Mimi Roller and sailing partner Kayla McComb practice in Florida, above, as they gear up for their first Olympic qualifying event.
St. John Olympian Mayumi “Mimi” Roller is not ready to hang up her racing gloves.
Roller and sailing partner Kayla McComb are gearing up for a summer full of European regattas with their first Olympic qualifying event set for September.
Roller, 23, grew up in Coral Bay, learning to tack and jibe in Coral Harbor with the non-profit youth sailing program Kids and the Sea. After graduating from Antilles School where she helped the sailing team earn a national title, Roller sailed for St. Mary’s College of Maryland and continued to place among the country’s top sailors.
Roller took a year off from college to pursue her Olympic dreams and represented the U.S. Virgin Islands in the London Olympic Games in 2012 sailing in women’s laser.
This time around, Roller and fellow St. Mary’s alum McComb — who established residency on St. John in order to represent the VI with Roller — are mastering the trapeze style women’s 49er FX.
These high performance skiffs are a recent advancement of the men’s Olympic 49er hulls with a reduced sail area for women’s racing. They represent the leading technology in women’s sailing and a new challenge for former laser sailers Roller and McComb.
Since buying a 49er FX in the fall the two spent two weeks training in California before moving the boat to Florida. They spent all of January and part of February training daily on the boat in Miami and raced in their first two 49er FX regattas, explained Roller.
“We had our first two events that we sailed in, the North American Championships and the Miami Olympic Class Regatta,” said Roller. “We finished around the same percentage in the fleet in both. We were about 22 out of 29, and 26 out of 34; and they were our first two events.”
“We learned a lot and had some really great moments,” she said. “We got third in a race in the North Americans and sixth in a race in the OCR.”
Training in the Northeast
Roller and McComb have been training in Maryland, where Roller is assistant coach for the St. Mary’s sailing team as they gear up for this summer’s European regattas.
But the two won’t be going far without community support. Their Olympic campaign will cost quite a bit of money, but the sailors’ first priority is buying a boat in time for the summer.
The sailing partners plan to race in three regattas in Europe this summer and in order to be competitive, need to buy a boat on the continent, explained Roller.
“We are hoping to raise enough money to buy a new boat for our European travel this summer,” said Roller. “A new boat costs around $30,000, but if you charter a boat at three different events it’s about the same cost as buying one. And when you charter you charter from other Olympic teams which charter out their older boats.”
“They’re not usually in good condition,” she said. “It’s best to have your own boat and have your own keel. You don’t have to worry about damaging a charter and having to pay for those repairs for someone else.”
McComb and Roller’s first summer regatta is in Germany in the end of June. Then they plan to race in three events in Europe before heading back stateside for events in New York and Canada in August.
“We’re hoping to do three events in Europe and then come back to do two events, one in Canada and other in New York in August,” said Roller. “Then we’ll head back to Sprain for the first Olympic qualifier.”
The sailors will be on St. John this week and will host fundraising campaigns across the island. They plan to start collecting items for a raffle to support their Olympic bid. Roller and McComb are accepting donations of all kinds, from gift certificates to villa stays, jewelry, art and more, to be included in the raffle.
The two also plan to host events at island restaurants, so keep an eye out for Roller an McComb across St. John this week.
“We’re trying to start the process of collecting items and gift certificates for a raffle,” said Roller. “We’re also hoping to collect bigger donation items for a silent auction.”
“We’re accepting everything we can get right now,’ said Roller. “This is a much, much more expensive campaign than the laser. We’re already spending a lot more money than we anticipated.”
McComb and Roller will return to St. John in May when they plan to host their raffle and silent auction fundraiser.
To donate to Roller and McComb’s Olympic campaign or for more information email email@example.com. And keep up with the sailors on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/mksailingisv391.