Alison Sly-Adams, President of the Caribbean Sailing Association, summed up the central themes of the annual CSA Conference which ended yesterday 20 October 2019 at Antigua Yacht Club in Falmouth Harbour. “The conference has enabled all the island regatta organisers who have come here to represent their events and MNAs (Member National Authorities) to examine, learn and agree on a wide range of issues to support our collaboration of the 16 key regattas which make up the Caribbean calendar.” She adds “We are cooperating on the important area of marketing to attract entries from around the world to come to our unique and enviable sailing waters. We have also used the sessions to explore more options in terms of race management, and to examine the importance of sailing development.”
The CSA Conference was one of several elements of Caribbean Sailing Week, a new format event which also included a three day race management clinic and the Caribbean Dinghy Championships, a 15-race series which took place in the harbour just yards from the conference venue. Pam Fuller, CSA Secretary and fellow Vice-President Jaime Torres also took the chair during the sessions.
The representatives agreed that underpinning the forward momentum of regattas is the grass roots of participation, particularly of local next generation of sailors. This sailing development theme was taken up by Tim Cross, World Sailing Coach and Programme Developer, who presented success stories for coaching and training of young sailors, as well as the range of initiatives that are being taken in the region to train and equally importantly, retain, youngsters in the sport. “At the same time we need to encourage a greater gender balance in sailing,” comments Tim, adding “the region is self-generating its team of experts to develop a region-wide certificated training programme. It’s about development by the region for the region through taking local ownership.”
Jaime Torres echoes this. We need to get our kids and first-time sailors not just to Olympic level but into careers, long term sailing programmes and other areas that can pave the way towards sustained and growing activity.”
The marketing programme, designed to attract entries to events from overseas, was presented by Judy Petz of the BVI Spring Regatta and Michele Korteweg of St Maarten Yacht Club, while Vice President Robbie Ferron, founder St Maarten Yacht Club, and the St Maarten Heineken Regatta, and former CSA president, focussed on the regatta management needed to ensure that the CSA is ready for the future. “The challenges we face have changed dramatically in the past 35 years that I have been involved with Caribbean sailing. As a group we are very successful at sharing as an island region and we can also boast the great success of our yacht rating system. We need to focus on supporting the smaller territories in our region to develop their involvement and capabilities.”
Echoing this theme was Peter Holmberg’s view on prioritising the gearing up to future trends, saying in his presentation “the Caribbean presents such great sailing conditions. Our regattas happen in the winter/spring period allowing us to ‘own’ that period on the international calendar. The work of the CSA in coordinating our calendar and promoting the region as a whole is key.”
Sasha van der Wouden, linking up from St Maarten, presented the newest regatta on the circuit, the Caribbean Foiling Championships, to be held there during 21-23 February.
Paige Myatt from Sailors of the Sea and Renata Goodridge, marine scientist/lecturer and representative of the Barbados Sailing Association looked at the subject of sustainability and the role the regatta community must play in supporting the long-term ecological balance. They were able to show the positive steps that regattas in the region are already taking in eliminating plastics from their regattas. The St Maarten Heineken Regatta is an example. Steps taken include well-signed recycling bins, banning of straws and Styrofoam and making biodegradable products like coffee cups and garbage bags available to competitors.
With Antigua Sailing Week’s initiative to put young sailors aged 13-24 onto competing boats, and coaching programmes available to the clubs amongst the initiatives, the region is firmly putting young participation on the agenda.
The CSA prides itself in its robust and well-received rating formula which has underpinned the success of world-famous events including Antigua Sailing Week and the St Maarten Heineken Regatta. Eight measurers from across the islands who were participating in the Conference announced the latest refinements to the CSA Rating Rule, which will be used at the regattas. Chief Measurer and Chief Technical Officer of the Caribbean Sailing Association, Bastien Pouthier led the team which has worked hard over the past couple of years to reach the milestone of presenting the 2020 Rule. Read the full report on the Rule updates.
Presentations were also well received from Elizabeth Jordan who told talked about the achievements of Antigua’s Sailing Academy in bringing children into sailing free of charge, while Bob Bailey presented the Sailability scheme and facilities for ‘differently abled’ sailors.
Alison Sly-Adams closed the event, saying “For our sport to survive and thrive we have to hand it on to the next generation which means involving them in the development process now, teaching them in a relevant way, encouraging involvement, debate and input. We have to be adaptable and restructure in order to ensure sustainability of our clubs, organisations and regattas.”