It was a steep learning curve for the Youth Sailing Team at the recent Byte C11 World Championship and 2014 Youth Olympic Qualifier held in Newport, Rhode Island.
The regatta attracted the best sailors from around the world ages 14-16, as a position in the top five qualified their country for the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China next year.
With 38 sailors representing 21 countries, Cayman’s sailors knew it would be tough, but gained themselves invaluable experience against the elite in big fleets.
With more than five days of competitive sailing, it was also a test of their stamina and skill and a chance to see how the many hours of training on North Sound waters would equip them against sailors such as Jonatan Vadnai of Hungary, the 2013 World and European Laser 4.7 Champion and Optimist North American Champion Odile Van Aanholt of Curacao.
Pablo Bertran had some great results finishing in the top 10 several times and, at one point, it looked like he might be challenging in the top six. But a couple of bad starts and rule infringements in the light airs of the last two days cost him.
He stormed back to take fifth place in the final race and finished a respectable ninth boy and 11th overall.
Shane McDermott and Jesse Jackson represented themselves well, considering it was only their second regatta overseas.
In the medium to heavy winds – typical Cayman wind conditions – they excelled, racking up several top 10 finishes, which catapulted them into 11th and 15th, respectively.
However, with just five races to go, the wind dropped to around 4.5-5 knots and the boys struggled, finishing up the regatta in 15th and 20th.
Hungary, U.S., Croatia, Singapore and Canada took the qualifying positions.
Florence Allan was within a whisker of qualifying, narrowly missing out on the final fifth spot in the girl’s division on the last day to Celeste Lugtmeijer of the Dominica Republic.
Hungary, Netherlands, Bermuda and Singapore were the other qualifiers.
Coach Raph Harvey put the achievement in perspective, saying, “They all did a fantastic job. They might have suffered the agony of just missing out on qualifying for the biggest prize of all, but they still have that chance and will benefit immensely from what they learned.”
He added, “The variable winds of 5-18 knots on the world-renowned waters of Narragansett Bay combined with its daily 5 feet tidal range and some of the world’s best youngsters, pushed the Byte team to their limits.
“They represented themselves and the Cayman Islands extremely well. They now know what it takes to compete at such a high level and are very keen to get back to training.”
Indeed, just two days after returning, they were back out on home waters racing against the adults in the sailing club monthly dinghy racing.
The team now focuses on the North American and Caribbean qualifier, which will be held in Jenson Beach, Florida at the end of February 2013.