The British Virgin Islands Kids and the Sea Program, called KATS, benefits the local BVI community.
Anyone vacationing in the British Virgin Islands, whether staying on the islands in a villa or chartering a yacht and enjoying the islands’ turquoise waters, soon gains an appreciation for the saltwater that flows through the veins of the locals.
Growing up surrounded by water can inspire a lifestyle dedicated to the sea. Clearwater lapping at soft sandy beaches, white sails billowing softly in the breeze, and the sun warming your shoulders speaks to the souls of tourists during their vacations, so it’s no wonder the youth of these islands find themselves learning techniques that not only provide them with life-saving skills but offer them outlets for recreation and sport, as well.
The KATS (Kids and The Sea) program comes in. Initially created over 15 years ago in response to much-needed swimming safety courses for children in the BVI, KATS has now evolved into a non-profit organization run mainly by volunteers educating children ages 5-18 on the fundamentals and skills of boating, SCUBA diving, swimming, and windsurfing.
The primary focus of KATS is teaching water and boating safety, but it has also evolved into a training ground for local kids who want to learn more about sailing for sport.
After proving themselves proficient swimmers, children and youth can begin sailing courses divided into three levels, each building on the skills acquired in the previous one. Once students have graduated from the level three course, they are ready for competition. The tropical weather of the Caribbean allows for year-round racing and refinement of their skills.
Vacationers to the area, especially those who enjoy water sports, cheer on these young competitors as their efforts culminate in the annual Chief Minister’s Cup.
A three-day event on Tortola in which teams from throughout the Caribbean can compete in their IC 24’s (IC 24’s is an open cockpit keel-boats originating in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands). For more about their design, visit Racing in Paradise.
Beyond recreation, the KATS program instills life-long respect and admiration of the sea in its participants. Such training is essential for those who ultimately desire a career in the yachting or tourism industry in the British Virgin Islands and the Caribbean.
Local businesses help support the organization, but in addition to local support, encouragement from those vacationing in the BVI helps to foster the relationship between visitors and locals, ultimately benefiting the industry for both.
For more information about the KATS program.