Mimi Roller, left in photo, with sailing partner Kayla McComb, center, hold on as they try to avoid a collision during a race.
Since posting solid performances at several European regattas this spring, Olympic hopefuls Mayumi “Mimi” Roller and Kayla McComb jumped in the world rankings from 52 to 36 place, just six shy of being among the coveted top 30 in the world.
“The top 30 teams are invited to all the World Cup regattas and the next 10 have to qualify to enter them,” said Roller, who is home in Coral Bay for a few weeks before heading back to Europe for a regatta in the Netherlands later this month.
Roller is hoping to sail in her second Olympic Games in Brazil in 2016. She represented the U.S. Virgin Islands in London 2012, where she walked in the opening ceremony before she raced a Laser Radial.
For her Summer Olympic Games in Brazil bid, Roller has joined with fellow St. Mary’s College of Maryland alumnae McComb and switched to a 49er FX rig.
Brazil will be first Olympic Games to feature the class, which is similar to the men’s 49er Olympic Skiff class but with a smaller sail area.
Roller and McComb have been practicing and competing in regattas across the globe and their work has begun to pay off.
“The new world rankings came out and we are 36,” said Roller. “That is the highest we’ve ever been ranked. Even when I was racing lasers my highest world ranking was 49. So this is really exciting.”
Solid performances at the Palma de Mallorca Princess Sophia Regatta in Spain and the Hyere Regatta in France helped the sailors climb almost 20 places in 49er FX world ranking.
Roller and McComb arrived in Spain in early March and enjoyed ideal weather conditions in a training regatta ahead of the Princess Sophia Regatta, Roller explained.
“First there was a training regatta to get ready for the actual regatta and it was a great event,” she said. “There were almost as many teams in the training as there were in the regatta. We did really well, we finished 12th overall.”
“There was light wind during the event which is what we race best in,” Roller said. “So that was definitely in our favor.”
Those light conditions Roller and McComb enjoyed during the training didn’t last, however, for the Princess Sophia Regatta.
“The regatta itself didn’t go quite as well,” Roller said. “The weather conditions and the race management conditions were both crazy during the regatta.”
With all Olympic classes competing in the Princess Sophia Regatta, the women’s 49er FX fleet had to share a race course with the men’s. In an effort to ensure races were completed for both classes, the men’s fleet would sail two races before being sent off for the women to race.
After two races, the women’s fleet would be sent off for the men to return, and then the women, for one final race.
“It was frustrating,” said Roller. “As soon as you were getting into a groove, you would be sent in. We would just get back to shore and put our boat up and they would switch the flag calling the women’s fleet back out.”
“It messes with your head because you are ready for a break now but you have to go back out and be race ready again,” said the sailor.
Despite the conditions of both race management and changing weather, Roller and McComb achieved their goal at the Princess Sophia Regatta, to qualify for the Hyere Regatta in France.
This regatta presented a whole different set of challenges to the U.S. Virgin Islands Olympic hopefuls.
“All of the other regattas we’ve raced have split the fleet in two with about 20 to 25 boats each,” said Roller. “This event had the top 40 boats there. For the first time were against the entire fleet at the start line.”
Starts are always important in 49er FX racing, but at start line with 40 boats makes a good start imperative to staying competitive.
“The start was really important because it was so hard to find a lane and then to manage the lane,” Roller said. “It was a really interesting race.”
The conditions in France were about as a volatile as a 40 boat start line, Roller added.
“There was a mixture of conditions from breezy to really light which reflected in our finishes,” she said.
Roller and McComb posted three top five finishes and reached as high as third place.
“We know we can be competitive with the top of the fleet and we know we can be consistent in certain conditions,” said Roller. “We have to become more proficient in more conditions now.”
Up next for Roller, the sailor will join with fellow Antilles School alum Love City’s Agustina Barbuto to race in the Delta Lloyd Regatta in the Netherlands later this month as McComb rests a nagging knee injury.
While Roller and Barbuta have never raced together before, Barbuta, a medical school student in Argentina, is no stranger to trapeze sailing, Roller explained.
“Agustina sails 29ers which are trapeze rig skiffs so I think she will transfer that to 49ers well,” said Roller. “We’re both really excited about this. Agustina is taking a week off from school to race with me.”
If all goes according to plan, Roller and Barbuto will do well enough in the Netherlands to qualify team U.S. Virgin Islands for the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Weymouth and Portland in early June.
For more information about Roller and McComb’s Olympic bid and to donate to their campaign, check out www.mksailing.com.