KPMG on board once again for winter youth championships
The 2019 optimist season officially gets underway this weekend as about 70 young Bahamians will be in Montagu Bay competing in the first of three qualifying events for the Optimist North American Championships, which will be hosted in The Bahamas later this year.
The KPMG Winter Youth Championships 2019 is set for this Saturday and Sunday in the waters of Montagu Bay. Young sailors ranging from seven to 15 years of age will sail in seven races over the course of the two days, in the optimist, sunfish and laser classes. The young Bahamian athletes will hail mainly from Long Island, Abaco, Harbour Island and four clubs out of New Providence – the Nassau Sailing Club, the Nassau Yacht Club, the Lyford Cay Sailing Club and the Bahamas National Sailing School. In the past, young sailors from Turks and Caicos and the Cayman islands have also taken part. The mini regatta has been in existence since 2013. It will encompass a beginners fleet (Green Fleet) which is expected to be relatively small this year, and a championship fleet which will feature the more experienced sailors. Based on skill level, the young sailors move up from the introductory stage to the intermediate group and then to the advanced level. Only about 10 sailors are expected to compete in the Green Fleet this year.
Director of The Bahamas National Sailing School Robert Dunkley, one of the organizers of the regatta, said that the idea was to engage as many kids as possible this weekend.
“First of all, I want to take this time to thank KPMG for their financial support which enables us to successfully run this event and develop the year-round sailing program,” said Dunkley. “An event like this builds relationships and builds camaraderie among the sailors.
“At The Bahamas National Sailing School, our mission is to make a difference in the lives of young Bahamians through sailing. Since we started the program in 2004, we have engaged 42 government schools. Every Tuesday, kids from H.O. Nash and T.A. Thompson come down for about half of a day. Word from parents and teachers is that it is incredible the difference they see in these kids. One of the biggest rewards from this program is focus. You have to stay focussed on the waters and that translates into the classroom for the kids. Over the next year, we’re hoping to see more young Bahamians join us in our sailing program.”
Currently, over 100 youngsters are enrolled in the school which operates year round out of the Nassau Yacht Club. A total of 139 youngsters took part in the school’s summer camp last year, 60 percent of which were from government schools. Club membership is open to anyone between the ages of 7-18.
As for the additional qualifying events for the 2019 Optimist North American Championships, they are The Bahamas Youth Olympic Regatta set for April and The Bahamas Optimist National Championships which are set for June. The three events will carry weighted marks for qualification for the 2019 Optimist North American Championships (OPTINAM 2019) – 25 percent allocation from the KPMG Winter Youth Championships, another 25 percent from The Bahamas Youth Olympic Regatta, and 50 percent allocation from the optimist nationals. A total of 14 young Bahamian sailors will qualify from the three events for OPTINAM 2019, which is a qualifier for the world championships and will be held from September 27 to October 4 in the waters of Montagu Bay in Nassau.
OPTINAM 2019 falls under the auspices of the International Optimist Dinghy Association (IODA) which in turn has a membership of 134 countries. It is estimated that about 250,000 sailors compete in the optimist class worldwide which makes it one of the biggest sailing classes in the world.
“We decided to rely on not just one event – we want to keep the sailors involved,” said Dunkley regarding the three local qualifying events for OPTINAM 2019. “It’s amazing how these kids improve over a short period of time. More events help toward that. We want to give every young person the opportunity to make the national team and we believe this is the way to do that.”
OPTINAM 2019 is set to be one of the biggest sailing events to ever be hosted in The Bahamas. About 160-180 junior sailors, ages 12-15, from over 20 countries will compete in the regatta. A 14-member team will represent The Bahamas at home.
“We are just so excited and honored to be hosting it, and to have KPMG sponsoring it,” said Chandra Parker, the national representative of the optimist dinghy class. “We’re still looking for additional sponsorships so we welcome Corporate Bahamas to come on board with us. With young sailors, coaches, team leaders, officials and their family and friends coming to The Bahamas, we are expecting over 500 visitors to be here for the regatta. This is a tremendous opportunity for Corporate Bahamas to get involved and for the local economy to benefit. We’re looking forward to a really exciting weekend on the water.”
Dunkley added: “We have been communicating for the past four years about hosting this event, and we have gotten to the point where we have talent among parents who know how to run races and set courses which gave us that comfort level that we could host this thing. We made a bid for the regatta and we were given the honor of hosting this event. This is a huge event and it requires so much in terms of coordination. There are 11 different committees. It is a $300,000 event, and we are in the process of trying to raise funds.”
Dunkley said that about half of the budget for the regatta will be taken care of by the registration fees collected from the sailors.
“We still have to raise about $120,000, and to make this an exceptional event, we will need the funds to help us do that,” said Dunkley. “We’re seeking corporate sponsorship. We have received the support of the sports ministry, the Ministry of Tourism and from the Regatta Desk of the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources, and any additional funds we receive will be greatly appreciated,” he added.
Already coming on board as a corporate partner of the international regatta, in addition to the $5,000 sponsorship they are providing for the local regatta this weekend, is KPMG. Representing the audit, tax and advisory firm, Michaela Bethell-Stuart said they cherish the relationship with The Bahamas National Sailing School and they look forward to continuing the partnership. KPMG is the title sponsor for the winter youth championships this weekend, and a significant supporter of OPTINAM 2019 as well.
“We certainly appreciate the support. Everything about sailing is so critical to helping kids mature and become independent,” said Parker whose son Jackson represented The Bahamas as a part of a small four-member team at the Optimist North American Championships in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, last year. Through his four years involved in local sailing, Jackson earned a scholarship to Christchurch School – a college-preparatory boarding school in Christchurch, Virginia, which is the third-leading boarding school for sailing in the United States.
“These kids learn that every decision has an immediate consequence, or sometimes further down the road, and that is beneficial to them in life,” said Parker. “They develop so much through the program.”
Bethell-Stuart’s son is another young Bahamian who benefitted from the program.
Given The Bahamas’ relatively small size, normally only four sailors represent the country at the Optimist North American Championships. This year, The Bahamas will be represented by 14 sailors at that international regatta.
Education: College of The Bahamas, Associates in Accounting