An optimist is a small sailboat designed particularly for children. Over the past year, the sailors of the optimists have sailed six races. The ones who are qualified to sail for the Championship Sailing Regatta had to sail five of the six preliminary races for them to qualify for the Dennis Bradley Cup.
The Belize Sailing Association was started in 2010. They restarted sailing in Belize by replacing old sailors with young and new ones—“out with the old fellas and in with the new.”
The names on the side of the sailboats are the sponsors who have contributed to the Sailing Regatta event. Each sponsor, at the time, contributed about $4000.00 a piece for a boats that will last about 15 years, which will be passed on from generation to generation.
The First Optimist (26th optimist) landed in Belize in May of 2011. Since then, the Belize Sailing Association now has 68 optimists in the country, and over 400 sailors have gone through the training program. Some of them are still learning how to sail, says John Oliver, founder, and some have aged up. When the young and energetic sailors get to the age of 15, they are no longer allowed to sail in the Belize Optimist National Championship competition.
Each sailing club does their own fundraising. There are currently seven clubs throughout the country. The most recent club to have been formed is Dangriga, and they have now begun fundraising to come on board and get involved in the sailing process.
The knowledge and art of sailing are passed on from the seasoned sailors to the novices. It’s a big process. To get all this done, the Belize National Sailing Association depends mostly on volunteer work. They try to recruit people who are interested and who will be happy to help out. There is always room for volunteers—from boat safety tasks, to supervising, etc.
Different schools in Belize City have been targeted to participate in the Sailing Regatta competitions. Currently in Belize City, there are sailors from fifteen different schools.
“Sailing is an Olympic sport. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’ll eventually gain international exposure. Next year we are planning some regattas in Mexico and some in Guatemala. We send our best sailors down there, and they compete against the best of that particular nation. Sometimes in Mexican regattas, you get American and Canadian sailors coming down too.” – John Oliver, Founder.