas. However, within a few weeks the boats in St. Thomas had been re-rigged and sailors were ready to get back on the water – only to have to be broken back down the next day in preparation for Maria. More delays and now, the logistics that the sailors in St. Croix had provided in the aftermath of Irma ceased as they dealt with the havoc of Maria.
However, as soon as practical, training resumed and sailors were back on the water. With travel between the islands still difficult, experienced local sailors pitched in to help with the training efforts in the aftermath of the storms. Tyler Rice of Bow Sailing (an Antilles alum and former collegiate sailor from Brown who also has competed internationally) stepped in to coach and even crew to keep the team out on the water. The Team is back on track training and getting on the water whenever possible and researching the venue to learn the conditions. The hurricanes threatened but have not stopped their efforts, the sailors are now more focused than ever and ready to compete.