Rajae’s vision soon to set sail in earnest
Sailing coach Rajae Woods is envisioning great things for his charges at Visionary Sailing Academy after a successful summer camp at which attendance was twice the number of last year, with skill levels having improved dramatically over the course of the eight weeks.
Operating out of the West End Sailboat Club, which has produced the likes of Rudy Bailey, a former Comet world champion, along with stalwarts Gladwin Lambert and Fred Bulford, with Stevie Dickinson training regularly out of the club, VSA has moved to have five or their number compete at the internationally renowned Orange Bowl Regatta in Florida in December.
The quintet are slated to compete among the Optimist Green Fleet for intermediate or beginner racers, which Woods said would allow them the experience of serious competition against others of a similar level. They will join fellow Bermuda competitors representing other local programmes such as from the nearby Sandys Boat Club, the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club and the Bermuda Yachting Association.
Woods stated his pleasure regarding the progress of academy members as well as that of another youngster, whom he has taken under his wing as a trainee coach.
“Participation has doubled from last summer, which is a good thing, and I’ve been able to take on a young coach in training, as he is striving to attain his certification as well,” Woods said. “He’s been a big help.”
A former top junior sailor in the Optimists, before moving to the Laser class where he rose to prominence, competing ably against the likes of world-class sailors such as Malcolm Smith and Brett Wright, Woods added: “Basically, we had a good summer; a good eight weeks with some good sailing. We have a lot of natural talent, with children picking up the tactics and technique really quickly, which was nice to see.”
Participating were youth from all over the island, with Woods’s goal this year being to prepare as many as he could — particularly those with time on the water under their belts — for overseas competition such as the Orange Bowl.
“The parents are supportive and everybody is spot on and going for it,” Woods said. “We’ve overcome our first challenge, which was the registration, as there are only 300 spots and they go quickly once registration is opened. But all five of our children were successful in getting in.”
However, now comes the crucial phase, which is to find funding for travel, accommodation, coaching, and boat and equipment costs, with Woods explaining how there will be several organised fundraisers possibly in the form of bake sales, car washes — anything the children can do to raise money.
Of course, Woods noted the desire for more major corporate and private sponsors to perhaps adopt the programme and assist in the funding process.
He highlighted PW’s for thanks in recently having made a sizeable donation to the school, while another local company, Axis Capital, has been involved from inception, helping with the everyday operating costs and buffering some tuition costs, and Rubis has donated a $500 fuel credit.
“Axis put up money to sponsor children that are coming through Visionary Academy and participating in the off-season, Spring Series and Fall Series,” Woods said. “We now could certainly use a major sponsor to cover our costs related specifically to the Orange Bowl. Whether it be a major sponsor or small sponsorships from regular people or small companies, anything would be a big help.
“I’ve already raised $3,000 myself through my own contacts, so that’s a start and Mid-Atlantic Boat Club has put up some money for the sailors that they put forward — we’re on the right track. We have a few months to go, but we’re on the right track.”
Woods is offering branding opportunities to potential sponsors with possible company logo placement on the boats, sails, T-shirts and equipment, as well as the opportunity to act in the capacity of caring community members with a stated interest in Bermuda’s overall social development.
Again looking at the upcoming Orange Bowl, the Woods design is for all to be able to enjoy the competition, receive the life lessons connected with competing in a foreign country and to be stimulated to want to further compete and progress.
“As far as competition, my main thing is for the children to have fun and want to compete more and go further with it,” he said. “This is their first overseas regatta and it’s important to have fun and enjoy the experience ... to take it seriously, but enjoy it at the same time.”
Woods and the youth sailors are set to resume training towards the winter regatta. The academy and is also operating several fall courses at West End Sailboat Club, with two-hour, after-school sessions events held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while interested youth can also choose to take part in three-hour weekend sessions on Saturdays and Sundays.
• More information for registration can be found on VisionarysailingAcademy.com, the academy’s Facebook page, or by contacting Rajae Woods at 777-1188 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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