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Suntouched 2018 RYA Dinghy Show

BodyHoliday Saint Lucia's Sailing Club: We speak to Base Manager James Ward

by Mark Jardine 8 Jun 2017 13:00 BST 8 June 2017
Saskia Clark Masterclass at BodyHoliday Saint Lucia © Dani Devaux

We spoke to James Ward, the Base Manager at BodyHoliday Saint Lucia's Sailing Club about the X-Treme 26s they use, their 'Spring Sail' with Olympic Gold Medallist and World Sailor of the Year Saskia Clark, and their ambitious plans for the future.

James was born and raised in Barbados, a Caribbean lad through and through, and has grown up in and around the water. His first experience sailing was at 5 years old in Optimists and cruising with his family who own a yacht charter company. From there he fell in love with the sport and decided it was his goal to work in the sailing industry. He first worked in yacht charter at St. Vincent, taking all the courses he could in the process. He also worked in their sail loft, learning how to fix everything from sails and canvas to cushions and covers, and worked his way up to a managerial role, finally director of their sailing school. At the same time he was sailing J/24s with Phillip Barnard, racing in the Caribbean in various events on Salt Fish, winning the Mount Gay Series and finishing second in many more!

All this experience led nicely into James' role as Base Manager at BodyHoliday:

"Absolutely. It falls into place nicely with training the team, implementing all the safety standards and procedures that are needed in an activity like sailing - we need to provide the safest of conditions when we take guests on these sailing experiences. We need fully trained crews as, when you put up the kite on the X-Treme 26 you hit 18-20 knots in no time. Currently we're working 100% on tacking and gybing, with and without the spinnaker, so that our guests can have the X-Treme experience at a level they're comfortable with.

"We took a former wing-suit skydiver out sailing recently and once he was off the water he described it 'full of adrenaline'; it was great to see someone coming from the world of extreme sport having that kind of reaction to sailing."

We asked James more about the X-Treme 26s that they have at BodyHoliday:

"The X-Treme 26s are amazing machines. Probably the most striking thing sailing them is their balance: you can let go of the tiller and it'll sail itself. It's amazing to see on a 26 foot sailing boat. The keel is also nicely weighted so it'll never capsize; it'll wipe out well before that.

"These boats are built to last. I had the pleasure of meeting Jeroen Wats, Founder and CEO of G-Force Yachts who design and manufacture the X-Treme line of boats, and he wanted to build vessels that would stand the test of time. Every aspect has been thought about from the point of view of longevity and sailing to the max."

BodyHoliday also own five Hobie 13s and one Hobie 16, and guests can take part in complementary sailing lessons and progress onto the race course that is set up for them every day.

"Every Saturday we hold a fun Hobie Regatta where the winner gets a bottle of rum and a BodyHoliday medal. It's all about having a good time."

Safety is of course paramount at an all-inclusive resort such as BodyHoliday, and all the staff have various qualifications and training for any situation they might encounter as James describes:

"They all have CPR training, they are certified divers, all the on-board sailing staff have a Flotilla Skipper licence. The plan is to continue training the staff to reach a new standard as instructors which will allow guests to gain sailing certificates while they're on vacation at BodyHoliday. Guests can learn something new about sailing every single day."

At the end of March, BodyHoliday Saint Lucia held their inaugural Spring Sail with 470 Olympic Gold Medallist Saskia Clark, an event they are looking to build on as James describes:

"We raced as Team BodyHoliday vs. Team Saskia which went very smoothly and we gained a good understanding of things we could change a little bit for 2018. It was a great experience all round. We also had a 'Champions Dinner' on Thursday where Saskia gave a presentation to our guests and told us her life story: when she was 11 years old and beat her sister sailing, find out that sailing was her 'thing', and how from then on she was fully into sailing. She then described her highs and lows in Olympic sailing, including the feeling of winning Silver at London 2012 and Gold at Rio 2016."

Team BodyHoliday showed they weren't just there to make up the numbers in the match racing competition, taking the inaugural title.

"Absolutely they did! They covered her team very well, establishing a good advantage and extending their lead when they could. The racing was very close, but Team BodyHoliday gambled at the right times, whereas Team Saskia seemed to find the wrong side of the racecourse."

Saint Lucia is a stunning place, so we asked James about his favourite places to sail to: "I love the North West coast of the island here which has very exciting conditions. The one place that I find really cool and fun to go to is the Rodney Bay area because as you leave our Cariblue Bay and head into Rodney Bay there's a lot more wind: constant heavy pressure. It's really nice sailing up and down the coast as Saint Lucia is a mountainous, volcanic and scenic island; there are beautiful views sailing along the North West coast of the island.

"We're planning to establish some records with the BodyHoliday Sailing Club. We're talking at the moment about the 'Diamond Dash' out to Diamond Rock by Martinique, which is around 20 miles away. The plan is to have a race from BodyHoliday, around Diamond Rock, and then back again. It'll take at least three hours and if you have the right conditions, once you round Diamond Rock you're going to have a blazing run back to Saint Lucia!"

Saint Lucia is blessed with winds in the 15-20 knot range and of course the Caribbean sunshine.

"We're in the Windward Island chain. If you sail East from us the next thing you're going to hit is Africa, so we have a lot of ocean between there and we have a lot of wind that comes across it."

BodyHoliday Saint Lucia isn't just about sailing. In fact you can take part in a huge number of activities and relaxation treatments, or do as little as you want! We asked James about some of the other things available:

"The sailing is just one small aspect of what our guests have at their disposal when they come here. The amazing thing about the BodyHoliday is it's all about choice. What is good for me as an individual and what is good for you as an individual is completely different and we understand that here.

"Your perfect day may include martinis and rum punches on the beach while lying out in the sun and going for massages; all of that is here for that individual. On the other hand, you may be absolutely active, in which case you can take part in anything from golf, to cycling, to tennis, to archery, to sailing (of course!), to any other watersports such as paddleboarding, kayaking, windsurfing, wakeboarding, waterskiing: all complementary unless you're looking for a private lesson.

"We also have what is probably the largest spa in the Eastern Caribbean, with approximately 50 spa rooms and every day the guests that come here have a free 50 minutes in the spa and can choose from any of the special treatments that are available. Pretty much anything that your heart desires can happen here at BodyHoliday and it's all about your choice."

Moving forwards, plans are afoot to extend the Spring Sail Master Classes in 2018.

"We're aiming to extend the Master Classes from two weeks to a month and those dates are being decided right now. Saskia is 100% on-board, and I think she has a bit of a bee in her bonnet about winning the title next time! We've also spoken to Saskia about finding another Olympian to come out who she's comfortable sailing with, and against, so they can have a good rivalry against each other while they're out here.

"At the same time we've going to continue developing our sailing club offering. Right now I'm looking into the accreditation process, speaking to the ASA (American Sailing Association) in particular to come down and do a base evaluation and also certify our instructors to teach the ASA courses, so that guests who want to work towards sailing qualifications can do so here."

We've very much looking forward to following the growth at BodyHoliday and hopefully going out to sample the hospitality and take part in the idyllic sailing!