Only had a byte size but they loved it

Sailing used to be a minority sport
in Cayman, enjoyed by the privileged few. Not anymore.

It is widely taught in both private
and government schools here and that input at grassroots level is paying
dividends.

That is why the North American and
Caribbean Youth Olympic Games Qualifier was held here last weekend at the
sailing club in Red Bay. It is a huge deal in the sailing world and can only
add to Cayman’s cachet for future events. 

Most entrants were from the
Caribbean but others came from Spain and the UK, presumably for the experience.
Well they certainly picked a lovely venue to make the long haul.

Jane Moon was the event’s race director
and her husband Andrew put a lot of work in too to make it a total success

. Jane said: “It went really,
really well and exceeded our expectations. We had 16 countries represented
here, the byte class for the youth and the J-22 for the adults that we’ve run
for four years now.

“The Cayman kids were great but
obviously they were up against some strong opposition.

“Cayman dominated in the J-22, coming
first and second, so we’re very pleased about that.

“The visitors have loved it. A lot
of them have come from sailing clubs around the region and they can’t believe
the conditions that we have, the location and the fantastic sailing opportunities.
They were super impressed.

“So many people have come and said
that our club runs so efficiently.”

So might Cayman host another Youth
Olympics qualifier? Jane said: “Well we’ve done it once now and the first one
is the learning curve. After that, who knows?

“The Olympic committee is pleased
with it and also the government. And hopefully, the tourism department and
ministry because we’ve brought well over 100 visitors to the island.

“We have a fantastic team working
here and a huge grassroots programme in the schools, so we have a mass of kids
sailing and we’re trying to develop our elite sailing a bit more.

“Some of the countries that have
come have a strong elite sailing programme but they don’t have the mass of kids
sailing as we have. But we like the way we’re doing it.”

Cayman’s Compass won the J-22, Ciao
was second and the Bahamian boat Plenty Trouble was third.

One of the impressed visitors was
Somers Cooper, president of the Bermuda Sailing Association. He competed in the
J-22 where Bermuda came sixth.

“I thought the regatta was very
well run,” Cooper said. “The Cayman Islands Sailing Club did a fantastic job
organising the event. The venue couldn’t be more perfect.

“The race course is literally yards
from the ramp and the conditions were varied which makes for a good
championship.

“You had everything from 10 knots
to 24 and every single wind direction. The wind did a complete full circle
while we were here.

“So I think it was a good test for
the sailors and as far as Bermuda was concerned we completed our mission which
was to get an Olympic youth qualifying spot.

“We’re very happy that we had so
much strength in the upper part of the leader board. Our best sailor was fifth,
then sixth, seventh, tenth, then something like 22 and 25.

“They loved it. They met old
friends and we’re sitting here with parents from other countries who we’ve met
over the years in the optimist sailing world and it’s good to reconnect and
it’s a wonderful experience for all of us.

“I think that if the Cayman Islands
Sailing Club decides that this is something that they would like to continue,
they’ll be very successful.”

Another delighted visitor was Cor
Victoran Aanholt, president of the Netherlands Antilles Sailing Association.

“We certainly will come back,” he
said. “The sailing was really fantastic. People were very nice to us and I have
to add that the organisation on the water was really brilliant.

“The start always began at exactly
at the scheduled time. Not only that, so many people are enjoying the food here
and it has been like that all week.

“The organisers have been really
friendly, looking for the right accommodation for each person whether it was at
the upper end of the scale in nice hotels or youth hostel for people who didn’t
have much money. The hostels were great and clean.

“We as a team are very happy too.
Our country also qualified for the Youth Olympics. We started our youth programme
only nine years ago and our kids finished second, fourth and ninth. So all
three that participated finished in the top ten and qualified. We’re excited
and happy.

“Your kids programme is fairly new
and I hear you have a schools programme which is a really fantastic thing. If
Cayman can improve like this and raise their level of coaching they can do
really well.

“We invited top coaches from
Argentina for two reasons; they have a very high standard internationally and they
are relatively cheap. That way you can employ some of the best coaches in the
world for a reasonable sum.”

Ian Barrows of the United States
Virgin Islands was the byte winner. He has only been sailing a year, mostly
lasers and is excited about going to the Youth Olympics and hopes to qualify
for the summer Olympics too.

“I do a lot of other sports as
well,” Barrows, 15, said. “Football, surfing, wakeboarding and other water
sports.”

Eugene Hendrix of the Netherland
Antilles felt like a rock star in coming second and third was Spain’s Marti
Llena.

SPORTSbytesSTORY

Byte action was compelling.
Ron Shillingford
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