St Ignatius pupils cruising into top class

Sailing’s popularity is increasing rapidly in Cayman and that was evident at the recent Governor’s Cup J/22 regatta, when a newly formed youth team gave an established adult side a close call.

This regatta is one of the highlights of the sailing calendar, won by Compass Marine after a tight battle with Fortis, comprising of pupils from St Ignatius School.

Compass Marine, helmed by Mike Farrington and crewed by Matt Diaz and Tomeaka McTaggart, actually tied for first place with Fortis, helmed by Mike Weber, sailing director for the Cayman Islands Sailing Club and crewed by four members of the CISC youth sailing programme.

But Compass Marine was eventually awarded the cup on a tie-breaker. Radium, helmed by David Carmichael and crewed by Alex Laing and Jennifer Ahearn, were third.

Weber said: ‘The race was close. My team of Stuart Jennings, Nadeska Concha, Chris Delaney and Allena Rankine sailed very well. Although I was disappointed that we weren’t able to win the regatta, I was nevertheless proud of their accomplishments and look forward to sailing with them again.’

Delaney, 16, is typical of the Fortis team of youngsters. ‘I’ve been sailing for about a year now and the main reason why I’ve progressed so much is because I sail against people who are better than me and picked up skills from them.’

He is hopeful of qualifying for a big international tournament here in February. ‘We have to first enter another regatta, the Commodore’s Cup, which is two weekends in January and if we continue the way we’ve been going so far we should qualify. We’ve picked it up so fast because I guess we’ve got a really good helmsman in Mike.’

Delaney is so enthralled with sailing he thinks it could be a long-term thing. ‘We put in about three or four hours practice every two weeks. It was St Ignatius that introduced us to sailing and I’m really grateful. I’d like to go as far as I can, possibly as a career.’

They only assembled in September and have quickly gelled as a tight unit under Weber who deflects any credit for their incredible progress. There are seven members in the team of which five sail at a time. Fortis’s special reserve is little Allena Rankine, a seven-year-old bundle of fun and already an accomplished sailor. She is used to make weight if the boat is too light and they need, say 40lbs more.

Weber is pleased with their development: ‘We’re No.3 right now. We have a good regatta in January for the Commodore’s Cup and we hope to qualify to compete against other countries. These kids are applying skills that they have learned in the training programme here and we really focus on the fundamentals which they transfer to competition. I just feel that they’re also fantastic kids who are very focused. I don’t think I’ve ever sailed with a group of teenagers who can remain completely focused throughout an entire race which last between 45 minutes and an hour.

‘Their 100 per cent on and as a result our crew work is perfect. They’re always feeling the wind and helping each other and as a result we’re sailing the best way possible and not making a lot of mistakes so we end up winning.’

The seasoned adults don’t seem to mind, he said. ‘They just love to see the kids out. We’re appreciative of being able to learn from them. And of course, we’re thankful of Fortis, who helped buy our new sail. Fortis actually bought the boat a few years ago but the new sail is around $3,000. The sail is like the engine of a car and ours is finely tuned and helps the boat’s speed. But that doesn’t take anything away from the kids, they’re the ones sailing the boat.’

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