Youth from Abaco made their mark during the third annual Sir Durward Knowles Junior Regatta Nationals which was held at Taino Beach in Grand Bahama on April 6 and 7.
The competition featured about 100 junior sailors from New Providence, Andros, Harbour Island, Exuma, Grand Bahama and Abaco who competed in four classes: opti, sun fish, laser and E-Class.
Branden Sands, a coach with the Hope Town Junior Sailing Association (HTJS), said “over the end of last week and into the weekend I have had the amazing privilege to take the first proper Abaco team to the Sir Durwood Knowles Junior Nationals Regatta.”
Branden recently became a certified sailing Instructor and started “working on making my dream come true, which is to see Abaco have one of the strongest sailing programs in the Bahamas.”
He said, “I have been coaching at HTJS on Saturdays, which has been great and the sailors are improving at an impressively rapid rate, which makes me super excited.”
“When the opportunity came to take a team from Abaco to this regatta I immediately took the opportunity,” he added.
Rhiannon Thomas, instructor with HTJS, said that the regatta “turned out to be a spectacular event, from the sailing right down to the accommodations.”
She said that the “conditions were challenging, and the nerves were high. Winds were about twelve to fifteen knots.”
She said that the wind conditions settled for the two afternoon races to about ten to twelve knots and the kids had settled their nerves by then. “With the help of Branden and his pointers, they really got into it and put their skills to use,” she said.
“Saturday morning’s winds were stronger with white caps and choppy seas. We could tell that the kids kept their focus and had determination to sail their best, and that’s just what they did for the two races that morning,” she added.
The team consisted of four sailors in the Optimist class in all three skill levels.
Jasmin Aberle, the only girl, sailed in the Green or beginner fleet and sailed to four first place finishes and one second place, earning her a first-place finish for her first national regatta.
Dawson Thompson sailed in the Silver or intermediate fleet and placed fifth out of the twenty boats in the fleet.
In the Gold or advanced fleet, there were two Abaco sailors; Jack Guinness and Maison Koepke.
Jack finished in fourth, missing a third-place finish by only one point and Mason came right behind him in fifth.
Branden said “I Am very pleased with all of their performances, they all sailed to the best of their abilities, and I am looking forward to the next regatta, which I am hoping for a few more sailors.”
He thanked everyone who made the event possible; including Instructor Caitlin Wilhoyte, the Regatta Desk, the Grand Bahama Sailing Club, and the Hope Town Junior Sailing Club.
The Regatta Desk in the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources embraced the challenge of working with partners throughout the country to develop sailors who will, one day, return The Bahamas to the top of the podium in Olympic and championship sailing.