15-year-old Antiguan sailor Emily Gaillard, and the 2022 Caribbean Dinghy Championship Optimist Winner continues to excel at the Optimist World Championships in Turkey.
Emily Gaillard, made history this week as the youngest person ever on record to compete in the Caribbean RORC 600. Emily participated as a crewmember of the Farr65 “Spirit of Juno”, sailing 600 nautical miles around 11 Caribbean islands in one of the most challenging events of the racing season.
Her sailing journey all started four years ago at the 2019 Optimist World Championship hosted by Antigua. Joining the 100s of spectators watching the event, Emily realized how exciting the sport was and, in her own words, said, ‘I want to do that!’ She was soon signed up for lessons in the Antigua Yacht Club Junior Sailing Program, and under the guidance of Manager and Olympic sailor Karl James, MBE, started to learn the sport and compete in the Optimist dinghy. The Optimist Dinghy is the largest class around the globe of World Sailing and is the boat that almost everyone learns to sail first.
Soon Emily was making her mark at local regattas. In 2020 she competed overseas for the first time, representing Antigua in Martinique, followed by the 2021 Optimist World Championship in Riva del Garda, Italy. Emily says she always feels a connection to the water. “Being on the water makes me feel calm, it makes me feel happy’ she said in an interview in 2021 and she went on to say that she dreams of sailing as a career, especially racing. In 2022 Emily became Antigua’s first female National Champion and later that year she travelled with the Antigua Optimist National Team to Bodrum, Turkey for the 2022 Optimist World Championships. Immediately after this event she participated in Cowes Sailing Week on the Isle of Wight, UK, opening up a whole new dimension in sailing for Emily.
Last year, following the 2022 Optimist North Americans in the Bahamas, Emily moved out of the Optimist and into the Laser 4.7 Class, and, with support from the Antigua Sailing Association, she is a member of the World Sailing Emerging Nations Program dedicated to assisting continuing the development of athletes in the sport. She continues to train in the Laser 4.7 and will compete in the upcoming Antigua National Championship in March. Emily also races on weekends as both crew and helmsperson in various other boats including the RS Elite, and the Melges 24. These experiences have added to her sailing knowledge and broadened the skills that she first learned in the Optimist, helping her to prepare for the challenge of racing in this year’s edition of the Caribbean RORC 600 – an exhilarating but high-risk adventure non-stop for three days in big winds and high seas.
About the 2023 Caribbean RORC Emily says, “This experience is one to never forget. We spent a total of 3 days out at sea witnessing multiple pods of dolphins, mind-blowing sunsets and sunrises all while passing the beautiful Caribbean islands, some of which I’d never seen before. During the race, I was given the opportunity to helm multiple times which I truly enjoyed and learnt a lot from. Overall the RORC 600 regatta left a core memory in my heart, teaching me new things and creating new friends along the way. I will definitely do it again!”
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