Paige Clarke sailing an optimist.
Shifty winds didn’t stop St. John sailor Paige Clarke from punching her ticket to this summer’s Youth Olympic Games.
Clarke, a 14-year-old tenth grader at Antilles School, battled the changing conditions at Jensen Beach, Florida, during the recent North American and Optimist Championships on the way to posting a fourth place finish for girls and securing the second qualifying position.
Clarke will represent the U.S. Virgin Islands at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, this August. Scott McKenzie of St. Thomas and Sam Morrell of the British Virgin Islands also qualified for the Youth Olympic Games at the recent Florida regatta.
Sailing a Byte, a one-design boat similar to a small laser and perfect for sailors advancing from Optimist racing, Clarke didn’t let the changing conditions frustrate her.
“The wind was really shifty; it was all over the place,” said Clarke. “But I do well in light winds, so it was fine.”
The Coral Bay resident started sailing with the St. John Kids and the Sea program as a nine-year-old and began racing competitively when she was 11. A member of the Antilles
Sailing Team, Clarke plans to sail in several Laser regattas this summer as she gears up for the Youth Olympic Games, which begin August 16.
“I’ll be doing a couple of Byte clinics this summer too,” she said.
Nanjing promises to be just the first of many lead-up regattas as Clarke hopes to one day represent her home territory at the Summer Olympics, just like fellow Coral Bay Olympian Mayumi “Mimi” Roller who sailed a Women’s’ Laser Radial in the 2012 London Summer Olympics.
“I definitely want to sail in the Olympics,” Clarke said.
The Coral Bay sailor loves sailing so much, she couldn’t pin down one thing she enjoyed most.
“There is not one thing I like best,” she said. “I like all of it.”
Clarke credited her early instruction from the nonprofit youth sailing program St. John KATS, as well as the group’s continued support, for helping her succeed.
“It’s definitely all thanks to KATS for starting me out and still supporting me,” said Clarke.
Keep an eye on Clarke; this young lady’s sailing career promises to be an exciting and successful one. And she’s just getting started.