With fairly constant north-easterly winds averaging 10 to 15 knots, flat seas and clear blue skies for most of the year, Barbados boasts some of the best sailing conditions that can be found anywhere in the world, and with many of its veterans having retired from the sport over recent years, the future of sailing in the island now lies in the hands of its up and coming young sailors. It was with this in mind back in 2020 that the Barbados Sailing Association sought assistance from the then Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Blue Economy to build up its junior sailing programme. With support from the Ministry, the Sail for Life Programme was born and, through the Programme, the Association has been able to teach a large number of Barbadian youngsters to sail who would not normally have had the opportunity.
In addition to enabling the Association to teach so many youngsters the skills of sailing, through the Ministry’s support the Association was able to purchase a fleet of O’Pen Skiff sailing dinghies which arrived in Barbados towards the end of 2021, much to the excitement of the Association’s young sailors. Being only 9 feet in length, the O’Pen Skiffs are usually sailed by 10 to 15 year olds. Their fast-planing hulls provide a dynamic sailing experience to a new generation of young sailors who want as much excitement as possible out on the water.
It was very fitting that the boats arrived in time to play a major part in the Republic Day Flotilla Parade that took place in Carlisle Bay on 28th November, 2021 to mark Barbados’s transition to a Republic State. Watched by hundreds of Barbadians and visitors alike, the red and white sails of the Skiffs were clearly visible from the shore and were the highlight of the Parade. As they sailed back and forth across the Bay, it gave the Association’s young sailors a chance to show off their sailing skills.
The Skiffs have rapidly become a favourite with the island’s youth sailors and they are providing an excellent pathway to regional and international competition. To help it achieve its goals of sending youngsters to overseas events, the Sailing Association, with assistance from the Barbados Olympic Association, engaged the services of Uruguayan Olympic sailor and coach, Luis Chiapparro. No stranger to Barbados, having conducted a Coaching Clinic here in 2004, Luis was delighted to return for 2 weeks over the 2022 Easter vacation to conduct an intensive Race Training Clinic for 11 of the island’s top junior sailors. With high winds and large swells providing challenging conditions throughout the 2 weeks, everyone’s sailing skills improved in leaps and bounds.
The Skiffs also played a big part in the 2022 Round Barbados Sailing Week held in mid-January. After being absent from the sailing calendar in 2021 due to COVID restrictions, Sailing Week returned in 2022 with a much expanded version which saw the introduction of a Dinghy Racing Series into the annual event for the first time. Racing around a triangular course in the seas off the Barbados Yacht Club and Barbados Cruising Club, the young sailors in Sunfish, Taz and Optimists, as well as the O’Pen Skiffs, were cheered on by teams of enthusiastic spectators on visiting yachts moored in Carlise Bay. 
In addition to the 2 days of dinghy racing, Kitesurfing, Wing Foil Board Racing and one meter radio controlled DragonFlite 95 Racing were also incorporated into Sailing Week for the first time; the Kitesurfing and Wing Foil Board Racing taking place in the waters off Long Beach and the DragonFlite 95 Racing taking place at Golden Pond in St Philip. 
As always, Sailing Week also featured the Mount Gay Rum Round Barbados Race on Errol Barrow Day. A good mix of yachts of different sizes and designs crossed the start line to try to beat the record in their respective classes. With strong, north-east winds gusting to 25 knots and higher, and fairly rough seas, especially rounding North Point where the waves became challenging, a few boats were forced to retire and, much to everyone’s disappointment, no records were broken, but a good time was had by all. This was then followed by the 2 day Coastal Racing Series, and winds in the region of 15 knots out of the north-east and fairly flat seas made for excellent sailing conditions and tight competition in both the CSA and Non-CSA Classes.
Looking forward to 2023, the sailing season is scheduled to kick off with the 2023 Round Barbados Sailing Week in January and this will be followed by dingy and offshore events on most weekends throughout the season, which usually runs into mid-July.