y Alexis R. Milan
Two young sailors are awaiting a decision from the Belize Sailing Association (BzSA) on whether or not they will be allowed to participate in a prestigious international sailing event in Malaysia, hosted by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) in December.
The Board, who met on Thursday afternoon to decide the fate of the young sailors, were tight lipped on their decision but said they would make their decision public on Friday, via a press release.
The matter, though, has caused some controversy in the small, but growing sailing community in Belize. The two best junior sailors, Blanca Velasquez and Antonio Ricardez, both 15-years-old, were offered scholarship opportunities to participate in the Malaysia Youth Worlds 2015 event by the ISAF after their participation in a regatta in Antigua several months ago.
In Velasquez’ case, the BzSA has reserved their approval of her participation after she took a spill during the Antigua regatta and the Belize BzSA coach for that event wrote a scathing report, raising questions of her meeting a weight requirement and complained of her behavioral discipline. In Ricardez’ case, the BzSA has reportedly missed the deadline to present the air tickets for the trip to the ISFA, which was last Friday. The tickets are the only expenses the BzSA would incur, as all other expenses are handled by the international body.
Andrew Milner, San Pedro Racers commodore, the club to which Velasquez belongs, said the event would be the trip of a lifetime for the young sailors as the event could present so much opportunity for each of them. Milner said the opportunity is a part of the ISFA’s Emerging Nations program, where invitations are extended to countries with growing sailing communities.
According to Milner, the opportunity is a huge one, as sailors who have participated in an international regatta of that magnitude have many career opportunities open to them, so it would be a shame if Velasquez and Ricardez were to miss it. He said the event is a stepping stone to the Pan-American Games and the Olympics.
Milner added that the BzSA Board’s reasons for not wanting to approve Velasquez’ participation seem baseless to the rest of the sailing community that he has consulted with. One of the reasons listed by the BzSA Board is that Velasquez doesn’t meet the weight requirement but when she applied for the scholarship and submitted her weight, ISAF accepted her submission.
Velasquez was also reportedly mocked and ridiculed by her coach in Antigua for failing to win the ‘Most Improved Sailor’ by just one vote, a vote he withheld, which would have seen her win the award.
Niamath Velasquez, Blanca’s mother, said she is hopeful that the Board will decide to allow her daughter the opportunity, which could potentially create opportunities for her future. She said Blanca has never received any negative complaints before and has always been a respectful and dedicated student.