Nauset’s Horton, Keeffe-Jones Sail Into Winner’s Circle As Seniors

By: Brad Joyal

Topics: Nauset High School , Sailing

Caroline Keeffe-Jones, left, and Olivia Horton capped off their Nauset sailing careers by winning the Cape and Islands League’s women’s fleet championship and finishing third at the Figawi Invitational. PHOTO COURTESY NAUSET SAILING

Olivia Horton and Caroline Keeffe-Jones developed big sailing aspirations a few years ago.

After competing together on Nauset’s sailing team as freshmen and then experiencing success at the Yarmouth Regatta during the summer before their sophomore year, the duo felt it was only a matter of time before they’d take the Cape and Islands League by storm.

They saw the upperclassmen compete at the league’s fleet championships and shared hopes of one day capturing the women’s championship together.

“We talked about it kind of since our freshman year,” said Horton, a recent graduate from Yarmouth. “We were like, ‘Hey, we’re two freshmen girls, we could do this thing.’”

Neither of the girls could have imagined that a global pandemic would result in the cancellation of their entire sophomore season, then have lingering impacts that altered their junior season and canceled the fleet championships for a second consecutive spring.

The duo made up for lost time this season, however, by capturing the coveted Cape and Islands’ women’s fleet championship May 25 in Hyannis Port. That was one of many highlights from their final season together, as the pair also finished third at the Figawi Invitational a few days later.

“After working together for four years, I feel like this year was the culmination of all that work,” said Keeffe-Jones, an Orleans resident. “I think it paid off and it showed with our results this spring, winning the women’s championship and finishing third at Figawai.”

Both girls have impressive sailing backgrounds independent of one another.

Keeffe-Jones, the boat’s skipper, began sailing at a young age when she took lessons led by Nauset’s sailing coach Alexis Mathison at the Orleans Yacht Club. Keeffe-Jones followed in Mathison’s footsteps and teaches lessons at OYC, and she’ll continue sailing at the next level at Brown University next year.

Horton is the daughter of a boat captain who caught the sailing bug when she took part in a three-week sailing trip to Nova Scotia. She began sailing competitively for Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School as an eighth-grader before transferring to Nauset, where she eventually served as Keeffe-Jones’ crew.

Despite different sailing backgrounds, the two formed a quick bond inside their sailboat. Over the years, they grew so close they didn’t have to rely on their voices to communicate successfully.

“Over the years, we developed a chemistry to the point that we didn’t even really have to talk about what was going on,” Horton said. “We just understand each other on the water.”

A sailboat is only as good as the connection between its skipper and crew, according to Keeffe-Jones, so the girls’ relationship became paramount to their success.

“I’ve sailed with a lot of people and from right off the start, Olivia was really good crew,” Keeffe-Jones said. “It takes two people to make a good boat — both the skipper and the crew have to be good.”

Keeffe-Jones also credited Mathison and her father and assistant coach Mark Mathison for helping to make their senior season so special.

“A big part of this season was the awesome coaching of Alexis and Mark,” Keeffe-Jones said. “They’re a great duo as well and they really work hard to bring the team positive spirits and help everyone improve personally.”

Although Keeffe-Jones and Horton will be attending different nearby colleges — the latter will attend Roger Williams — the pair will always have special memories of the moments they shared on and off the water.

“Caroline was always a little more shy than me,” Horton said. “I’m the outgoing type. I think we expanded each other’s way to view the world, for sure, and also just became great friends through it all.”

Email Brad Joyal at brad@capecodchronicle.com

Twitter: @BradJoyal