It may not have been a big surprise to see the U.S. dominate the top three spots at last week’s North American Championships for the International Optimist Dinghy Association, which was held in Mexico.
What was surprising was that the Cayman Islands team finished fourth, beating Mexico’s and Bermuda’s top teams in the process. The Cayman team was seeded second to last among 14 teams.
Donna Graham, the association’s representative for the Cayman Islands, said this the best the country has ever done at the event, which is for sailors 15 and under.
“This is the first time in history that the Cayman Islands has sent a team of four sailors,” Ms. Graham said. “Last year, we sent two and in 2015, we sent one.”
The winning team, which was edged out of third place by the third U.S. team, consisted of Matheo Capasso, 13, Jaspar Nielsen, 12, George Hider, 14, and James Costa, 12.
Matheo and Jaspar were also the first Cayman sailors to qualify in the gold category of the individual competition, Ms. Graham said. Matheo finished 24th, while Jaspar was 75th. James and George competed in the silver category, finishing 41st and 42nd, respectively.
Outside of the World Championships, the North American Championships is the biggest event for the Cayman IODA sailors. The Optimist is one of the most popular classes of competition boats in the world, with over 150,000 registered dinghys.
Ms. Graham said the Cayman sailing program has improved in recent years with support from the islands’ sailing club, some high-level coaching and more opportunities to compete internationally.
The government provides some initial support for Caymanian children interested in taking up the sport, she added. She thinks the performance at the championships in Riviera Nayarit is just the beginning.
“We have a lot of kids coming up and we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with,” she said. “I think we’re on the verge of greatness.”