If I were to sum up my experience, I would say that it was full of joy and gratefulness. I was not in the best form that I would have liked for the windy conditions, but I fought every race with all I had…
Seven Caribbean sailors represented four island nations, plus the USA, in three events at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 5 to 21. While no one brought home a medal, what each competitor did was represent the region well with some great sailing performances, and for some, goals for 2020 in Tokyo.
The laser classes, both men’s and women’s, were well represented by the US Virgin Islands’ Cy Thompson, Trinidad & Tobago’s Andrew Lewis, the Cayman Islands’ Florence Allan, St. Lucia Stephanie Devaux-Lovell and Aruba’s Philipine van Aanholt.
“Being the flag bearer for the U.S. Virgin Islands at the Opening Ceremony is always something an Olympic Athlete dreams of. It was such an honor and it seemed to give a little extra motivation,” says Thompson, who started strong with a huge comeback in the first races to finish 13th and 4th, before a big breeze filled in and made it hard to climb the leader board past 19th place by the end.
It was an extraordinary accomplishment for Trinidad’s Lewis to just get to the games, following a near fatal accident eight months prior.
“If I were to sum up my experience, I would say that it was full of joy and gratefulness. I was not in the best form that I would have liked for the windy conditions, but I fought every race with all I had as I am not one to give up and will give my all until the end,” says Lewis, who finished 39th.
In women’s laser radial, Florence Allan achieved her objective.
“My goal was not to place last, which I didn’t, and am very happy about. Although the numbers on the scoreboard didn’t suggest that I sailed well, I know I sailed my heart out and I’m happy with that,” says Allan, who added that it was an amazing feeling to look up at her sail and see the Cayman flag next to the Olympic rings. Allan finished 36th in the standings.
Van Aanholt and Devaux-Lovell placed back-to-back, 28th and 29th, respectively.
“I finished eight places better than in London in 2012 which made me very happy. Next up sailing-wise, I think I will let the laser rest for a little. However, I would not say no to having some fun in the 49er FX with my sister, Odile. We will see!” van Aanholt said.
Devaux-Lovell was especially happy to live her Olympic dream.
“I was very happy with my sailing. Especially in race eight where I knew I wanted to go left, so I fought for the pin and became the furthest left boat allowing me to round the windward mark in 3rd. Working the left again on the next upwind I managed to finish the race in 3rd. This was the highlight of my Olympic participation.”
In other classes, Aruba’s Nicole van der Velden with crew Thijs Visser, ended 16th in the Nacra 17.
“It was a tough regatta with crazy winds. We had an up and down performance, although our two race wins the second day were definitely the highlight of the week,” says van der Velden, as she recapped the pinnacle of the team’s two-and-a-half-year Olympic campaign.
Finally, the USVI’s Thomas Barrows and crew Joe Morris, from the USA, sailed under the USA’s flag in the Men’s 49er skiff and earned 19th place.
“There’s a lot of pressure to perform but there’s also a lot of emotion from knowing many years of training and support have made it all possible. My advice to other sailors would be that to get to where you want in sailing you need to focus on getting better and being brutally honest with assessing individual strengths and weaknesses. Individual results aren’t an important part of the process and you can’t let them get you too high or too low,” says Barrows.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.