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Karl James Teaches in the BVI

What happens when, for two days, you mix five eager teens, five enthusiastic adults, ten Lasers and a world-class sailor and coach? You end up with a weekend of intense training, some fun, sore muscles, new skills and a fresh set of goals.

That is just what happened recently when Antiguan Karl James, a world class Laser sailor and coach, spent all day Saturday and most of Sunday with teens Bryshawn Scatliffe, Sam Woods, Elsa Meyers, Jevon Cooper, and Jamie Bibby.

Adults Emma Paull, Clair Burke, Seamus Hennessey, Robert Phillips and Linda Phillips also took part.

The weekend course is part of the training program for young sailors sponsored by the Royal BVI Yacht Club and the BVI Sailing Federation; the goal of which is to train young competitors for local, regional and international events.

Karl James is the quintessential example of what a program like this can produce. Karl is a West Indian who has sailed most of his life. Now in his mid-thirties, sailing has provided him with the “ticket” to competitions throughout the world. To name just a few, he has competed in the Olympics in mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman"'>Atlanta and Barcelona and World championships in Argentina and Europe.

In 2003, he was seventh in the Pan Am Games, is four-time Caribbean Laser Champion and has been the instructor and full time coach at Antigua Yacht Club for 15 years. Regardless of his past success, he still must qualify at home before sponsors send him abroad.

Conditions for training on Saturday were light. Rather than the class quickly rigging the boats and hitting the water, Karl’s first lessons were in how to best rig the boat to provide maximum flexibility to tune on the water depending on the conditions. Once on the water, the class was drilled in the proper way to tack and jibe. For those who don’t sail Lasers, this is no easy feat, as it requires coordination, balance, timing and a third hand. (Just kidding about the hand.)

The class ended the morning session on the beach at Brandywine Bay, joining with sailors from the Pizza Pursuit race in Virgin Queen Pizza and lots of soft drinks and water sponsored by Highland Spring. After lunch, the ten left the beach again and, with Karl giving advice from a dinghy, raced upwind to Peter Island. The wind was initially very light and the initial indications were that the group would be lucky to be there by nightfall but, as the afternoon wore on, the breeze picked up to a steady 8 – 10 knots. Once at Peter Island, the group set off again for the beach at Road Reef to pack the boats away for the night.

Sunday’s story was quite different because instead of light and variable winds, the group sailed in 15 – 20 knots of breeze. For some, it was more a matter of learning to keep the boat upright in a heavy blow than sailing. But for others, it was a chance to learn to push the boat and themselves to the maximum. After lunch, Karl set a series of small races which helped the sailors use their new skills.

The Royal BVI Yacht Club and the Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA) co-sponsored the weekend’s activities. Karl will return to the BVI in early July with his KATS team to compete in the Chief Minister’s Cup.

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