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Volvo Gill Optimist British National and Open Championships - Overall

by Pip Holloway 23 Aug 2012 16:39 BST 13-17 August 2012
Martin Wrigley wins the Volvo Gill Optimist British National Champion © Andy Green

2002 Volvo Optimist National Champion to 2012 Olympic medallist

More than 500 British and International competitors, descended on Pwllheli Sailing Club to battle it out for the 2012 Championship titles last week, 13th – 17th August. The event came to a close after a week of varied and tricky conditions for sailors and the committee alike. The week began with a shaky start presenting strong winds and huge sea state postponing any racing. Monday afternoon saw more promising conditions and allowed sailing to get underway with two days of steady racing at 10- 15 knots. Midweek became a day off for sailors as the conditions were unsafe, but competitors were presented with a window of opportunity on Thursday before the rest of the regatta was unable to get back on the water for the final day.

After racing was called off on the final day due to high winds, big swell and reduced visibility, the event concluded with Thursday's standings with Martin Wrigley (Cardiff Bay YC) claiming the Volvo Gill Optimist British National Champion title, "It's been a great week, definitely hard work for all involved but I'm really pleased to have won. The races we did manage to get in were great competition and I'm looking forward to the next event," said the World Team Member.

Top British Girl was awarded to Royal Lymington's Jenny Cropley who also claimed the title earlier in the year at the Volvo Gill Optimist Inland Championships. "The week went well overall, I was quite consistent and the conditions were generally tricky. With two days on shore it made every race count. It's great to finish first girl, both here and at the Volvo Gill Inland Championships. I am hoping to do the same at the End of Seasons! Hannah Mills' performance in Weymouth was a huge inspiration for me and I am proud to have finished first girl at the same event Hannah won ten years ago. After a seven race series for the Junior gold fleet, Arthur Brown (Royal Burnham YC) secured the Junior fleet title.

Current Volvo Gill Optimist Inland Champion Haydn Sewell (Royal Victoria YC), took the National Regatta fleet title this week after showcasing top talent and sailing consistently in all his nine races. He commented, "the week was great, I loved the wind and the waves, and am very proud to have won. I'd love to win the Volvo Gill Optimist End of Seasons as well!"

Simon Rogers, IOCA UK Chairman rounded up the week, "it's been a week of very mixed weather conditions, with very strong wind and wet weather. But despite the challenging conditions for our young sailors the racing has been extremely competitive. The volunteers and parents have been amazing as ever, and we are always happy to be in Pwllheli'.

Exactly ten years to the event, Olympic silver medallist, Hannah Mills won the 2002 Optimist National Championships, in Pwllheli. Hannah started her sailing career at the age of eight in the Optimist and by the age of 14 she had won every major British title. Since then, Hannah has progressed through the 420 youth class to go on and perform in the 470 at the London 2012 Olympics.

"Champions at national level, convert ultimately into champions at the Olympics, and we were thrilled to watch Hannah win her silver medal last week, it was such a tremendous achievement, and the class are incredibly proud this is where she started her career. She was a champion in 2002 and we're absolutely thrilled to see her on the podium in 2012!" Continued Simon.

On reflection, Team Volvo sailor Hannah Mills commented "I can't believe it has been ten years since I won the Optimist Nationals in Pwllheli. When I was that age all I ever dreamed of was going to the Olympics. The Nationals in 2002 were just after the Optimist Worlds where I had done well, winning the Girls' World title. I felt like everyone expected me to win because of that. That was the first time I had experienced pressure and I coped with it and won. That gave me a lot of belief that I could deal with pressure situations as a young sailor. If you believe hard enough that you can achieve something, and are prepared to work at it, you really can do it. Ten years is a long time in sailing but ten years from becoming Optimist National champion to Olympic silver medallist proves anything is possible. I have no doubt I will see the sailors who perform this week in ten years' time on the Olympic podium."


Team Volvo Sailor and Silver Olympic Medallist Hannah Mills in Pwllheli in 2002 © Peter Newton

Bill Farren–Price, Class association Sailing Secretary/Event Coordinator commented "Hannah is a great inspiration; many sailors will look to follow in her footsteps. The Olympic spirit is still strong up here in North Wales and despite the weather conditions there has been some very competitive sailing"

Other members of Team Volvo who started their sailing career in Optimist include Quadruple Olympic Gold Medallist Ben Ainslie, who took his fourth consecutive gold in these Games, Olympic Silver Medallist Luke Patience, and Olympic Silver Medallist Saskia Clark who crews with Hannah Mills.

This is the second annual event of the year that Volvo and Gill jointly sponsor, with the third being the Volvo Gill Optimist End of Season Championships, taking place at Rutland Water Sailing Club, 13-14 October 2012.

For full results visit www.optimistsailing.org.uk. All results are provisional and subject to possible protest.

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