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GBR Optimist Team Selection Trials at the WPNSA

by Valeria Sesto 10 May 2018 08:05 BST 4-7 May 2018

With very little wind and a big effort from the race management team, the 2018 Optimist Selection Trials were completed with five races over four days.

Despite the tricky conditions, the races were considered 'fair and consistent' and four teams have been selected to represent Great Britain at international events this summer, including the Optimist World and the European Championships.

The invitational event at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy - sponsored by xtremity.net, Marlow Ropes and Sportography.tv - saw the country's top 80 Optimist sailors battling it out for selection to the GBR teams.

Former national Optimist coach Alan Williams, who was one of the selectors, said: "The Trials are much more than selecting teams, it's the only time when our top sailors race against each other for a whole event, and it's a great learning experience for all the sailors and their families. It is an un-coached event on the water, which helps the sailors to be independent and make their own decisions. The racing is always very challenging, and there are often some surprises."

This year, however, the weather was particularly challenging. The event started with four solid races on day one and no delays. But two days of long postponements and no racing followed despite all best efforts to find and wait for wind, which included some very early starts (as early as 7:30am) and a five-hour day in the bay which necessitated a RIB mission ashore to fetch ice lollies for the sailors! The fourth day finally saw just one more race, and with no discard allowed, sailors had to count all their results from the five races overall.

Alan can only recall one similar situation in 20 years, when in Pwllheli it was too windy to sail for three of the four days, while Race Officer Adrian Stoggall commented: "I've been a race officer for the selections for 18 years and never have I seen nearly three full days without wind."

He added that this year he had teamed up with his daughter Ella, who was officially PRO: "She can now take over from me as from next year; she's probably the youngest race officer we've got." Ella's first experience of PRO'ing the event was certainly memorable. "It was very tricky with strange wind doing all sort of funky stuff, going round in circles," she said. "We have just been chasing it!"

The sunny Bank Holiday weekend proved difficult as sailors spent most of their time waiting on shore. Head coach Sarah McGovern commented: "Having only done four races on the first day and then hanging around for two and a half days, it is quite challenging in terms of keeping everybody calm and focussed."

On the final day most of the sailors were desperate to go racing to improve their scores, and ready to launch at 8am, and if two races had taken place a discard would have kicked in. As Sarah explained: "Going out or staying in today was a lot of pressure for the sailors because of the uncertainty of weather they could get a discard or not. This is part of what makes selections interesting and perhaps why the teams end up being quite fair: to be able to perform under this type of pressure in this sort of situation shows some resilience."

Just after lunch there was finally just enough wind and a plan for two races and the sailors got ready to launch yet again. One race was completed but with the 3pm time limit pressing, and an ever-changing wind, the last start had to be abandoned.

IOCA Sailing Secretary Joff McGill noted that given the conditions it was fantastic to get at least five races completed: "The race officers had to work their socks off to get those races in! We had some fantastic times out on the water and on the shore and I think we have got three solid teams to go and represent Team GBR in events this summer!"

Worlds Team heading to Cyprus: (27 August to 6 September 2018)

William PANK
Freddie LONSDALE
Kuba STAITE
Freddie WESTWELL
Callum DAVIDSON-GUILD

GBR team for the European Championships in Scheveningen, Netherlands: (20-30 June)

Jamie GATEHOUSE
Santiago SESTO-COSBY
George CREASY
Nick EVANS
Florence BRELLISFORD
Emily MUELLER
Freya SEWELL

Development Team for the US Optimist National Championships in Pensacola, Florida: (12-20 July)

Henry HEATHCOTE
Ben MUELLER
Megan FARRER
Arwen FFLUR
Josh LYTTLE

Twelve sailors will also be chosen for the Flanders Team going to Nieuwpoort Week in Belgium, 1-5 July.

Henry Heathcote (Lymington), said: "These selections were really light and really shifty. It was hard. I made it to the Development Team and we are going to the US Nationals, so the level is going to be high and sounds fun: I've never even been to America!"

The two top girls, Flo Brellisford and Emily Mueller were both relieved to have made the Europeans team, saying: "It was very hard event and every race really counted. It was very long and tiring; there were a lot of starts that didn't go and a lot of waiting around for the wind... we are pleased to be in!"

There were two younger sailors who made an impression this year: one was Santiago Sesto-Cosby, 12, who won the prize for the most improved sailor and said: "I finished 7th this year and made it into the Euros. Last year I think I was 10 to last! It has been all thanks to the work I did throughout Autum and Winter at my club in Lymington with my coaches (at RLYC) as well as with the 'Potential Team' coached by David. Going to some International Regattas for the first time really helped too- they were all light wind!"

The other outstanding young sailor was Freya Sewell, who not long ago was doing mini-racers at Lymington and quickly moved up in the rankings to make it into her first selections. Freya's smile when she found out about her place in the Euros team said it all: "I am so happy and excited. Thank you to all the organisers, my parents and my brother Haydn!"

Second-year in a row winner Will Pank said: "I am going to the worlds again, which is really good as last year I went to the worlds too, in Thailand, so this time I will have more experience."

The Sportsmanship Trophy went to experienced Oppie sailor Julia Staite, who is now on her way to Bermuda to represent GB at the Junior Gold Cup regatta.

Finally, a huge thank you once again to the sponsors xtremity.net, Marlow Ropes and Sportography.tv for all their support.

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