Florence Allan, the 17 year old who started her sailing career at age 7 and recently represented Cayman at the International Sailing Federation in Langkawi Malaysia, cannot help but think about the Olympics.
At the Malaysia event in December, she earned the opportunity to compete against 114 other laser sailors from across the world, 52 of whom were women, and placed 26th.
Allan’s rigorous preparation involves sailing practice for three-and-a-half-hours maximum every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and most Sundays. She also does CrossFit training three to four times weekly “in order to have the good physical fitness required to sail the Laser at such a high level.”
Her love of sailing came naturally from an early age: “I have always been really competitive, and so when I found something that I loved doing and finding out that I could sail competitively, I was so excited,” the Cayman Prep student said, pointing out the virtues of living on an island and having the opportunity to sail year-round.
Allan’s experiences during the two-and-a-half weeks she spent in Southeast Asia over the Christmas holiday were eye-opening. “Langkawi was incredible,” she said. “The island was absolutely stunning – it was so lush and uninhabited.”
When she was not practicing, Allan and her team journeyed to a waterfall via cable cars to see the island from above.
She also spent a lot of the time familiarizing herself with the water, winds, tides and current. “It was one of the longest regattas I’ve ever been at,” she said. “It was an amazing opportunity to compete against so many people. A lot of the sailors I already knew from previous events, like the Youth Olympics in China last year [in 2014], so it was wonderful to see my old friends again.” She added, “Coming from a small island where you sail and train with the same people, having the opportunity to go overseas to train and compete against the world’s best was obviously amazing and a fantastic way to see if our training and hard work was worthwhile.”
Allan hopes to begin sailing double-handed boats with a teammate, and to compete in the Olympics in one of those classes.
“I feel that, as a female, I would struggle to find positions on bigger boats, and we don’t really have an opportunity to sail big boats in Cayman, so at the moment sailing the Laser or a double-hander is what I’d like to continue doing,” she said. Allan said competing in the regatta would not have been possible without the support of her sponsor, coach and the youth sailing program.
She also encourages young people to get involved. “We live on a beautiful warm island where we can do water sports year round, so I think young people should at least try it out,” she said. “We come from a seafaring background in the catboat, so I think it’s a great way to retain our culture by younger people becoming involved in sailing.”
“We live on a beautiful warm island where we can do water sports year round, so I think young people should at least try it out.”