July 30, 2002 — Teams from eight islands will compete in the Caribbean Dinghy Championships for youngsters and adults Saturday and Sunday at Coral Bay.
Robin Clair Pitts, who with husband Fletcher Pitts was instrumental in organizing the hosting St. John Kids and the Sea (KATS) program more than a decade ago, says she has high hopes for the local sailors.
"We've been preparing our sailors for racing as a team and team racing by hosting multi-class regattas and team racing events over the last few years, as well as having our sailors travel to participate in the championships when they've been held on other islands," she said.
The not-for-profit KATS program employs continuous, sequential and developmental instruction that progresses from rowing and seamanship to sailing dinghies and keelboats. Its success in promoting youth sailing led to St. John's selection by the Caribbean Sailing Association as this year's host venue for the dinghy championships.
The CSA is a federation of sailing clubs in the Eastern Caribbean that promotes sailing activities, operating parallel to the International Sailing Federation. It has sponsored the championships since the 1980s. "Venues are selected to alternate south and north" within the region, Pitts said. Last year's event was in Barbados.
"A change this year, which we requested and was granted, is that representation is by island, not nation," Pitts said. This means, for example, that instead of sailors from St. Martin, St. Barths, Martinique and Guadeloupe having to complete as Team France, each island can send its own team. It also means that St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix can compete as entities.
"The idea is to encourage more participation," Pitts said. Nine nation teams competed last year in Barbados. For this coming weekend, Antigua, the British Virgin Islands, Martinique, Puerto Rico, St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas and Trinidad are expected to send teams. "We had interest from Cuba, but unfortunately the Cuban team won't be able to come because of a scheduling conflict," Pitts said.
The type of dinghies sailed is determined by what the host venue has available.
Each team consists of six single-handed sailors. Caribbean Championship trophies will be awarded for Laser Standard, Laser Radial, Sunfish ages 17 and older, Sunfish ages 16 and younger, Optimist ages 12-15, and Optimist ages 11 and younger. Additional prizes will be awarded for first, second and third in each fleet.
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