Sailors improve World Championship showing

Four Cayman sailors, one at far right, were among a field of 255 at the Optimist World Championships in Antigua. - Photo: Matias Capizzano

Four of Cayman’s young sailors spent 10 days tacking and gybing through the waters off Antigua as they competed in the Optimist World Championships, 6‑16 July.

In a field of 255 sailors from around the world, Matheo Capasso finished 62nd, the highest of Cayman’s four representatives.

Jaspar Nelson was 156th, James Costa was 163rd and Xavier Marshall came in 230th.

Matheo, who posted fourth- and second-place finishes in two of the six qualifying races, struggled in the finals and was particularly hurt by two false-start disqualifications. His best finish in the six final races was 37th.

Still, his placing was a marked improvement from the previous year. He qualified this year in the gold fleet (the top 64 finishers). Last year he qualified in the lowest class.

Italy’s Marco Gradoni, who led the field for much of the competition, with seven first-place finishes, won the championship title.

Stormy conditions one day challenged the sailors with 16-foot swells and wind gusts of more than 30 knots.

The four sailors also competed in the team racing, but lost their two matches to Portugal and Chile.

Donna Graham, who is the Cayman Sailing Club’s representative for the optimist class and also Matheo’s mother, said the young sailors are representative of the improvement in the Cayman sailing programme. She said she believes Matheo is the first Cayman sailor to finish in the gold class in the Optimist World Championships.

“On the basis of our team progress at Worlds, from two sailors in emerald fleet [the lowest] last year to one in gold, two in bronze and one in emerald this year, we were awarded two additional spots at the Bahamas North American Championships,” Graham said in an email. “Sending a team of six [to that event] is massive progress for us. In recent history we sent one sailor in 2015, none in 2016, two in 2017, four in 2018 and now six for 2019.

“The two additional spots will both go to girls,” she added. “We haven’t had a girl at the North Americans since 2015, so this is also exciting. We are actively working on initiatives to attract and retain more girls in our programs.”

Overall, she said, things are looking up for the sport in Cayman.

“We are really growing and the sport is developing,” Graham said. “The fleet’s getting bigger and kids are getting better.”