Youth to Keelboat Programme Launches for Antigua Sailing Week
Saturday, January 20, 2018 8:30 AM
The Antigua and Barbuda Sailing Association (ABSA) in conjunction with Antigua Sailing Week (ASW) is this week launching a new programme that will allow youths aged 16 – 25 to gain keel boat experience during Antigua Sailing Week 2018.
In 50 years of ASW there have always been a small number of Antiguan youths on board; often from seafaring families or raised within yachting communities. Skip forward to 2017 and interest in sailing, not just as sport or leisure option, but as a career has grown exponentially. The first youth programme was developed by Antigua Yacht Club in the nineties and then latterly the National Sailing Academy. The Academy has now enabled every secondary school island wide to offer sailing as part of the national curriculum. Both programmes have produced an increasing number of youths with dinghy sailing experience but for many that is where their sail racing ends. The Youth to Keel Boat Programme (Y2K) seeks to bridge the gap and help them make the leap to gaining keelboat experience.
The original idea for the initiative was borne out of a conversation at a Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA) Conference held in Antigua between Tim Cross (World Sailing Regional Development Coordinator) and ex-America’s Cup sailor Peter Holmberg. Of the programme Tim Cross said, "We were debating how to get more youths into sailing across the region and identified that there needs to be tangible reasons for a young person not only to start sailing, but then remain a life long sailor either recreationally or professionally. This concept is fantastic as it will provide both inspiration and aspirations for the young people involved."
Prior to announcing the programme ASW sent out a request to skippers already entered in the 2018 edition to see if any were willing to take a youth on board. One of the first responses was from Seamus Hourihan, owner and skipper of 55 ft. Gunboat Thirst who is returning to ASW for a second year. Of Y2K Seamus says, “The opportunity to have qualified Antiguan youth sailors on board for ASW is a win-win situation. It’s a win for me in terms of augmenting regular crew with good sailors familiar with big winds off Antigua. And it’s a win for Antiguan youth in terms of gaining valuable big boat experience.” For the role on board Thirst the selection will be rigorous as Seamus is specifically looking for a qualified sailor that can help raise, lower and gather spinnakers and headsails on the trampoline of the catamaran. This requires agility and some strength.
Also enrolled on the programme is Karl Pisec’s Solaris 72, Black Pearl. On getting involved Karl said “We are impressed every time we go to Antigua to see the enthusiasm on the island for sailing. On Black Pearl we enjoy the vibe this creates and will benefit from local sailing knowledge and services when we race this year. We want to do all we can to encourage the next generation of Antiguan sailors and do our part to continue the Antiguan sailing culture.”
In 2016 18-year old Rhone Kirby was given the opportunity to crew on Tony Langley’s TP52 Gladiator. One of his fellow crew members and tactician was double Olympic medalist and 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race winner Ian Walker. It’s an experience Rhone will never forget. “It was an amazing experience. I learned so much and I would recommend to any youth sailor to take an opportunity like this. It changed my life”. Check out the video of Ian Walker sharing words of wisdom with Rhone.
President of ABSA Geoffrey Pidduck, himself a seasoned sailor and huge supporter of youth development, is delighted the programme is finally launching. “I think this programme is something that could be rolled out around the region and headed up by each islands Member National Authority. It will be tough but will an invaluable learning process and also excellent experience to add to their sailing C.V.”