St. John women sailors kicked off the first of back to back weekend regattas last Saturday, November 4, in St. Maarten, racing in the Budget Marine Women’s Caribbean One Design Keelboat Championships in Simpson Bay lagoon.
While Love City usually sends younger sailors from the Kids And The Sea St. John program, this year more mature ladies represented the island in the regional sailing competitions.
The one design keelboat regatta fleet included two teams from St. John; one comprised of KATS St. John instructors Robin Clair-Pitts, Cat Taylor, Jennifer Robinson and headed by Vicki Rogers; and the other, sponsored by Skinny Legs, was comprised of Nina Fette, Martha Hollander, Julie Fortunato and headed by Sara O’Neill.
St. Thomas Up Next
All eight women are also set to race in St. Thomas over the weekend of November 11, in the St. Thomas Yacht Club’s women’s regatta.
Some of the sailing ladies are racing in their first small-boat regattas — on Sailfast 20’s, lasers and 420’s — while others are returning to competition after taking a few years’ hiatus.
“This is the first time I’ll be involved in this regatta,” said Robinson, who teaches the rowing and seamanship class for KATS St. John. “We’ve sent our younger girls down before, and I used to race lasers, but I’ve never been to St. Maarten.”
“I’ve only raced the bigger boats really,” said Fette, who used to own a 32-foot Van de Stadt with her husband. “I’ve raced with Sara before and I think she’s a great captain. I just thought it would be fun.”
While Hollander lives on her 37-foot boat with her daughter and husband, St. Maarten is the first time she is racing small-boats as well.
“I got involved because it is a great bunch of ladies and because my child sails and I like to do all the things that she does,” said Hollander.
Getting Back In Action
For veteran racers, the St. Maarten keelboat regatta marked their return to Caribbean women’s racing.
“This year, we decided it would be fun to race ourselves since the younger girls had other obligations,” said Rogers, a KATS St. John instructor who has sailed throughout the Caribbean, Atlantic and Europe. “I’m really excited about going. I’ve taken a hiatus from women’s regattas for the past few years and I’ve really missed it.”
“It’s exciting to get back into racing,” Rogers added.
“I’ve wanted to do the St. Maarten regatta for a while,” said O’Neill. “I always hear about it and miss it. So this year, I was determined to get it together and compete.”
The women are showing that sailing is not just for the younger crowd.
“I’m really excited because while it’s been great to send our girls down there, it’s also wonderful to show people that sailing isn’t a sport that has to end at a certain age,” Robinson said. “Sailing can just go on and on.”
Robinson is also taking advantage of the opportunity to spread an important message about women with heart disease.
“I plan on wearing my red dress pin at the race and maybe I’ll get people to ask me about what it stands for and I can do my part in increasing the awareness of heart disease in women,” said Robinson. “Heart disease is actually a larger killer of women than breast cancer. Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S. and I’m trying to help raise awareness about it.”
The St. John women are expected to vie against at least 15 other teams from across the Caribbean, including last year’s winning crew from Tortola.
Lured by More Than Racing
While the ladies were definitely hoping to show their sailing prowess, the lure of other things added to their decision to hop over to St. Maarten for the race, explained Rogers.
“It’s going to be excellent,” Rogers said. “How can it not be? Other than the racing, there’s all that french wine, cheese and bread.”
Race results were not available as of press time.