Branden Sands of Cherokee Sound won a double championship title at the 11th annual Bahamas Optimist National Championship, which was held October 16-18 in Elbow Cay. Sands took first place in the Championship Fleet Red Class and first place overall, the first Abaconian to achieve this feat in the 11 years of the race taking place.
The race had been postponed two weeks after the impending threat of Hurricane Joaquin. Hurricane Joaquin incapacitated the Long Island Fleet of eight boats, preventing them from participating this year.
Four islands participated in the championship: Harbour Island, New Providence, Abaco, and Grand Bahama. Within Abaco, participants from Cherokee Sound, Man O War, Scotland Cay and Hope Town entered the regatta. Approximately 50 people participated in the competition.
The event, held on Tahiti Beach, began on Friday with practice sailing. Four races were held on Saturday with the official opening taking place in the evening at Harbour’s Edge Restaurant. Three races took place on Sunday in choppy seas, with the last race ending before 1 p.m.
It was quite a sight for onlookers as the fleet of little boats danced on the sea, their skippers maneuvering in the strong wind to maintain the course in and out of the markers.
The young sailors were divided into four fleets, the Green Fleet for beginners of all ages, the youngest one being seven-year-old Aisha Percentie of the Harbour Island Sailing Club.
The Championship Fleet was divided into three classes by age, identified by blue, white and red colours. The White fleet was comprised of two ten-year-old children, the Blue Fleet of kids age 11 and 12, and the Red Fleet of participants aged 13 to 15. The Committee boat and several other vessels watched over the sailors, not only to record their performance, but also to make sure they did not run into any danger. On Sunday, one boat ran into a problem and had to withdraw from the race.
Participants, coaches, and family members retired to the Abaco Inn for the award ceremony following the last race.
Hope Town Primary School’s Choir gave a skilled rendition of the National Anthem, which was accompanied soon after by a heartfelt prayer by Hope Town student, Harmony Bain.
Medals of participation were then distributed to most participants, except the finalists in all the categories who received the medals with their trophies.
Two sailors received special awards for perserverance; they were 9-year-old Maison Koepke in the Green Fleet and ten-year-old Josuah Nizamudin in the Championship Fleet.
The top five in the Green Fleet were:
First – Jonathan Weech from The Bahamas National Sailing School of Nassau
Second – Micah Albury from Man-O-War Jr Sailing
Third – Rico Hall from the Harbour Island Sailing Club
Fourth – Jaxon Searcy from The Bahamas National Sailing School
Fifth – Jack Guiness from Hope Town Junior Sailing
In the White class, Noah Simmons from the Harbour Island Sailing Club placed first. Simmons was followed by Rory Dack from the Grand Bahama Sailing Club.
In the Blue category, first place went to Logan Major from the Harbour Island Sailing Club, while Rachel Sands from Cherokee Sound came in second.
In the Red Class, Cherokee Sound’s Branden Sands came first, with Bahamas National Sailing School’s Spencer Cartwright in second and Tristan Eldon in third.
The top female sailors were Alvina Saunders from Harbour Island in the Green Fleet and Melisha Higgins, also from Harbour Island, in the Championship Fleet.
Overall first place went to Branden Sands, with Spencer Cartwright in second place, Tristan Eldon in third place, Robert Carey and Cochise Burrows, both with the Bahamas National Sailing School, following in fourth and fifth place.
According to one of the committee members it was a very successful event, in spite of being less competitive because of the absence of Long Island’s participants.
The event was supported by many local persons and businesses.