Amidst the majestic sight of the ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ Class sloops in Montagu Bay last weekend, there were two other boat fleets out on the water, most of which were being sailed by junior sailors aged 17 and under.
For the first time ever, the ‘Best of the Best’ Regatta included an all-junior line up in the ‘E’ Class which was spearheaded by Dallas Knowles of the Exuma Sailing Club. On Saturday and Sunday, the Sunfish Junior and Open National Championships took place, providing a colorful display of multi-colored sails out in the bay. Many of the junior participants showed off their sailing versatility in both class fleets.
Of the 11 ‘E’ Class boats, six were from Exuma, all of which made the seven-boat final. Despite their strong lead in the qualifiers, Joss Knowles and Keshaune Hutchinson in Lady Kayla came in second in Sunday’s final, to Andros boat Captain Peg sailed by Mary Jac Nash and Eliza Denning of the Lyford Cay Sailing Club. Alvington McKenzie and Trevor Brown Jr. came in third in Exuma’s Miss Agnes.
The sunfish nationals began on Saturday afternoon after the ‘E’ Class had finished its morning race, enabling the visiting sailors, nine from Exuma and three from Grand Bahama, and Craig Ferguson of the Bahamas National Sailing School to switch out their boats and rig up a sunfish.
A total of 23 headed out on the course, 19 juniors and four adults. Very breezy conditions, 16-18 knots, with higher gusts, made conditions tricky for the less experienced, a couple of whom had to retire early. Two races were completed that day and a further four followed on Sunday after the ‘E’ Class final had ended.
The overall winner in the Sunfish Open Championship was Paul de Souza, former Junior Sunfish World Champion, and Head Coach with the Bahamas National Sailing School. Turning in a fantastic performance, coming in second overall and first in the junior fleet, was 15-year-old Craig Ferguson, beating Donnie Martinborough of the Nassau Yacht Club, a multiple-time world champion in the class. Ellieanne Higgs, 14, of the Royal Nassau Sailing Club finished second and Alvington McKenzie, of Exuma, came in third in the junior fleet.
An awards presentation followed at the Nassau Yacht Club, from where both the ‘E’ Class and the sunfish had launched and where the sloops had been moored over the days of the event.
Director of the Bahamas National Sailing School Emma Tinkler spoke about the involvement of the visiting sailors.
“It has been wonderful to see our Family Island friends back in Nassau since the disruption to our programs due to COVID,” she said. “The Exuma Sailing Club has extended an invitation to all the Nassau junior sailors to join them next April for the National Family Island Regatta in George Town for some more exciting ‘E’ Class action.”
This past week has been a wonderful example of inter-island sailing camaraderie. It has also proven how, while all boat classes have their own unique traits and parameters, a basic understanding of sailing principles can be applied to sail many types of boats. Several of the current top Bahamian sloop sailors began their sailing careers in a little optimist training boat. Sailors such as talented Craig Ferguson, an accomplished optimist sailor, transferred his sailing know-how smoothly this weekend from sloop to sunfish. Also doing that were McKenzie, Tanaj Manos, Carmen Forbes, Aiden Musgrove and many other Exuma and Grand Bahama sailors.
For more information about junior learn to sail programs in Nassau, Exuma and Grand Bahama, interested persons are asked to please visit the Bahamas National Sailing School’s website at www.bahsailingschool.org and/or the Exuma Sailing Club’s website at www.exumasailing.club. The Grand Bahama Sailing Club can be found on Facebook.