Editorial: Come thou long-awaited . . .

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In as little as three short days, TEAM ANTIGUA ISLAND GIRLS will be in our territorial waters and heading for Nelson’s Dockyard. With a ‘hootin and a hollerin,’ they will be greeted by the thousands that are expected to flock to that World Heritage site, for the ‘World Heritage team’ – Kevinia Francis, Christal Clashing, Elvira Bell, Junella King and Samara Emanuel – that will be making world records! Who would’ve ‘thunked’ it; these five unassuming and unlikely young women accepting a challenge to do the unthinkable – braving the wind and the waves and facing dangers seen and unseen in the mighty Atlantic – all for a most worthy cause: the Cottage of Hope.

Many stout-hearted men went to the legendary and much-feared “Davy Jones locker” ‘neath the waters of the Atlantic. Many of our ancestors were thrown from slave ships after being forced aboard them at the various “Points of No Return” on the West African coastline. Columbus’ men begged him to turn back after encountering the Sargasso Sea and uncooperative winds mid-voyage, much like the uncooperative seas and winds encountered by our intrepid girls. In fact, at one point, Columbus’ crew contemplated a mutiny. Thank God, notwithstanding the difficulties experienced by TEAM ANTIGUA ISLAND GIRLS, (most recently, serious equipment failure, including steering issues that resulted in them having to do some manual steering) there was no thought to mutiny against Captain Kevinia Francis. In fact, as far as we can gather, spirits remained high throughout their 3000-mile odyssey, and their camaraderie and ‘esprit de corps’ and commitment never wavered. Hats off! They are an inspiration!

Actually, simply by braving the unknown and undertaking the potentially treacherous voyage, venturing “where angels fear,” and not breaking under the strain and stress, they have inspired us.

But wait, they have gone even further and sent us their very own inspirational thoughts from the high seas. The team quote reads, “Whatever life hands you in the pursuit of your dreams, just keep rowing.” Hmmm! Junella King tells us, “Don’t let anyone tell you you’re too young, too weak, too girly, too anything to follow your dreams.” And believe us, TEAM ANTIGUA ISLAND GIRLS heard a lot of that negative crap in the weeks and months leading up to La Gomera.  Meanwhile, Elvira Bell posits, “Don’t be so set in your ways or stuck on your path that you turn down the opportunity to colour outside the lines. Great things happen when ordinary people say yes to the extraordinary.” Hmmm!

And they were not done with the inspirational verses that will long live with us and the rest of the world. For example, Christal Clashing says, “At least once in your life, go after something grand, daring and adventurous. Feed your spirit, test your mettle and smash barriers.” And those are not a mere multiplicity of words on her part. According to her mother Edith Clashing nee O’Reilly, Christal has been swimming with sharks (for real) and facing many other dangers for all of her few short years. And, of course, Captain Kevinia Francis weighs in with this eternal reminder, “I tell my clients all the time – and I live by this mantra – that it’s okay to cry, to puke, to bleed, to scream, to ask for help, to slow down; just don’t quit!” Seems, with Kevinia, she of the late, great and indomitable “Mama Gen” leading the team, there was going to be no turning back; no raising of that white flag of surrender!

Samara Emanuel exhorts us thusly, “Please know that where you start doesn’t determine where you’ll end. Jump the hurdles, understanding that everyone’s stories has chapters, twists and turns; but the most important thing is to keep writing and revising.” So very well said, Samara! Consider: It appeared as though TEAM ANTIGUA did not have the best start, and many folks scratched their heads at what appeared to be a circuitous route. The contrary winds experienced by others proved them correct, and they were able to eventually gain an advantage of several nautical miles. They stuck to their er . . . oars and their plan of action! It is instructive! Seems, as per Samara’s quote, despite the ‘twists and turns’ and ‘hurdles’ they are ending their story, after some revisions, mind you, on a most victorious and triumphant note! All hail!

   Truly, we can say with the good King Solomon, “Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all!” (Proverbs 31:29) Come home to us, you “Sweet Island Girls” (Burning Flames) . . . Arwe cyarn wait!

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