Cayman sailor Jesse Jackson spent part of his Christmas break catching the wind off the water in the northern Adriatic Sea where he participated in the Laser Europa Cup, Croatia, Dec. 27-31.
Mr. Jackson, 19, competed in a field of 25 sailors, among which he finished 18th. He’s hoping for better results in 2019, with the goal of qualifying for the Olympic Games.
“I feel my chances are pretty high,” said Mr. Jackson, speaking from Southampton, England, where he is a first-year student at Solent University. “But I’m going up against the best of the best.”
He also has the disadvantage of not being able to sail during the winter months.
“The water is a bit chilly,” he said of the Solent, a nearby strait.
But he does get in regular gym workouts.
His first chance at qualifying will not come until July when the World Championships are held in Japan. There, he would have to finish in the top four among competitors who have not already qualified for the Games.
“I’ll have another opportunity in the Pan American Games,” he said, referring to the July 25 to Aug. 11 event in Lima, Peru. “That has two spots up for grabs.”
Mr. Jackson said he fell in love with sailing six years ago after attending a summer camp sponsored by the Cayman Islands Sailing Club. He was a student at Cayman Prep, which offered an after-school program, so he took additional lessons and began racing. The largest event he has competed in so far was last summer’s Central American and Caribbean Games, where he finished 12th in a field of 17.
Later this month, he plans to compete at the Hempel World Cup Series in Miami.
At Solent University, he is studying yacht design and production. He hopes to eventually earn a master’s degree in naval architecture and plans to start his own commercial fishing company in Cayman, with the eventual goal of having a fleet of boats and a restaurant.
But right now, he’s focused on the Tokyo Games.
Other Caymanians have competed in sailing in past Olympics, most recently Florence Allan, who took part in the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“I’m hoping that one good regatta will happen,” Mr. Jackson said, and that he’ll be able to qualify to take part in the Olympics. “I’m hoping my hard work pays off.”