If there were any doubts, they have been put to rest the Antilles Schools sailing team is now officially the best in the nation. Coming off their win at the Mallory Cup competition in Michigan earlier in May, the team which includes three St. John Kids And The Sea (KATS) alumni won all seven races over two days of sailing at the Baker Cup in Marthas Vineyard which wrapped up on May 28.
Fleet, Team Racing Wins
The Antilles team faced the top sailing schools in the country in both fleet racing and team racing, and proved in Marthas Vineyard that their win in Michi-gan was not a fluke.
The kids won two weeks ago in Michigan, said Josephine Roller, whose children Mimi and Hugo Roller Jr. are on the team along with fellow St. John sailor Sarah Burks. This second win is very important because it proved that they are the best. They are the best sailing team in the nation.
The Antilles sailing team dealt with light and unpredictable wind in Marthas Vineyard, according to Mimi Roller.
The wind was horrible, she said. It was flukey and light and shifted a lot. Also, the water was really cold and I almost wore my dry suit.
We were supposed to compete in 30 races over the two days, said Burks. But there was not enough air, so we only raced five. Then, we did a tie breaker with another school.
The tie breaker was the best out of three, and we won the first two races, she added.
Making V.I. History
The team made history by placing the V.I. at the acme of high school sailing.
This has never happened before, said Josephine. This will help everyone because now the V.I. will be known for their sailing. The kids represent the islands at these competitions, and spread awareness about the Virgin Islands.
The Antilles teams camaraderie helps keep them sailing to victory, Burks explained.
We have a really strong team of people who all get along, she said. We go out together and hang out together. I think its important that we all get along.
Another aspect which adds to the teams success is a gift from nature, according to Hugo Roller Jr.
Were also the best looking team around, he said. Our natural beauty helps us win too.
Started Young with KATS
Burks and the Rollers, now in 10th grade at Antilles, came up through the ranks of the volunteer sailing program KATS in Coral Bay. The Antilles team members strong sailing backgrounds further contributes to their success, according to Mimi Roller.
We all have strong sailing backgrounds so no one had to learn anything from scratch, she said. That really made a difference for us to just keep getting better.
KATS programs were launched throughout the Virgin Islands in order to teach children basic sea knowledge after a tragic boating accident in St. Thomas claimed the lives of two youngsters.
The St. John KATS is directed and run with an all-volunteer group of dedicated instructors, who still remember the younger Burks and Rollers.
Standing Out from Others
I remember teaching them years ago, said Jennifer Robinson, a 14-year KATS instructor. From the beginning these kids were interested and really went for it. They had that thirst.
Im so proud of them, Robinson continued. KATS is a wonderful program to give kids a start, but these kids took it from there.
I am very proud of these kids, added KATS St. John president Robin Clair Pitts. I am very happy that they have this opportunity with the Antilles sailing team and that they have these skills. I am just so proud of them.
KATS is a program that should have the full support of the community, according to Josephine.
KATS is really important, said Josephine. This is where the kids first get introduced to the sea. The program is run by volunteers and we must thank them.
The St. John sailing sensations will next represent the V.I. at a number of competitions this summer.
Mimi will be traveling to Colombia in July for the Central American and Caribbean Games and then on to California for the Radial Youth World Championships. Her brother Hugo will be going to Canada for the North American Laser Championships, before heading to New York for the Atlantic Coast Championships. Hugo will finish off the summer in Rhode Island at the Buzzards Bay Regatta.
Burks will be enjoying some down time this summer before heading off to boarding school in New England to further her sailing.
KATS St. John is run on contributions, and donations are always accepted. For more information about donating to KATS, call 779-4994.