Kids sailing ahead under coach Weber

Another year has passed and a lot has happened at the Cayman Islands Sailing Club.

Some of the highlights and successes of the past 12 months centred around the increased use of the club. There was an active racing and sailing calendar and many well supported social events, for which the club singled out its hardworking race officer, Peta Adams, and the equally hardworking social secretary, Pamela McDonough.

Start of a 2007 race on North Sound

Start of a 2007 race on North Sound

Dinghy racing was particularly well supported and regular turnouts of 20 or so boats became the norm by year-end.

J/22 racing tailed off a little in the middle of the year, but by the end of the year, most boats were out racing regularly again, spurred on by the opportunity of representing the club in the International Regatta in February 2008.

The cruisers met with some success for a few of their social sailing events.

Highlights of the social calendar included the Burns Night Supper, the Pete O’Neill fundraiser and Official Opening, the May Ball and the family Bonfire Night.

The membership of the club increased, assisted by an increasingly successful youth sailing programme, under which more than 300 schoolchildren received weekly tuition. The youth facility was completed to provide a dedicated area for kids and an office for the Director of Sail Training, Michael Weber, and his two instructors.

The clubhouse interior was renovated and a new bar built. In addition, there were improvements to the office and the bathrooms, and work outside such as repairing the old slipway, new permanent moorings, an outdoor shower and a larger boat parking area. More boats were acquired to support the youth programme and sail training generally, and some members purchased new boats, particularly for their children, so that dinghy fleet sizes have increased.

Also in 2007, the club held safety at sea and navigation courses and also started a canoe section.

In the first quarter of the year, the Royal Bank of Canada School Sailing circuit, a three-month initiative to improve the sailing proficiency of local students, was launched. Students learned a variety of sailing and racing techniques during weekly after-school sessions in January and February, before getting a chance to put those skills to the test in a series of Saturday morning races in March. The support for the CISC from RBC came at a time when a growing number of private sector organisations were backing the club and the National Sailing Centre. Sponsors of CISC boats and events comprised Butterfield Bank, Conyers Dill & Pearman, Corporate Electric, Digicel, Harbour House Marina, International Management Services, Kirk Office Supply, KPMG, RBC, Scotia Bank and Stuarts Walker Hersant.

In February, the CISC took sailing around the districts during the Conyers Dill & Pearman Byte CII National Championships. The first races in this unique two-day event for young sailors were held off Seven Mile Beach close to Government House and formed part of the Sport’s Day at the Governor’s event. The following day, more races took place at the Red Bay home of the CISC and the National Sailing Centre. Conyers Dill & Pearman, a leading offshore law firm, sponsored the event for the second year running. Johnny Gracy was the winner, with Oliver Fogerty in second place and Joey Gracey finishing third. The Byte CII is a racing boat primarily sailed by young teenagers.

At the start of March, the Pete O’Neill fundraising dinner was held. Proceeds from the event went towards the construction of the new Pete O’Neill Youth Training Centre adjacent to the clubhouse. Later in the month, more was raised for the facility by participants of the 15th Annual St Patrick’s Day 5K Irish Jog. O’Neill, a Butterfield Bank executive and a loyal friend and supporter of the Sailing Club, passed away in 2006.

Also in March, the National Sailing Centre hosted a visiting team of Byte CII sailors from Canada. The four sailors used the facilities for winter training and a warm up for the summer sailing season in Canada. A team from St Ignatius were winners of the RBC School Sailing circuit. And the J/22 National Championships was won by Mike Farrington, Matt Diaz and Marisa Bailey sailing ‘MC2’.

The traditional Easter regatta once again proved to be one of the highlights of the sailing year. The main race in the regatta, sponsored by Beach Club, was won by Java Knight sailed by T.H. Liem. She held off a spirited challenge from Blue Runner sailed by Bruce Johnson to take the honours in a race cut short by light winds. The following day’s Back to the Sound race was also won by Java Knight.

The club’s J/22 yacht, sponsored by financial services provider Fortis, funded a new set of sails for the sailboat, which is most commonly used by members of the CISC’s youth team.

In June, the Commodore of the CISC, Andrew Moon, was proud to receive the Cayman Islands Certificate and Badge of Honour. Moon was cited for firmly establishing the CISC in the community, evidenced by the club’s higher visibility and membership since he became the Commodore in early 2005.

Also in June, the club announced the members of the 2007 National Youth Sailing Team. Their names and the type of boats were: Elliot Vernon (Optimist); Camilo Bernal (Optimist); Matthew Courtis (Optimist); Nick Cameron (Optimist); Niklas Wolfe (Optimist); Thomas Wolfe (Optimist); Stuart Jennings (Byte); Oliver Fogerty (Byte); and Hugo McErlean (Byte). The Optimist sailors attended the Scotiabank Caribbean Youth Sailing Championships in St Thomas, US Virgin Islands in June. After four days of racing, Elliot Vernon finished first and Camilo Bernal second in the Green fleet.The Byte sailors attended the Fruit Bowl Youth Training Regatta in Montreal in July and the Byte North American Championships in Kingston, Canada.

The CISC and National Sailing Centre once again ran their popular summer camps in July and August. The camps taught beginner to advanced sailing and racing skills, as well as sailing safety and other aspects of sail theory. New for 2007 was a larger staff of five instructors, a much larger fleet of new sailboats, the option of purchasing a variety of healthy lunches from the Black Pearl Galley and the new Pete O’Neill Teaching Facility.

In July, Stuart Jennings, the Cayman Islands and the Cayman Islands Sailing Club, did the country proud in the Highland Spring HIHO windsurfing event in the British Virgin Islands. Despite being the youngest competitor, he finished a highly credible 25th out of a 60-strong international field. Jennings, who is also a keen a successful youth sailor, was sponsored by Red Sail Sports.

From 1-2 September, the CISC hosted possibly the first full-scale, youth-only regatta ever held in the Cayman Islands. Sponsored by Scotiabank, the National Youth Sailing Championships involved sailors aged 18 and under competing in a number of boat classes including Byte, Feva and Optimist. Keenan Ebanks was the surprise victor in the Byte sailboat class. Matthew Courtis won in an Opti and Nick Cameron won the Feva class. The Scotiabank Championships formed the centrepiece of the Cayman Islands’ celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of the International Sailing Federation, the worldwide governing body of the sport. The ISAF, in its centenary year, earmarked 1-2 September 2007 as the Sail The World weekend and encouraged sailing clubs and private sailors from across the globe to take to the waters.

A four-man team from the Cayman Islands competed in a prestigious yachting event in New York organised by legendary America’s Cup contender Dennis Conner. Representing the CISC were Peter Cunningham (helm), Sam Dawson (bow), Matthew Diaz (downwind trim and tactics) and Michael Farrington (upwind trim and tactics), who finished a credible fourth place in a strong international field.

The 2007 Governor’s Cup J/22 regatta was won by Compass Marine after a close battle with a youth team on Fortis. 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 of the CISC and crewed by four members of the CISC youth sailing programme, but Compass Marine eventually was awarded the Cup on a tie-breaker.

In October, The CISC offered Royal Yachting Association courses to commercial and private sailors wishing to improve their navigation and general seamanship skills. The courses were given by Chris Slade, a highly experienced RYA instructor from the UK who has co-authored a number of the RYA’s handbooks.

The Pete O’Neill sailing facility was officially opened in November. This extension to the CISC clubhouse is where Cayman’s young sailors receive expert tuition from the club’s team of instructors before heading out on to the water.

The beginning of the school year in September marked the onset of possibly the most successful youth sailing programme in the club’s history. There was an increase of about 100 children, meaning as many as 300 from six different schools were taking sailing lessons as part of their PE classes each week. This remarkable statistic was thanks to generous funding from the Ministry of Education, Training, Employment, Youth, Sports and Culture.