Sunday 17 November, 2019

Inner city youths to compete on CMU sailing ship in race series

Sailing is often seen as an elitist sport dominated by the upper class. Many have asked why aren't people of other  economic classes in sailing? That perception is changing a little thanks to the efforts of the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU). 

"We are on a mission to share the sport of sailing with the wider Jamaican public and reinvigorate Jamaica's maritime conscience and also to remind people of our proud maritime legacy; after all, the CMU is located on the Palisadoes where we have a deep history of sailing," Erica Simmons, executive director of the Centre for Digital Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing (CDIAM), said.

"We have youth from the CMU’s Unattached Youth programmes who when hearing of the initiative asked to be part of the activities we have planned along with students from CMU. This is great to spread the leadership, teamwork and strategy of sailing to all regardless of socioeconomic status," she added.

Erica Simmons

The CMU is demystifying the sport to landlubbers who wouldn't know a bedsheet from a mainsheet, and is making moves towards getting more young people involved in the sport at the club level. 

"Sailing is just a lot of fun. In addition to sailing at the collegiate level, one of our main goals is to encourage the participation of primary and secondary schools students and to use sailing to expose youth at risk to the opportunities, culture and knowledge that’s associated with the sport thereby increasing the participant's maritime conscience," she said.  

Last year, the CMU started a group in Jamaica’s secondary schools called the Caribbean Merchant Marine Cadet Corps.

Many Jamaicans, if they give it a chance, would find a welcome in the sailing community. Ask yourselves a few questions first: Are you good company? Are you willing to throw yourself into the fun activities on the boat? Do you have a one pot recipe for a delicious plate of food? If your answer to any or all of these questions, you will likely find a welcome into the sailing community.

Hundreds of Jamaicans are now flocking to Harbour View to watch the weekly sailing races that the CMU sailing team is participating in at the Royal Jamaica Yacht Club.  The CMU recently launched a competitive sailing team which will participate in four weeks of racing every Wednesday in a race series dubbed the Ian Gibson 'Sundowner'. 

"From our strategic location on the Palisadoes, we intend to restore the tradition of sailing at the University with our very first student-athletes who will form our Race Team in 2019.  Fifteen students have taken the sailing class and will participate in the regattas put on by the Royal Jamaica Yacht Club," Simmons said. 

The programme is a partnership between CMU’s Faculty of Marine and Nautical Studies, the Centre for Digital Innovation & Advanced Manufacturing at CMU and Salty Dog Maritime Partners headed by Captain Peter John Gibson.  The students will participate in over 23 local and international races between now and the end of 2019 season in December. 

"We have been working since January to buy the essential equipment that we need. Someone donated a boat, a championship boat called Saucy Sue, which competed in the Pineapple Cup races between Miami and Jamaica, and we basically resurrected her and she is ours now," Simmons said, adding that the team will be involved in the 'Sundowner' races in the Kingston Harbour as part of the race series in the evenings throughout the end of July.  

“Every Wednesday starting at 5:05 pm, the boats jockey for position to be the first across the line. In fact this past Wednesday, the students won their first race ever, crossing the finish line ahead of everybody and clocking a time of 59.77 minutes,” Simmons added.

Simmons said that the CMU is committed to its mandate to graduate the best seafarers in the world.

"By participating in sailing, our students will be better equipped and more rounded sailors as they can gain multiple experiences that will not be afforded to them when they graduate from university to work on tankers and large commercial merchant ships," she said. 

Captain Johnny Pretell, the Assistant Vice President of the Faulty of Marine and Nautical Studies at the Caribbean Maritime University, believes that recognising the importance of the sea could be a way to help jumpstart the nation's economy. He pointed towards the legal, strategic and political dimensions of China's positioning in the South China Sea to show that maritime nationalism is becoming increasingly important. 

"Maritime conscience is the awareness of our citizens that the sea is more than just for recreational activities, cruises and sail ships, it is about recognising the importance of the sea to the wealth of a nation , it is about merchant maritime interests, shipbuilding...the sea is a source of nation's wealth especially seen in the context of recent advances in naval modernization, seaborne trade and resource extraction," Captain Pretell said. 

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