Natural talent is a phrase used to describe 15-year-old Matthew Scott’s sailing ability. But, the Trinidad & Tobago teen hasn’t relied on God’s gift alone. Excellent coaching, a six-day-per-week training schedule and a commitment to the sport that includes Olympic and America’s Cup aspirations are the tools he is using to fast jump to the top of his sport.
“I first started sailing during a summer sailing camp which was held in 2003,” Scott says. “My coach, Jeron Rogers, saw a great talent in me and he invited me to enter a ‘Learn to Race’ program which began in September of that year. It was a great experience for me.”
Scott, who made his foray into sailing at the relatively old age of 12 and who is from a non-sailing family, shocked the international sailing community and proved his talent when with less than a year of formal training he placed 7 th out of 228 competitors at the 2004 Optimist World Championships in Ecuador. “It was not until I went to the Worlds that I proved to myself that I was talented,” Scott says. “It was the biggest achievement I ever made in my life.”
He adds, “I don’t know what my natural talent is. I just do what I have to do when it needs to be done. Like all other sailors, I read the wind, use my tactics wisely, and sail as fast as I possibly can. When I enter a regatta, I am completely focused and confident that I can win. My goals are to do the best I can and to come first. I try to read the conditions of the place I am sailing and also to read my competition.”
After this point, Scott’s successes mounted. The Trinidad & Tobago team, including Scott, placed second at the South American Optimist Championship in 2004. “It was special for us because we made history by being a first-time country and a first-time Caribbean country to compete that place so high on the first try. We were all very proud of ourselves and to come home champions.”
Of the Nemwil Invitational Regatta, held in December 2004 in Trinidad, Scott says, “It was the first time I ever won a regatta and held a title for first place. It was also history for our club as no sailor had ever won 7 of the 12 races in a regatta, including winning all 5 races of one day. Also, I ended the regatta a clear 22 points ahead of the next competitor.”
For his efforts, Scott won the trophy for Best Dinghy Skipper of 2004-05, awarded by the Trinidad & Tobago Sailing Association.
At the 17ème Semaine Nautique de Schoelcher, held in Martinique in February 2005, Scott placed first again. “This was my first win in an international regatta held outside of Trinidad & Tobago.”
Then, at the Optimist North American Championship in June 2005, held in Tobago, Scott placed 5 th overall and 3 rd North American.
A month later, he again placed 2 nd overall at the Optimist Worlds held in Switzerland.
In October, Scott placed 3 rd overall at the King Edward VI Junior Gold Cup Regatta, an elite and prestigious regatta hosted in Bermuda. “I was chosen from around the world to represent my country and to do well,” he says.
Finally, Scott won the Guardian Holding Invitational Regatta, held in December 2005. “This was special for me to keep my first place title and also to end my Optimist career and final regatta in a winning position.”
Scott’s Opti career earned him a nomination for First Citizens’ Sportsperson of the Year for 2005.
Now that he is 15 and has aged out of the Optimist Class, what will he do? “I am going into the Laser class where I intend to practice every single day if I can. I will train as hard as I can to become the best. I chose the Laser because there is a good fleet in Trinidad & Tobago and many regattas where I can compete. I prefer a single man boat, although I do crew on a Melges 24, Super Goose, for big boat regattas.”
What advice might Scott share with younger and beginning sailors?
“An Optimist career starts from the beginning, when you first start to learn. New sailors should be focused and practice as much as they can if they really want to become the best. Go for it! It is a lot of fun. Competing is the best part about it. Sailing teaches so much like time management, being focused, organized and to be a fair competitor and to have good team spirit.