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USVI Opti Sailors Head to Worlds

This summer, five young sailors will be traveling to Switzerland to represent the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Optimist Class World Championship competition. The sailors, ranging in age from 12 to 14, are from St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John. The regatta is scheduled for July 25 to Aug. 5. Last year, 228 sailors representing 51 different countries participated when the event was held in Ecuador. According to the website for this year’s event (www.optimist.ch), there are 52 countries already registered for the regatta in Switzerland. The event has an Olympic feel to it as the competitors march in the opening ceremonies as a team, holding their country’s flag, with their country’s anthem playing according to a press release from the Virgin Islands team leader. The U.S. Virgin Islands Optimist sailing team consists of Alex Coyle, Max Nickbarg and Mimi Roller of St. John, Billy Gibbons of St. Croix, and Tyler Rice of St. Thomas.
The Optimist is an eight-foot single-handed sailing dinghy. For many sailors, it is an introductory boat to the sport of sailing. It is a youth class boat with an age limit of 16, though some become too large for the class before they are forced out due to their age.
The venue will be Lake Silvaplana, in St. Moritz, in the Upper Engadine Valley of Switzerland. According to the event website the conditions will be quite a bit different than what our sailors are used to in the Virgin Islands. At an altitude of 1800 meters, the air is less dense than a sea level, the lake is fresh water as opposed to the salty sea of the Caribbean and the water temperature rarely goes over 55 degrees. The Virgin Islands team will need to acquire dry suits or at least neoprene suits used by all participants according to team members.
To prepare for the competition, the VI sailors have been sailing in various regattas all year in the USVI, BVI, PR and the states. Clinics with international coaches from Argentina and Bermuda have also been organized to provide the competitors with the extra training necessary to compete in an event like the Worlds.

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