VIRGIN ISLANDS SAILING ASSOCIATION (VISA)
A History, Description and Recent Accomplishments
VISA is the organization that administers all sailing activities in the Virgin Islands. We are a Member National Authority (MNA) of ISAF (International Sailing Federation) that administers sailing activities throughout the world. The comparable MNA in the US is US Sailing. There are over 100 countries worldwide that are members of ISAF and have their own MNA’s similar to our own VISA. In addition to ISAF we are also one of 23 local sports federations that are members of the Virgin Islands Olympic Committee (VIOC) who is in turn a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The VIOC administers all Olympic Sports in our territory. Sailing holds the only Olympic Medals won for the Virgin Islands. Peter Holmberg won a Silver Medal in Seoul, Korea in 1988. Ian Barrows won a Gold Medal at the First Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010 sailing the Byte II.
VISA was formed by Rudy Thompson in the mid 60’s allowing us to attend the Olympics in Mexico City in 1968. We along with three other Federations established the Virgin Islands as a country with Olympic Stature (probably the smallest country to hold that honor at that time). Rudy stayed on as president for 8 years and in that time period hosted the 1st Sunfish Worlds. He was followed by Dick Johnson who took a very active role in ISAF. He ran VISA for 10 years. In the 1980’s Bill Canfield was elected President and with the help of Dick Johnson we hosted 3 Maxi Regattas and a 50’s Regatta. Through these events we raised a war chest of $60,000 that has lasted us through till today. During this period we also hosted the ISAF mid year meeting a unique undertaking for a small country that was attended by the ISAF executives and staff including King Constantine, Prince Albert and Princess Isabel). In the mid 90’s both Henry Menin and Peter Holmberg ran the organization for short periods until Nick Castruccio from St Croix took over as president in 2000. Bill Canfield was again elected president and served until Phillip Shannon took over the helm.
Each yacht club and sailing class in our territory must be a dues paying member of VISA to compete internationally. Members include St. Thomas Yacht Club, St Croix Yacht Club and St John Yacht Club. In addition local Sailboard Organizations and other such groups have been members in the past. VISA currently pays dues to ISAF, VIOC, PASA, ITLA (Laser) & IODA.
If an athlete wants to sail in events such as Regional Championships (Caribbean and Central American Games), National Championships, Continental Championships (North Americans and Pan American Games) Youth Olympics and Olympic Games they must notify VISA. If the entry is limited to a certain number of sailors then VISA organizes or appoints qualifiers that the sailors must attend to earn a spot in the designated event. We also do the applications, help organize travel, chartering boats, hotels, coaching etc to help the athlete get ready for the event.
VISA has also created a four tiered status or rating system for VI sailors that are resume and results driven. The sailor submits his sailing resume each June to the VP of VISA (Juliet San Martin) and is deemed “A” (Olympic Status), “B” (International Status), “C” (National Status) or “D” (Local Status). A copy of our Status System is available on this website and is distributed to all sailors each June. Each B & C sailor will receive the same share of funds as other B & C sailors. We are currently helping 12 sailors using this status. VISA is also available to provide airfare to subsidize clinics or special coaches that are brought to the islands. It is our position that when possible and preapproved an athlete will not be charged more than $50 / day for this instruction and VISA if possible will subsidize the difference paid to the coach. VISA will also assist in airfare to attend certain events upon application.
VISA sanctions all organized sailing activities in the Virgin Islands. If there is a dispute about a judge’s decision in a race, this appeal would come through VISA. All inappropriate actions or alleged cheating committed by sailors on the race course also comes under the jurisdiction of VISA for possible sanction or suspension. VISA will also be involved in an assisting role for any sailing event of international consequence that occurs in the territory such as the St. Thomas International Regatta, the St. Croix International Regatta, the International Optimist Regatta, Caribbean Dinghy Championship, and Nation’s Cup etc. VISA presently sponsors the International Optimist Regatta (IOR) and the Carols Aguliar Match Race (CAMR). The IOR (formerly Scotia Bank Opti Regatta) occurred because at its inception STYC did not have a junior program, funds or boats to hold the event. Then past VISA president, Henry Menin, ran the event using funds supplied by VISA and orchestrated the purchase of some inexpensive Russian built Optimists to kick off the junior sailing program at STYC. VISA funding supported this event through the early years and in conjunction with Bill Mahaffey brought Scotiabank on as a sponsor. VISA continues to sponsor this event in conjunction with the Department of Tourism.
VISA has other smaller roles such as recommending qualified prospects to ISAF for committees or for on the water official roles. In the past VISA members have been International Race Officers, International Judges and International Umpire. Henry Menin umpired and served on the America’s Cup Jury in 1999/2000 and at the Sydney Olympics. Dick Johnson was one of the first International Judges appointed by the then International Yacht Racing Union. He served as the Caribbean Area Group O representative at ISAF for 25 years and rose to become a committee member serving on many of the most important committees at ISAF. During his tenure at ISAF he was able to strengthen the position of all small countries by fighting for equality against larger countries. VISA members have also served on the Pan American Games Committee and the Caribbean Sailing Association. In addition VISA administers any measurement rule such as PHRF or CSA that is used in the territory.
VISA is an all volunteer organization with 5 officers. VISA pays no compensation to its officers or delegates. STYC and SCYC have 5 voting delegates to VISA and SJYC 3 voting delegates. Other member organizations receive 1 voting delegate. All delegates are appointed by their perspective Commodores or Presidents. VISA has a yearly meeting and the executive council has phone meetings on a regular basis.
If you would like to become more involved with VISA please let us know in what capacity.
In past years we hosted rules seminars, Race Committee seminars and instructor certification classes. We hope to do another Race Committee seminar in the near future and hold another instructor seminar in the next 6 months. Clinics are being held on a continuing basis for our sailors.
We remain open to suggestion welcome your support.