The Caribbean regatta calendar and the support of management and participation of Caribbean Regattas was the central element of the presentations and discussions at today’s session of the Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA) Conference.
With 16 key regattas on the calendar throughout the first part of 2020, the leaders and managers of sailing organisations from across the Caribbean were gathered at Antigua Yacht Club today to discuss a wide range of aspects of growing the events and improving management. Several of the key presentations highlighted the importance of joint initiatives between the islands as an important aspect of cooperation.
Judy Petz of the BVI Spring Regatta and Michele Korteweg of St Maarten Yacht Club jointly presented their marketing programme, designed to attract entries to events from overseas, specifically from Europe and the US, while Robbie Ferron initiated a discussion on regatta management, focusing on the action points need to ensure that the CSA is ready for future challenges.
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.”
With this in mind, a great range of initiatives were discussed. The new opportunity of foiling and creating foiling regattas, for instance, is now on the calendar. 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.
Peter Holmberg underlined his view of the fundamentals of a successful event; “Weather, mechanics and logistics, and promotion,” he says, continuing “We have the weather 99% of the time, so that is a huge plus for us. The CSA mission and goals are great. It is the one body that I see around the world doing what it does for the region, helping the group as a whole, and helping the smaller islands.”
Robbie Ferron, founder St Maarten Yacht Club, and the St Maarten Heineken Regatta, and a former CSA president viewed the challenges that have “changed dramatically in the past 35 years that I have been involved with Caribbean sailing”. He says “We have to address the structures and focus on areas that may no longer be fit for purpose as times move forward. We are very successful at sharing as an island region and we can 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.”
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.
Underpinning the forward momentum of regattas is the grass roots of participation, particularly of local next generation sailors. Tim Cross, World Sailing Coach and Programme Developer, 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, while at the same time encouraging a greater gender balance in sailing. On training he comments “the region is self-generating its team of experts to develop a region-wide certificated training programme. Its about development by the region for the region though taking local ownership.”
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 Conference, which is running concurrently with the Caribbean Dinghy Championships in Falmouth Harbour, as part of Caribbean Sailing Week, wraps up tomorrow, Sunday. Thanks go to valued sponsors Sea Hawk Paints, Kingfisher Yacht Ropes and Sailors for the Sea.