Would you like to raise a smart child? Then don’t call him smart. Especially if he’s smart.
Led by the indomitable Betty Suite of the Vesigny Vikings, 90 young kids from Vesigny, Point Fortin and San Fernando sailed straight to the heart of Hawaiian 8th time Wind Surf Champion, Kevin Pritchard, Venezuelan Diony Guadagnino, Hope LeVin from Turks and Caicos and Brian Talma from Barbados.
As far back as 2005, David Lewis hosted a meeting in Holy Name Convent, Point Fortin to introduce the idea of a sailing school in the area to the parents. Betty, who was then working in the cafeteria, offered to do her best to get the kids involved.
After what started as a quiet Saturday in October 2005 with only three kids on the beach, the Vesigny Vikings quickly grew under Ms Suites’ guidance to a full fleet of 110 kids, with off-shoots in San Fernando Seas Scouts and the Point Fortin Pirates in 2014.
Supported entirely by the Minister of Sport, Honorable Anil Roberts and the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago, the group was supplied with Optimists boats, full sails, safety gear and a competent group of coaches. Betty and her coaching crew, Rodin Acosta, Joseph Morain, Latoya Lopez, Faith Morain and Carlos Ferreira are out every afternoon and Saturdays coaching and the encouraging the kids to develop their skills in sailing, team work, water safety and commitment.
Kids as young as six years old sail the southern waters, barely able to see above the boat, yet competent enough to out-sail many adults.
In 2010 the Vikings were invited to join the Tobago Carnival Regatta line up in Pigeon Point and Betty was soon organising the trucks to take the boats across on the ferry, the taxis to transport the kids and the adults to chaperone them in Tobago.
The anxious kids were off on their first major sailing tour to Tobago. The excitement was palatable.
“We were very happy to have them in Tobago, what was then only 30 kids back in 2010, has now grown to 150 kids, with the inclusion of the Point Fortin Police Youth Club, the Bon Accord Police Youth Club and the Pigeon Point Sailing School. It was nice to see the excitement in their faces and that’s what its all about—getting them to enjoy the sea,” laughed Ms Borde.
Last year saw nine of the best Optimists sailors join the crew of Carlos Nurse in his Bumboat, their first experience sailing on a bigger boat, much to their delight. Fifteen of the more experienced Optimists sailors raced against the Bumboats as well, beating them on many occasions.
When asked about her personal views on the regatta Ms Suite became animated. “This is the best thing to happen to these children. I want them to see the world. Some of them have never left the country far less gone to Tobago. This is a big excursion for them. They never stop talking about it. We took some of the best ones to Antigua and they won best dress in the Regatta Rash Guards. Every year more and more kids are joining, their parents come down to the beach every afternoon to help, it’s a community thing.”
Kevin Pritchard said: “There is so much to take in here in Tobago. When I was out there wind surfing today, I passed a few of them ahead of their race, and was surprised to see how smoothly they maneuvered their boats in all that wind. I have never heard pan before. Such talented kids. This island is an amazing place.”
Betty and her crew have much more to offer in 2014, starting with their own regatta on May 4th at the Point Fortin Facility as the Vesigny Vikings take on the Point Fortin Pirates.
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