Anyone cruising the Virgin Islands in the late 80s may have
remembered a little blond-haired boy helming a pointy-bowed sailing dinghy with
a big red sail. Today, you might see this same skipper solo sailing. Yet, he’s
a teenager now. Standard rig Lasers are his choice boat. And, instead of pure
pleasure, it’s a passion for Olympic gold that is his North Star.
St. Thomas’ Cy
Thompson has sailing in his genes. His grandfather, Rudy, is a renowned
Caribbean racer who competed in the Flying Dutchman class in the 1968 Olympic
Games in Mexico. His parents, Chris and Christine, met during Antigua Race
Week, have sailed aboard numerous boats together and participated in the
Windsurfing Exhibition Games at the 1984 Olympics. Cy himself, along with
sister Brittany, took to Caribbean waters as an infant while cruising with his
Cy launched into
skippering his own boat aged four when Rudy gave him a Flipper – a
flat-bottomed, 8-foot long, pointy bowed dinghy with a big red sail, as a
Christmas present. “Cy would sail it at the Yacht Club (STYC) or we would tow
it behind Virgin Passage, a Dyer 29, and he would sail it wherever we
anchored,” recalls mom, Christine.
A year later, Cy’s
parents enrolled him in STYC’s junior sailing program. He focused his attention
on mastering the Optimist dinghy. At age six, he won the beginner Green Fleet
at the Scotiabank Caribbean International Optimist Regatta. This feat, at such
a young age, has yet to be repeated by any other junior sailor. This big win
led Cy to make the sport of sailing his number one athletic focus.
“We realized that
for Cy to do well, he needed to attend other events outside the Virgin
Islands,” Christine explains.
Cy’s circuit of
travels kicked-off at age 8 when he flew to St. Petersburg, Florida for the
Valentine’s Day Regatta and found he was among 175 fellow sailors – far more
than he’d ever competed against in Caribbean waters. That didn’t daunt him. He
excelled. In fact, the next year he turned heads and put the Virgin Islands on
the map at the US National Optimist Championships in Gulfport, Mississippi. He
won his first national title in the age-10-and-under White Fleet and also
astonishingly placed 12th out of 172 competitors in overall scoring. After
this, Cy went on to compete in World, North American and US National Optimist
Championships in far-off destinations such as Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana,
Massachusetts, Texas, New York, Martinique, Puerto Rico, the BVI, Spain, Mexico
and Canada, and consistently placed well.
Cy says, “I like
traveling to different places and seeing different things. As much as I love
St. Thomas, it is always nice to get off the island. It’s great meeting new
friends and getting together with the old ones. But mostly I love the
competition. I am a very competitive person and when I do well it makes me feel
good knowing that I worked hard and got the results that I deserved.”
Optimists two years ago and immediately started sailing in the Laser Class. His
performances have been just as stellar. Highlights include his national
headline making win at the 2004 US Youth Championship in Charleston, South
Carolina. The Youth Champs, considered one of the premiere youth sailing events
in the US for sailors under age 20, require that sailors be selected by sailing
resume from a list of nearly 300 applicants.
At the end of last
summer, Cy switched to the Laser Standard class. The Laser Standard carries a
taller mast and larger sail area than a Laser Radial. “Although he’s still too
light for that class, Cy wanted to race against an even more competitive fleet
since the Laser Standard is an Olympic class for men,” Christine says.
Again, Cy started
off with a bang. Most notably, he placed 11th overall and 2nd place junior at
the Laser Mid-Winters East in Clearwater, Florida, in February. This placement
garnered him a slot to the Youth Worlds, to be held this July in South Korea.
The Youth Worlds are considered the Olympics of youth sailing.
How will Cy prepare? He’ll be attending some
stellar events on the US mainland this month. He’ll also be practicing here at
home. On this topic he weaves some sound advice for aspiring junior sailors.
“I’d say to just
get out on the water and practice even if it’s by yourself. I mostly practice
by myself, without a coach, and it’s no fun, but that’s what it takes. If you
can, try to get other sailors to come out with you. To be competitive, you need
to get off the island and travel to attend other regattas. And, you need to