The 2017 College Sailor of the Year, former Youth Olympic Gold Medalist and current 2020 Summer Olympic medal-aspirant in the 49er, Ian Barrows, has been awarded the coveted title of ‘Virgin Islands Sailor of the Year’ for 2017 by the Virgin Islands Sailing Association (VISA).
“Ian is probably the best natural sailor the Virgin Islands has ever produced. His international accomplishments through his final year at Yale where he was named collegiate sailor of the year speak for themselves. We wish Ian good luck in his Olympic endeavors,” says Bill Canfield, VISA president.
Barrows, age 23, a native of the U.S. Virgin Islands and brother of two-time Olympic sailor, Thomas Barrows, who was also named College Sailor of the Year in 2010, is pleased to be selected.
“It’s a huge honor to receive recognition as VISA’s Sailor of The Year award because there are so many deserving U.S. Virgin Island sailors. I was fortunate to have my most successful year of college sailing in 2017. It was a good way to end my college career and now it’s time to experience a different type of sailing,” says Barrows, who graduated from Yale University in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics.
The VISA award caps an incredible year of achievement for Barrows, which started in the fall of 2016 as he began his senior year at Yale. The Virgin Islands’ skipper kicked off the first inter-conference regatta of the season by finishing first in A Division in the highly-competitive Pine Trophy. Barrows then both won and led the Yale Bulldogs to two additional inter-conference victories, respectively, the Hatch Brown and Danmark Trophies. He finished the fall by once again skippering to the top of A Division and earning the Bulldogs the title the Erwin Schnell Trophy, a New England Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association (NEISA) conference championship. This autumn crescendo prefaced an even more successful spring semester of college sailing, in which Barrows proved his prowess in team racing as he did fleet racing in the fall. In fact, out of six NEISA regattas, Barrows won A Division in five. Three were inter-conference events: Graham Hall, Jan T. Friis Trophy and Thompson Trophy. The other two were the highly-competitive New England Team Race Championship and the NEISA Coed Championships/US Coast Guard Alumni Bowl. Barrows talents paid off in being named NEISA Sailor of the Year for 2017. Then, impressive performances in the Laser Performance Team Race National Championships and Gill Coed College Sailing National Championship, capped off an incredible year that earned Barrows the Everett B. Morris Trophy by being named the Marlow Ropes College Sailor of the Year for outstanding performance at the highest level of sailing in the collegiate year. What’s more, Barrows finished his senior year on the Yale University Sailing Team as a four-time All-American.
Barrows, who started sailing Optimist dinghies at the St. Thomas Yacht Club at age 5 and later took summer classes at the Pleon Yacht Club in Marblehead, Massachusetts, credits both his brother and parents, Shep and Jean Barrows, for introducing him and encouraging him in the sport.
“My parents sailed down to the Virgin Islands on their 32-foot sailboat and lived on it for several years. They taught my older brother how to sail and he encouraged me to hop in a boat as well. The St. Thomas Yacht Club had good coaches who helped me improve every day. My teammates and I pushed each other to keep getting better,” says Barrows. “The Virgin Islands has some of the best sailing conditions in the world. There was almost always a consistent moderate breeze that enabled me to put many hours on the water. Also, the warm climate made sailing a lot more enticing whereas, if I grew up in a colder place I might not have ever wanted to sail.”
The Virgin Islands’ sailor has enjoyed considerable success in sailing prior to college. In the Optimist, highlights include first place at the 2018 IODA South American Championship and second overall at the 2008 IODA World Championships. In high school, as a skipper on the Antilles Sailing Team, Barrows won the 2011 Interscholastic Sailing Association (ISSA) Singlehanded National Championship for the Cressy Trophy in the Laser Radial and led the school’s 2011 and 2013 wins in the 420 in the ISSA Fleet Racing Championship for the Mallory Trophy. Most spectacularly, Barrows earned a Gold Medal at the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore in the Boys’ Byte CII.
“Currently I’m training for the Olympics in the 49er and look forward to improving my sailing ability throughout the process,” says Barrows, who with fellow Yale graduate and crew, Mitchell Kiss, sailed in the 49er North Americans last summer and competed in the Oakcliff Triple Crown Regattas in the fall. “It was easy choosing the 49er because it’s the fastest and most fun boat I’ve ever sailed. I hadn’t sailed fast boats before the 49er, so I wanted to learn quicker decisions and learn about higher speed strategies. The best 49er sailors have gone on to skipper in the Americas Cup. so, I thought it might be my best opportunity to have a chance to compete in the Cup in the future.”
What advice does Barrows offer to young sailors in the U.S. Virgin Islands? “My advice would be to try and put in as many hours on the water as possible because that’s what makes the biggest difference. Also, it’s important to realize how lucky you are to grow up in a place like the Virgin Islands that has perfect sailing conditions year-round,” he says.