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Thursday 8th November 2018

Age eighteen and full of the wonder at what life can throw his way, I sat down with Mauriceson Valentine to find out what it is about sailing that gets him out on the water at any opportunity.

Zenworth left, Mauriceson right – representing Antigua at the CDC

He started sailing at the National Sailing Academy (NSA) aged twelve. At that point the NSA was still located at Antigua Yacht Club and Mauriceson attended the programme weekly from Cobbs Cross School. He lived in Swetes at that point with only an Uncle in the family who had been a sailor, in Norway, to be inspired by. His first teacher was Shawn Ambrose and he immediately took to sailing lessons, living each week for when he would get down to the NSA for more classes.

Now five years into his sailing experiences in life he talks enthusiastically about his love of the sport. He is certainly gets a  thrill from speed and loves sailing in high winds, but equally loves the challenge of light air and the extra skills that come with sail trimming and setting and balance. He got a great opportunity to test out that technique at the weekend, but more on that later.

Along his path of learning he also credits Sylvester Thomas, Chief instructor at the NSA along with Tony Isaac for his great start in sailing and being clear on good technique. In 2017 Mauriceson was lucky enough to be part of an RYA Dinghy Instructor Course also held at the NSA along with eight other students. World Sailing trainers Tim Cross and Dan Hallam lead the course and at the end of the programme 8 new instructors were certificated, of which he was one. For him it was a great experience to learn how to teach sailing, not just sail, and the different techniques that requires along with all the other things that an instructor is responsible for in terms of boat preparation and maintenance. Having now graduated from Irene B Willians Secondary School in Swetes he is a part time instructor at the NSA teaching students from his old school along with others to sail.

Earlier this year his experience in sailing took a different tack when he was selected to be part of the youth team who competed as part of Antigua Sailing Week on the Cork 1720, NSA Spirit. The boat had raced for the first time in ASW in 2017 and came in second in class. With skipper Jules Mitchell at the helm again they were determined to win their class in 2018 and with Mauriceson as part of the team, they did exactly that. Mauriceson sees that success as being down to preparation  prior to the event, both training on the water and prepping the boat and team work on the water with everyone very clearly knowing their roles on board. He also says that Jules as a skipper keeps everyone calm and mellow but also motivates the team.  

Mauriceson was part of the NSA Spirit crew who won their class in ASW 2018.

I asked Mauriceson what his advice to someone thinking about learning to sail would be. This was the kicker for me as until this point he was very focused on speed, performance and what might be seen as the glory of dinghy and  keel boat racing and the potential to win big in the future, (the Americas Cup is on his wish list and at one point he wanted to be an engineer),  he said, ‘It relaxes your mind and keeps you calm’. He went on to say, ‘You learn about mother nature because you are out on the water, you learn about wind and how it works and see lots of wild life like turtles and stingrays, and you learn how important looking after the environment is, why we must recycle and take care of the environment.”

I was blown away by his answer. This is one of the many reasons the NSA is so important in what it does and why we need to engage as many youths as possible and allow them to experience the feeling of being at one with nature which being out on sailboat can bring. That and the fact that for Mauriceson it is very clearly not just something he loves to do with his time, but a pathway to a career in the industry, and yes, he uses the word pathway. That fell from his mouth like a small bomb that went off in my head. He very clearly gets the opportunity he has been afforded and intends to make the most of it.

Last weekend was probably Mauricesons second most exciting experience , after ASW, with his crew Zenworth Daly, also from Irene B Williams Secondary School and great friends for years, they competed in the CSA Caribbean Dinghy Championship on the double-handed RS Fevas. They’ve been sailing on the boats for a year and love the team work that comes with sailing double-handed. He talks about the need to communicate well and have respect for each other. Mauriceson is the helm and mainsheet and Zenworth on jib, spinnaker and easing controls.

Mauriceson and Zenworth showing tight team work at the CSA CDC. Mauriceson on the helm.

He has been training hard for the event just like he did with ASW both on the water and off the water. Sessions in the gym especially working on abs to ensure he can endure the hiking out needed to perform in high winds, running with his partner Zenworth and building up their endurance generally. He was ready for the weekend of racing, although it was their first experience in a regional level competition, they were aiming to perform well. And perform well they did, placing 3rd overall in their class and being part of Team Antigua who won the entire event.

I caught up with Mauricseon after the event to find out what he thought of his performance. He had got over the disappointment of not being first and felt pleased with his third place. He cited the importance of each event being an opportunity to learn and improve his skills. He had his first experience of a protest (which they lost and affected their overall position), and two very different days of sailing but as they raced on the second day they slowly closed the gap on the winning team St. Barths placing second in many of the races over both days.

He now has his sights firmly set on getting to the RS Feva Worlds in 2019 which may be a tall order but he’s up for the challenge and on racing back on NSA Spirit for the upcoming winter season. The first event is potentially the Jolly Harbour November Regatta in two weeks- time and then he is hoping to be back on the winning Youth Team in Antigua Sailing Week.

Fair winds and following seas Mauriceson – we look forward to following your career and seeing where it takes you.

Written by Alison Sly-Adams.

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