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San Pedro Sailing Club to Join Belize Sailing Association and Set Up a Program with Six Optimist Prams to Teach Sailing and Racing to the Youth of San Pedro.

Since its first race last summer, the San Pedro Sailing Club has been naught but a jaunty group of small-boat sailing enthusiasts, and it is free for anyone to join.  In fact the club’s goal – other than to enjoy sailing – is to promote more small-boat sailing on La Isla Bonita. Thus far the effort has been limited to inviting by word of mouth anyone who wants to sail or to learn how to come to Sailsports Belize on the beach at Caribbean Villas for the Sunday afternoon catamaran races.  Locals and guests on the island, old and young, are welcome and have been happily accommodated. To enquire, please call Andy Milner at 632-4101 or Forrest Jones at 610-4550.

Enter the Belize Sailing Association
All well and good, but in January, Alan Usher from the Belize Sailing Association (BzSA) – a recently registered NGO and charity – presented the club with a serious and solid opportunity to teach the youth of Isla Bonita how to sail and race small boats. BzSA has joined the International Optimist Association.  Optimists are a class of small, inexpensive, and very portable sailboats. They are used worldwide and more extensively than any other design to teach sailing to children aged 8 to 14. BzSA is raising a fleet of them up and down the mainland and invited San Pedro Sailing Club to incorporate under its NGO umbrella and to find funding for five optimists. Currently, for every five purchased, a sixth one is provided free of charge.

Is This Economically Realistic?
Members of the San Pedro Sailing Club believe that for 1,500.00US, at least five businesses on our island would find it rewarding to sponsor a boat, in exchange for having the name of their business prominently displayed on the hull. Also, two businesses may sponsor a boat; one name on the port side the other on starboard.  Fiberglass Optimist hulls are known to last for 15 years, and even if sub tropical climes decrease longevity, a one-time investment will still provide advertising for quite a number of years, minimizing the annual cost of an ad on the hull. The Optimists that lasted only two or three years on Caye Caulker some years back were made of wood not fiberglass. The first six planned for San Pedro will be secured, cared for, and maintained by Paul McCarthy and his staff in the shade at Sailsports Belize, where Paul’s own boats have enjoyed plenty of longevity.

Would the funding be better spent elsewhere?
Members of the club asked the schools and community leaders to speak frankly about whether they would rather have any funds raised privately for youth activities applied to some purpose deemed more urgent than this.  Their enquiries encountered no opposition and a great deal of enthusiastic approval.  One of the town’s leading businessmen pledged to sponsor a boat. He and some town elders expressed regret that many of the children of Isla Bonita today are not learning the traditional water skills such as sailing that they themselves were brought up with, often as a matter of necessity.

A club member, Andrew Milner, sought out the preferences of educators by meeting with our schools’ principals. He reports their complete approval and support of the plan.  The educators appeared to recognize that not only is sailing part of their pupils’ rich cultural heritage, the skills and learning involved in such a fun and exciting way travel along associative neural pathways to strengthen a child’s overall analytical and critical thinking skills, concentration, decision making, self-confidence, and grace under pressure.

Proceeding on a Worthwhile Course
With the school principals’ approval, a pledge from one prominent San Pedro citizen, and a check from a local resort already in hand, members of the San Pedro Sailing Club met at Caribbean Villas last Sunday, March 20, to elect officers and to take other initiatives required to gain membership in BzSA. Andrew Milner was elected Commodore and Race Officer; Graham Verralls of Caribbean Villas accepted the offices of Vice Commodore and Treasurer; Forrest Jones is Recording Secretary and Press Officer; Paul McCarthy of Sailsports Belize will be Equipment Officer and Training Officer, and Matt King of Roadkill Bar & Grill is the club’s Social Secretary. The club’s hopes are high that one the teachers here in San Pedro will gladly step forward to become School Liaison Officer.  

To raise the small amount needed to join BzSA, the club held a match race regatta after the meeting adjourned. Eight crews of two paid 10 bzd per person to enter, and another 10 bzd for each race won. In match racing, only two boats race against each other, and the winner moves on to a semifinal. In whitecaps and a very stiff wind, seven races between two 17-foot Hobie Getaway catamaran sloops unfolded to challenge the sailors and delight the crowd – four heats, two semifinals, and the final.  The competition was so intense that the crowd on the beach was treated to the sight of two boats capsizing in desperate efforts to win their heats. The final matched the two who had made their Hobies available for the regatta. Forrest Jones aboard his colorfully be-flagged and decorated La Colombelle proved no match for Paul McCarthy, who was skippering his own Sailsports Belize Getaway. Paul graciously donated his prize money back to the club’s “general fund,” which until then had a balance of zero.

It appears to the members of the San Pedro Sailing Club that it is reasonable to expect six Optimist boats, an Optimist authorized training program, and authorized Optimist trainers, all to be ready when summer vacation arrives, if not beforehand.
The optimist Pram.  (Courtesy of Wikipedia)An Optimist race underway.  (Courtesy of the International Optimist Class Association [UK])With brave young guest Kim aboard, Ace Sailsports instructor Melvin also went down trying a little to hard to beat his boss, Paul., who turned back to help while Windsurfing David Verralls also flew to the rescue.

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