The only U.S. Virgin Islander to earn a medal at the 2018 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games, St. Croix’s Peter Stanton, has been awarded the coveted title of ‘Virgin Islands Sailor of the Year’ for 2018 by the Virgin Islands Sailing Association (VISA).
“Peter has represented the territory at many international competitions and he remains an active local sailor as both a competitor and a youth coach. His bronze medal at last year’s CAC Games was a wonderful tribute to his sailing career. We are proud to award Peter this honor and expect that he will represent us again in many future competitions,” Bill Canfield, VISA president, said.
Stanton, age 35, a graduate of the St. Croix Country Day School and member of the St. Croix Yacht Club, is pleased to be selected.
‘It is an honor to receive this award,” Stanton said. “I do realize that a lot of our top sailors are sailing for the U.S.A. now. However, for me, to remain representing the U.S. Virgin Islands will be a priority and an honor.”
Stanton’s year of sailing started successfully. He skippered the Melges 24, Boogaloo, to a second-place finish at the St. Thomas International Regatta in March and to a first in class at the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival in April. However, it was in the summer, at the CAC Games, held July 19 to Aug. 4 in Barranquilla, Colombia, where Stanton made U.S. Virgin Islands sailing history.
Interestingly, this was aboard the 13-foot, 9-inch long single-handed Sunfish. This isn’t an Olympic boat, but one with a large competitive international following and a size well-suited to Stanton. Sunfish history in the territory was made in 1968 when the first Sunfish World Championships were hosted at the St. Thomas Yacht Club and again when St. Croix’s Jens Hookanson developed a rig that is still used today.
“The CAC Games were challenging for me because I hadn’t competed at a high level for a while, and I had to play catch up the whole time to sailors who actively sail year-round,” said Stanton, who raced against 11 other sailors, representing an equal number of nations, in nine races over three days. “My main goal was to stay consistent and not make major mistakes.”
True to goal, Stanton posted two 4th place and one 3rd place finishes on the first day. Day two, tacking left after the start rather than right proved a big blunder that sent Stanton straight to the back of the fleet with a 12th place finish. Lesson learned, yet with medaling now much more difficult, he put his head down and focused on working his way up back up the scoreboard. In the end, the chance to medal came down to the regatta’s last day and last race. This Stanton started in 5th place, some six points away from a bronze medal.
In a class with this caliber of international talent and with robust race conditions, making up six points in a single race seemed like a dream. Yet, it wasn’t an impossibility. Stanton knew he would have to finish 1st or 2nd and for those sailors in 3rd and 4th to finish way behind.
“At the first mark, I was in third and my closest competitors were right behind me. That’s when I thought medaling was a lost cause. So, I shifted focus to just winning the last race and ending the regatta with a bang. Then, for some reason, half way up the last upwind leg, both of my closest competitors decided to sail to the left. I couldn’t believe it! This was the move that sent me to the back the day before. In the end, I was passed by one sailor and finished second. When I started counting where my closest competitor finished, it was exactly the gap of six points I needed to medal,” he recalled.
Guatemala’s David Guzman won the 2018 CAC Games’ Sunfish Class Gold Medal with 11 points; Cuba’s Lester Hernandez won the Silver with 15 points; Stanton won the bronze with 33 points.
Stanton has been making waves in Caribbean sailing for over two decades. Perhaps most notable is when as a 15-year-old still in high school, he and twin brother Scott, crewing with 17-year-old brother Chris on the helm, earned the Top Boat trophy out of over 100 vessels in the 1999 BVI Spring Regatta aboard the family’s J/24, Jersey Devil.
“Growing up in the U.S. Virgin Islands shaped my sailing career most by teaching me ‘island hospitality,’ which is to help others and they will help you. The late Bill Chandler taught me the finer points of sail trim, the late Carlos Skov the importance of rig set-up and local knowledge, and Beecher Higby read me the rule book each weekend. Of course, Captain Nick Castruccio kept us kids inline and made sure we earned the respect of our competitors.
Added to this was the ability to get on the ocean year-round and parents who allowed my brothers and I to adventure alone to events on other islands and around the world, which instructed us how to be self-taught and self-reliant. These are just some of the reasons why the U.S. Virgin Islands are the greatest place to grow up sailing,” Stanton said.
What advice does Stanton offer to young sailors in the U.S. Virgin Islands and beyond?
“Talk to your older sailors! Go sail with them! You never know what you will learn or experience. Also, keep your mind open. Read as much as you can. Do not rely or wait for a coach to tell you what to do or what you did wrong. Learn from your mistakes. Most of all, remember why you love the sport of sailing! Being on the water, family, friends, making new friends and great experiences,” said Stanton.
He adds that his ultimate sailing goal is to regrow interest in the sport on St. Croix for both young and old: “It is time for me to give back to the community and sport that has made me the man I am today.”
VISA is the organization that administers all sailing activities in the U.S. Virgin Islands. We are a Member National Authority of ISAF, which is the International Sailing Federation that governs sailing worldwide, the Pan American Sailing Federation and Central American and Caribbean Sailing Organization. In addition, VISA was a founding member of the Virgin Islands Olympic Committee, which administers all Olympic sports in the Virgin Islands.