St. John sailing sensation Mayumi “Mimi” Roller has set her sights on the competing in the 2008 Olympics and she’s on course to make it to either China next year or London in 2012.
Roller recently qualified for both the sailing World Championships in Portugal in early July and the Pan American Games in Brazil later in the same month.
The St. John Kids And The Sea-trained sailor had a good showing in Miami at the Olympic Class Regatta (OCR) in January where she went head to head some of the best Laser Radial sailors in the world.
“I didn’t do that great, but it was a really hard competition,” said the just 16-year old Antilles School junior. “The majority of the women were a lot bigger and older and more experienced than me. I did beat the girl from St. Croix and qualified for the Virgin Islands in the Worlds.”
Light Wind Specialty
The tall and thin teenager excels in light winds where she can easily get ahead of the pack, she admitted.
“I do well in light wind but the wind at Miami OCR varied from really no wind at all to really heavy wind,” Roller said. “Most of the races were in heavy wind, so it was really hard for me to keep up with everyone because I’m so much lighter.”
Roller headed to Clearwater, Florida in late February where she secured her berth in the Olympic-qualifying Pan Am Games.
“I sailed in the Laser’s Mid-winter’s East in Florida which wasn’t as tough as the OCR,” Roller said. “At the OCR there were people from all over the world and at the Mid-winter’s the majority of people were from the U.S., but there were people from the Caribbean and South America and Europe. But it wasn’t as big as the OCR.”
The Love City sailor qualified for the top-ranked gold fleet after the initial days of sailing.
“First you have qualifying races for the first two days or so and then they split the fleet in half and the top half make the gold fleet,” Roller said. “I finished about 41st place out of a total of 98 in both fleets. That’s where I qualified for the Pan Am games in Brazil this summer.”
The fair-weather loving Roller experienced a few days of chilly temperatures in Florida.
“The weather was kind of cold some days so that was a bit tough and the winds varied again,” said Roller. “I did the best I could with the wind that I had and I was pleased.”
With good showings at both regattas this season, Roller is eyeing the Olympics sailing field.
“If I could get into next year’s Olympics that would be great, but it would be really wishful thinking,” said Roller. “Definitely in five years from now, I’d be a lot better and have more experience so I think I have a better shot for 2012 in London. But, I’d love to be in China — I hear the wind is pretty light there.”
Roller, who has been sailing since the age of 10, loves the travel involved with sailing, she explained.
“I get to travel everywhere and get to do a lot of shopping in different places and see new things,” Roller said. “I’ve been to so many different countries and I make a lot of new friends every year and see old friends I met when I first started traveling. It’s always fun to make new acquaintances and see different cultures.”
“I’m really lucky in that regard,” Roller added.
With so many different factors involved, sailing is one of the most difficult sports in the world, according to Roller.
“Everything Matters” in Sailing
“I think sailing is one of the hardest sports in the world,” said Roller. “It’s really expensive and when you are actually sailing there are a lot of things to pay attention to. You have to know all the different types of conditions and all the different gear and your placement in the boat.”
“Where you put your body in the boat is very important — it can help you go faster,” Roller continued. “Everything matters — there are a ton of details. Even if you are fast, a main part of doing well is a lucky wind shift and you have to be able to recognize the wind so you can take advantage of it.”
Roller offered some advice to novice sailors.
Determination Pays Off
“When you first start sailing it seems really difficult because it seems like there is a lot going on,” said Roller. “It often can be frustrating, but if you just stick with it, it gets a lot more exciting and rewarding.”
“Once you start going to regattas — you won’t win your first one — but once you start winning it feels great and you want to do it again and again,” added Roller.
Sibling rivalry is what actually first attracted Roller to the sport, she explained.
“I always just liked sailing and I am very competitive, especially with my brother,” said Roller. “He started sailing and started doing good in regattas so I thought I could do it. Then I really wanted to get into it and prove that I was better than my brother.”
The other Roller, Hugo Jr., is a renowned sailor in his own right, placing 13th in the silver fleet of the Mid-winter’s East. The siblings rarely face each other in competition and root for each other instead.
The Rollers are hiring a coach from Florida to work with the sailing siblings, which will put them on par with sailors around the world. The cost, however, is steep and the athletes can use any help.
Anyone interested in donating to the V.I. Olympic Committee to sponsor Roller should call 693-5579 for more information.