Chrisanki Flood Is Finding Suspense and Serenity on the Seas
Meet the 22-year-old Saint Lucian sailor who's changing the face of his sport and representing his island community.
"My Back Garden" is a series about everyday athletes finding connection and balance in the natural world.
Chrisanki Flood's first professional inter-island race was a tumultuous one. "I was on an 18-day race from the Grand Cayman to Saint Lucia. It was pitch black, and the waves were the roughest I've seen", he recalls. "We heard over the radio that a container ship about 70 miles away sank ... which was scary, but our boat crew ended up making it through the hectic weather. At sunrise, I saw a large school of dolphins swimming alongside our boat. Although we didn't win, the reward was in the journey".
Since that heart-pounding trip, Chrisanki—who also goes by Chris—has rarely spent a day away from the sea. As a professional sailor and native of Saint Lucia, Chris wholeheartedly believes that he has no other option but to live his life on the water. It's what he signed up for, when he began sailing at 10 years old.
Sailing is not as common a profession on the island as you might think. The sailing community is a small and close-knit group who exchange tips and bond over common experiences at sea, although they are competitors. For Chris, the moments of stillness sailing brings are another draw. "When I'm at sea, even through the chaos of a race, nothing disturbs me. It's serene and where I'm able to relax and live my purpose", he says.
"The boat is charged by the force of nature, and it takes you along for a remarkable ride. That's why I sail".
Now 22, Chris has been sailing for more than half of his life. He picked up sailing as an after-school activity and joined a professional youth crew, which has since allowed him to travel all over the Caribbean to compete in regattas (large sailing competitions). "In sailing, it takes time to get to your peak, but an unrivalled connection to the ocean keeps me going", says Chris.
According to Chris, his time at sea is a way to connect with himself. His days are full of routines and rituals that keep him balanced. He wakes up at 6am and heads directly to the beach, making sure to leave something behind. "That's rule No. 1: If I'm going to the beach, if I'm going sailing, my phone stays at home", he says.
"The sea is my kind of, what you call, meditation", he says. "Yeah. My little therapy".
Most days, he's able to catch the sunrise, and he always finds the time to meditate to the sound of the waves and birds chirping. Luckily, he is never far from the water. It takes just one minute to get from his bed to the beach.
Around 8am, Chris heads to work at a local resort where he teaches guests the basics of sailing and, as he describes it, "a gut instinct for the wind and the feel of the boat". It's a way to fund his passion for sailing while practising the ropes. After work, he meets his sailing crew for sunset races at the nearby marina, where locals and professionals alike gather to compete in 2- to 5-minute interval races. The weather rarely stops Chris from sailing. "It could be pouring cats and dogs, I'll still be out there", he says. "I sail in any kind of weather, just for the experience".
"Everyone has a role", he says. "It sometimes comes down to being in sync with your crew and having faith in them". Things can often get caught in sails, but a highly trained crew like his can keep it all together. Like Chris, they've been training for years. "To be a professional sailor, you need to know your boat, be self-disciplined and study the water", he says. Even though it has been years, Chris still feels the rush of adrenaline before each race. "It's all worth it when I'm on the water, watching the wind fill the boat with life", he says. These local races help him prepare for the larger regattas traditionally held in Grenada. He has made the podium before, but only in second place. The competitive sailor hopes to snag the top spot one day.
That perseverance is something Chris says has been crucial in his sailing career—because it hasn't always been easy. He speaks openly of the difficulties his family has with the costs of sailing, how it is a predominantly white sport on this island and the racism he has faced.
"When I started, only about three kids [had] my complexion. Everybody else was white", Chris says. "[You] just feel all eyes on you. It felt a bit discouraging. But at the end of the day, I came to learn something new".
When the day's competition ends, Chris and the crew eat and head back to the beach to relax. If they're in the mood, they'll go spearfishing or snorkelling. Or, they'll stop by the Pantime Steel pan yard, something Chris has been doing since he was a kid. "I listened to the steel pan every day until I was old enough to join a group, and I've never stopped", he recalls. Much like sailing, he explains, "it's about rhythm, keeping a steady flow of movements and being in harmony with the elements around you", a feeling he will never stop chasing.
A good night's sleep is pivotal to Chris's performance and given his 6am rise, he heads to bed early. It's this self-discipline, he claims, that has got him this far in sailing—along with his love of nature. "Feeling the wind press into the sails, creating motion along the water ... The boat is charged by the force of nature, and it takes you along for a remarkable ride. That's why I sail".
Words: Jiya Pinder
Photography: Kia Islam
Reported: September 2020