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The Lake Garda Meeting Optimist Meeting - the youth event that is good for the heart

by Elena Giolai 15 Apr 11:10 BST 14-17 April 2022
The Lake Garda Meeting Optimist Meeting © Elena Giolai

The Garda Optimist Meeting has begun in Riva del Garda, on the northern shore of Lake Garda in Italy, the same location that will host the Optimist World Championships in 2021.

This Guinness World Records event is back in its original format after two years, in Easter week, and above all in its original numbers of over 1000 helmsmen from 35 nations. And this is why this incredible event, especially at this difficult time in history, is good for the heart.

It is good for the heart to see so many children-boys and girls with their families in tow and their older brothers and sisters, who may be taking advantage of the opportunity to train on Lake Garda in another class, with their smiles, their life jackets and coloured wetsuits, all taking to the water together, more than a thousand of them, in an area that also, with its clear colours in these days, makes the eyes shine.

The Garda Optimist Meeting began on Thursday 14th April with the first races of the cadet and junior categories, divided into five heats. However, despite the fact that the winners of the Meeting have been Olympic champions, world champions, America's Cup participants or successful coaches over the years, it is above all a celebration of sport, sailing and people, unique in the world; and the symbol of the event itself demonstrates this with the drawing of children holding hands in a circle around the symbol of the Optimist class.

This is a message that is intended to be heard by everyone, without distinction, and one that Fraglia Vela Riva, the organising club, has been committed to carrying forward with increasing passion for the past 40 years.

The children who will stand on the podium will certainly be few compared to the number of entrants, but for everyone, from the first to the last, the Garda Optimist Meeting is an opportunity, a chance to live, an event that for everyone is and remains amazing.

Even as a spectator, for those who are lucky enough to be in Riva del Garda during these days it is an event that leaves you speechless: from every corner of the northern shore of Lake Garda, known as the Trentino shore, Optimists come out; all the clubs in the area host the sailors and in the morning, from the hotels and camping, children come out already dressed as boats with their scooters, skateboards, bikes or simply on foot to reach their Optimist, their team, their coach and get ready to go out.

There are those who will be able to reach the gold fleet on Saturday and Sunday (which will be possible to follow thanks to Metasail tracking), but for all the others it is important to be able to say "I was there"!

Regarding the first regattas it seems to dominate the American James Pine (Stephan Baker from USA won in 2017), followed by the Italians Pulito and Avanzini, but there are still three days of racing so everything is still in play.

This is what the Garda Optimist Meeting is all about, made possible thanks to the commitment of so many parents and families of Fraglia Vela Riva, the collaboration of all the sailing clubs in the area, the Italian Sailing Federation that provides competent judges, able to give countless starts and finishes to over 1000 children, who follow one another from battery to battery.

So sailing as a means of educating respect for one's own boat and that of others and of course respect for others; one among 1000 will win, but for the organisers to be present, after two years of pandemic in which travel for some was difficult if not impossible, is certainly a victory for all participants, as well as for the organisers.

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