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Craftinsure 2023 LEADERBOARD

Optimist Brits abroad - It's an exciting time to be a junior sailor

by Sandy Ramus & Suzie Holland 12 Apr 15:13 BST
GBR Optimist sailors at the 42 degrees Lake Garda Meeting © Adam Gosling

The one thing that separates the Optimist from other junior and youth classes is the sheer number of events that sailors can attend, not only nationally but internationally. If one so desired, you could find a major Optimist event somewhere around the world for every week of the year.

For UK sailors there is a full range of exciting events overseas that cater for all levels from early racers to wannabe gold medallists. This pathway ensures that from a very early age, sailors get to experience travel, sailing in big fleets, and meeting children from all over the world. This experience provides a fantastic platform for having great fun, honing the skills to mix it up with the best in the world and GBR sailors also have made new friends from as far away as America, New Zealand, and Thailand.

So far in 2024, UK sailors have been extremely busy. There has been winter training in Lanzarote, training camps and regattas at 3 large Spanish events with around 500 sailors at each. Over Easter, many sailors have attended the largest dingy regatta in the world at Lake Garda with 1190 sailors from 29 countries, as well as two big Dutch and Belgian regattas in The Netherlands - the Magic Marine Easter Regatta at Braassememeer, followed by the OptiSprings at Port Zelande.

42 degrees Lake Garda Meeting

All sailors love Garda and for some GBR Optimist sailors this was the 3rd year at the event. The early Easter meant that there was still snow on the mountains making an even more stunning backdrop than usual. 1190 sailors descended on Riva with the racing kicking off on Thursday. A very un-Garda forecast lay ahead. The lack of sunshine meant the normal Ora, a Southern thermal breeze, didn't come. Instead, the fleet faced lighter and shifty winds from the North.

After 3 days of qualifying with the Brits posting a number of top 10 results, the fleet was re-flighted, and saw 6 GBR sailors making gold fleet.

The final day was perhaps one of the most exciting days for GBR Optimist sailing with Hugo Fletcher lying 9th at the start. With people glued to the trackers, everyone watched Hugo get not 1 but 2 bullets, beating the world's best and showing that GBR is back in business. When the scores were added up, Hugo had risen to a stunning 3rd place, something not achieved by a Brit in years.

Results for all fleets here...

Magic Marine Easter Regatta, The Netherlands

The expansive inland lake at Braassememeer provides an ideal playground for Optimist sailors, conveniently located just a short drive from the Hook of Holland ferries. With its remarkable dry launching facilities and large sailing space, Braass offers a welcoming environment for first-time international event participants, while also being a shifty venue making it a challenge for seasoned competitors at the top of their game.

Team GBR turned up in force, bringing together over 45 talented sailors, accompanied by the guidance of 5 dedicated IOCA coaches. It was brilliant to witness numerous families making their first Optimist trip overseas.

The event spanned four days, beginning with two days of qualifying races across three flights, followed by two days of finals featuring re-flighted gold, silver, and bronze fleets. Day 1 greeted sailors with a strong and steady breeze, allowing for two races in each flight. Day 2 commenced with a brief delay as the wind picked up, providing an opportune moment for shoreside camaraderie, including friendly football matches and boat tuning. Once afloat, it was a long day on the water for many, but the race team did a good job to finish 3 races for everyone, meaning the qualifying series was complete.

All sailors were equipped with Sailmon trackers for the finals series, adding an exciting element to the competition. Onshore, parents eagerly watched the action unfold on the big screen in the cozy confines of the sailing club bar. The initial four races of the finals unfolded amidst favourable medium breezes and even some sunshine. Post-race activities included a grand tombola, featuring coveted prizes including a boat and a new Mk5 boom, much to the delight of participants. Meanwhile, parents indulged in refreshing drinks and complimentary Dutch snacks, including the renowned bitteballes! The last day of the event saw lighter winds and two races completed in good time, to allow for pack up, prize-giving and time for many to get back to the ferry!

Team GBR showcased remarkable prowess at Braass, with standout performances from sailors Charlie Holland and Jonny Rogers, who secured top 10 positions. Additionally, the Junior prize podium was full of GBR sailors - Charlie Holland, Ru de la Haye, and Chloe Davis, reaffirming the bright future of UK Optimist sailing.

There is a reason why this event is now in its 37th year - great sailing and racing with a good international field, but also due to the volunteer team. The sailing club at Braass is completely run by volunteers, including all the bar and kitchen staff contributing to the event's enduring success, pulling out all the stops for everyone visiting!

Post-race activities included a grand tombola, featuring coveted prizes including a boat and a new Mk5 boom, much to the delight of participants. Meanwhile, parents indulged in refreshing drinks and complimentary Dutch snacks, including the renowned bitteballes!

The last day of the event saw lighter winds and two races completed in good time, to allow for pack up, prize-giving and time for many to get back to the ferry!

Team GBR showcased remarkable prowess at Braass, with standout performances from sailors Charlie Holland and Jonny Rogers, who secured top 10 positions. Additionally, the Junior prize podium was full of GBR sailors - Charlie Holland, Ru de la Haye, and Chloe Davis, reaffirming the bright future of UK Optimist sailing.

There is a reason why this event is now in its 37th year - great sailing and racing with a good international field, but also due to the volunteer team. The sailing club at Braass is completely run by volunteers, including all the bar and kitchen staff contributing to the event's enduring success, pulling out all the stops for everyone visiting!

Full results here...

OptiSprings, Port Zelande, The Netherlands

Port Zelande is a beautiful part of The Netherlands and it was the destination for the OptiSprings regatta. Most UK sailors took the opportunity to arrive early and train with their IOCA coaches. This is truly an event for sailors of all ability and is a great first travelling event. The venue is an inland sea; a vast body of water with fairly consistent winds that blew from the SW for the 4 days of the event this year.

The sailors were met with winds in the region of 25 knots, with the odd squall and gust adding another 5 knots to that. This was perfect for training and by the time the regatta started, the sailors were getting comfortable with the breeze.

Day 1 of the regatta saw 182 sailors launching in 15-23knts and sailing the 30 minutes to the race area. The format was for 4 races on the Saturday and 3 on the Sunday across 3 flights.

Immediately you could see the training had paid off with Leo Gosling posting a 1 1 1 2, and Finn Ramus a 4 4 2 2. Furthermore, at the close of play, there were 3 other GBR boats in the top 10.

Day 2 saw an increase in the breeze, making it a day for the heavyweights. Leo Gosling was again in fine form posting a 4 2 1. Finn Ramus, loving the breeze, marked up 1 4 2. The additional breeze saw the slightly lighter sailors drop just outside the top 10, but Eliana Edwards kept herself in there gaining 9th overall.

Leo took a well-deserved 2nd place overall while Finn just missed the top 5 finishing 6th. In the "Benjamin" U12 fleet Tom Keegan won the event with Frazer Hakes chasing him hard and getting 2nd. Looking down the results, younger and first time international sailors all showed that the class has a lot of rising stars.

Final results here...

Summary

The GBR Optimist class is currently going from strength to strength in its recovery from the Covid years. Attendance at IOCA UK events is up 20%, and with the National Championships in August in Pwllheli likely to see 250+ boats, it promises to be an amazing year. Moreover, efforts by IOCA UK to secure team places at International Optimist events is giving the opportunity for sailors to travel as far afield as Puerto Rico, Argentina, and the Seychelles later this year to compete.

It's an exciting time to be an Optimist sailor.

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