Cayman’s youth sailors recently took a delivery of a newly refurbished fleet of Optimist sailing dinghies. The boats were made possible thanks to generous support from Flowers bottled water.
The Optimist sailing dinghy is arguably the most successful sailing boat of all time. Designed to be sailed by children up to 15, there are over 160,000 active optimist sailors in over 100 countries worldwide. About 85 per cent of medal winners at the Beijing Olympics were former Optimist sailors and most Americas Cup sailors started off in Optis.
Whilst Optimists have been sailed in Cayman in the past, the Optimist fleet had been sidelined for some time as local sailors grew out of them and into the Byte C2 class, the Youth Olympic games class boat. Race Cayman in 2010 saw Cayman hosting the Caribbean and Central America Youth Olympic Qualifier Regatta for the 2010 Youth Olympics held in Singapore.
A total of 34 youth sailors from 17 countries competed for places at the Youth Olympics along with five of Cayman’s local youth sailors. Lizzy Wauchope went on to represent Cayman in Singapore. This group of sailors has all now moved on to college and beyond, leaving a bit of a vacuum in the sailing programme. There were no new young sailors coming through to fill their shoes.
New head coach Raph Harvey has put in great efforts to rejuvenate the grass roots of the sailing programme and has targeted the Optimist class as the way to go. Coach Raph summed up his new philosophy saying, “kids want to get sailing fast but if they haven’t learned how to sail properly and handle their boat well, they just won’t get to the very top. The Optimist requires a high level of skill and commitment to get the best out of the boat and our present squad of sailors is starting to show signs that they have what it takes.”
This new initiative has led to the Cayman Islands Sailing Club being invited to host the Western Caribbean Optimist Dinghy Championship in March 2012. This will be a large event and is expected to attract up to 50 sailors from North America, Central America and the Caribbean. It is a great opportunity for young local sailors to compete against top sailors in their own back yard.
To compete at the top level you have to have the proper equipment and in the sailing world that is not cheap. The club has taken great strides to ensure that the cost does not prohibit any of Cayman’s youth from going to the top levels. The coaches offer training every weekend free of charge. The club has recently purchased a further six second-hand boats and the coaching staff have spent many hours repairing and polishing these boats so that they are as good as new. The club provides the boats free of charge to local youth sailors.
A generous donation from Richard Flowers from Flowers bottled water allowed the club to purchase new sails for the boats. The fleet is now looking very impressive and the hope is that the new equipment will inspire the kids to train hard.