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2023 Optimist Spring Championships at Rutland Sailing Club

by Jane Saunders & Rachel Jackson 23 Mar 10:44 GMT 18-19 March 2023

The Optimist class had a fantastic weekend to kick off the 2023 IOCA UK series, with Rutland SC giving the class a warm welcome, both on and off the water. We had a bumper turnout of 164 sailors, including a deputation of visitors from the Irish Optimist fleet, which was fantastic to see this early in the season.

Main Fleet kicked off proceedings for their 127 sailors with two races on the Saturday, led by our fantastic race officer Charlie Stowe and his experienced race team. Held in very light and shifty conditions, it was a day of snakes and ladders on the water, especially for the second flight of the second race who crawled over the line on their hands and knees in the last whisper of the day's breeze immediately prior to Charlie and team calling it a day when the wind totally disappeared. We saw the benefit of a winter's training in some fantastic sailing, including a virtuoso first day performance by overnight event lead Felix Garlick (Burghfield SC), who was counting a first and a second as we went into the evening's entertainment.

As well as the rugby (which entertained the Irish parents more than the English ones), the sailors enjoyed a season kick off disco and evening meal, with some fantastic catering courtesy of Max and his splendid Rutland Sailing Club catering team, who fed and watered an army of sailors and parents fantastically over the course of the weekend.

Sunday dawned with fresher conditions, which built over the course of the day to a reasonable breeze by the end of the day. The fleet got in 4 races, which were won by a range of sailors across both flights and there were some great performances by some of our younger sailors. A special mention goes to Tom Keegan (Parkstone YC) who despite being one of our youngest sailors, he led one race for most of the way round, getting a 2nd at the end (and our Endeavour Award for the weekend). Consistency was the key though, and Dylan Creighton (Cardiff Bay YC) sealed his victory for the weekend, with an impressive 3 wins in the last three races on Sunday.

In Main Fleet, sailors were also competing for several international events, including the Junior Irish Team, for sailors 12 and under to represent GBR at the Irish Nationals at Ballyholme YC this summer, which will be chosen from the Springs Results, 4 lucky sailors for a team racing event in Venice and Lila Edwards has been selected as the sailor who will represent GBR at the Country Cup. The others will be confirmed soon on the IOCA UK website!

Thirty-seven boats competed in Regatta Fleet at Rutland Water for the IOCA Spring Championships. On Saturday the fleet launched shortly after Main with light and somewhat shifty winds. The all-female, all-Northern Race Management Team led by Race Officer Imogen Gibb, managed to get two decent races away back to back in light breeze, with coach Fintan keeping the back of fleet stragglers in touch.

Race one was a battle of the Finlay's with Finlay White finishing first in his first IOCA competition, and Finlay Ritchie (Aberdeen & Stonehaven SC) who had travelled all the way from Aberdeenshire finishing second.

With dropping wind and the threat of rain, the fleet went ashore for a quick lunch. After re-launch, there were troublesome light airs. After an AP, race three was started. However, with boats round the course, the wind was dropping off significantly. Imogen acted swiftly to save the race and the front of the fleet were finished with S-flag. Meanwhile the back of the fleet were successfully whisky flagged.

On Sunday the wind was pleasingly there and steady. On the Committee boat Lorna was swapped for Howard. As well as introducing a Y-chromosome Howard also brought bread and home-made honey. Six good races followed. Thank you to Imogen as Race Officer, the on the water team, and everybody else whose roles came before or after for facilitating high quality racing in a relaxed and nurturing atmosphere.

The mark layers did an excellent job again with a couple of speedy course tweaks. There was purposefully a little bias on the pin end of the line. Eventually, the sailors worked it out and the fleet moved closer to the pin end. However, when a wind shift increased the pin-end bias too much, the line was squared back to plumb. Perhaps Regatta fleet sailors are creatures of habit, or perhaps it was their light-hearted start line chit-chat, but most pretended not to notice and stayed bunched down at the pin for a while anyway. A special well done to Charlotte Davis (Parkstone YC), at sailing age 8, who gained a 4th place.

For us it was a pleasure to witness this new cohort of IOCA sailors in action. Well done to the Regatta Fleet winners: first Sean di Salle (Gurnard SC), second Finn Byrne (Royal Southern YC) and third Charlie Holland (HISC). The Sportsmanship award was won by Jack Ward (HISC/ Warsash SC) for explaining the rules to another sailor, while the Endeavour award was won by Tomos Martin for showing great commitment over the weekend.

The overall winners in Main Fleet were: first Dylan Creighton, second Lila Edwards (Parkstone YC) and third Joe Wimpory (Bewl), with Alex Saunders (Warsash SC) winning a hard fought battle for the top Junior award. Our Sportsmanship award was probably the hardest fought competition of the weekend, with fantastic behaviours shown on and off the water by lots of sailors. This was won by Isla Hutchinson (Royal Lymington YC).

Thank you so much to the team at Rutland SC, led by the tireless James, who led the way from rib launching at 7am through to the disco - the club gave a fantastic warm welcome as always to the fleet! We have a great season of events planned, so please do look on our website for details ( and our booking page for links to upcoming local and regional events (

Also awarded at the Spring Championships were the hard fought Gill Ambassador scholarships, awarded by class sponsor Gill, which saw 4 lucky sailors awarded a set of Gill kit for the season! Well done to the lucky winners: Seb Bailey, Olivia Coady, Eleanor Ayton and Charlie Holland. We look forward to seeing you in all your finery on the racecourse!

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