Cayman’s youngest Olympian battled winds in Rio

Cayman Islands' Florence Allan competes during the Laser Radial women race. - PHOTO: AP

After five days of battling the winds in Rio’s harbor, Cayman’s Olympic sailor Florence Allan finished the week in 36th place. Allan said she enjoyed competing against the best in the world even though the weather got the better of her.

Speaking to a pool reporter in Rio, Ms. Allan said, “I’m kind of relieved in a way that it’s over, because … all this stress of racing, and just to take a break. I’m pretty tired. But at the same time, I don’t want it to end just because the atmosphere is really cool and being able to race is really, really great.”

Allan, 18, a Cayman Prep and High School student, is Cayman’s youngest Olympian this year. She competed in the women’s Laser Radial sailing races – 10 races over five days, battling wind and choppy water in the Rio harbor. Broadcasts of the races show the 37 sailors in the small, light sailboats, fighting the winds in a scrum of boats.

“I’ve never enjoyed racing like this before,” Allan said. “I had a really good downwind on one of the races on the second day, I was able to climb up to 20th at one point, I think. It was just really amazing to realize that if you work hard enough, then you can be amongst the people that you have idolized for a really long time. Just to be in a race among really, really good people and to pass people like that was really, really special.”

Allan had her toughest day in races 5 and 6, outside of the harbor in the open ocean. The wind and seas were too rough for her, one of the lightest sailors competing in the class.

“Honestly, I felt a bit broken mentally after that day and I still felt that yesterday, while I found it really hard to adjust mentally. I was just broken inside. But today I just had to take a step back, put everything into perspective and realize how great the opportunity has been and not to spoil it with being bummed down after that day. I just went out and had fun,” she said.

“It’s been hard obviously …. It wasn’t what I was expecting to come in here at all, but even with that said, I have never enjoyed racing like this, so it was really cool to be out there,” she said.

Her coach, Raph Harvey, said Allan has a hard time with any winds over 7 knots because of her weight (125 pounds). Speaking to a pool reporter in Rio, Harvey said he had hoped for lighter winds over the week.

“The forecast is what they tell you, the weather is what you get,” he said.

Allan will not compete in Monday’s medal race. As the preliminary races wrapped up, Marit Bouwmeester of the Netherlands is in first place, with Anne-Marie Rindom of Denmark in second, and Annalise Murphy from Ireland in third.

Tokyo 2020

Ms. Allan said she does not see her weight changing and making her more competitive in the Laser Radial class. “I think this is probably one of the last regattas that I will do. It was kind of weird to come off the water thinking that was the last time I will sail that boat,” she said.

But she said she hopes this is not her only time in the Olympics. She said she hopes to team up for the Nacra 17 catamaran race in Tokyo four years from now.

“Nacra has two hulls instead of one and it has three sails. To be able to combine weight with someone else, you don’t have to be as heavy …,” she said.