The 300 young Optimist sailors at the Volvo Musto Optimist End of Season Championships had a tricky two days on the water. This Championship is the last selection event of the year for the sailors, so it’s the final opportunity for them to shine.
The Volvo Musto Inland, National and End of Seasons Championships are all ranking events used to help in the selection of the top Optimist sailors, who form the National Squad for Great Britain. These sailors represent the UK at International events such as the Optimist Worlds, the Europeans Championships and the French Nationals.The End of Season Championships also counts in the selection process for the Intermediate, Development and Zone Optimist squads. These squads, supported by the RYA, provide the sailors with expert training during the winter months.
Over the two day event held at Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy, the Main fleet of 243 sailors had five, two flight races in the light and shifty conditions experienced inside Portland Harbour. Dutch Optimist sailor Jolbert Van Dijk won the event with four first places in his flights and dropped his only bad result of a 27th place. The 14 year old commented, “I am very pleased with the result and love sailing here against the English, who are hard to beat.”
Callum Ellis (14) from Burghfield Sailing Club, Reading, Berkshire was the first Brit in second place with two flight wins, only seven points behind the Dutch sailor. “I had a great time here and surprised myself with my performance, so I am very happy at the end of this years racing.”
It was visiting sailor Guillaume Pirouelle, one of the 17 strong French contingent, who took third place pushing second Brit David Grant (13) from Restronguet Sailing Club, in Cornwall into fourth position. Fifth position went to Ben Robinson (14) from West Kirby Yacht Club, followed by Tim Gratton (13) in sixth, first girl Annabel Vose (13) in seventh and Tom Britz (13) eighth all with equal points of 22. Other highest placed visitors included Sam Vandormael (14) a sailor from Belgium in 19th place, Alexander Rumball(13) from Ireland in 24th place and a team from Guernsey led by Zoe Parkinson (13) in 64th.
The 57 competitors in the Regatta fleet also had a busy weekend,with six races being held. The Regatta fleet allows the youngest sailors to practise their skills in larger fleet racing, in preparation for moving up to the Main fleet. The fleet was won by Alex Cole (10), from Cardiff Bay Yacht Club, who was delighted with his performance. “I had lots of fun with my friends this weekend and liked the racing a lot,” said Alex. Poppy Rickards (11) from Guernsey Yacht Club was also very excited about taking second place, especially as she travelled so far to compete. Erin Kemsley (12) came third, followed by Ciara Berry (11) also from Cardiff Bay Yacht Club.
The young sailors were joined on Sunday afternoon, by Team Volvo for life member Paul Goodison. Paul, has recently been recommended by the RYA to the British Olympic Association to compete at the 2008 Olympic Games. Goodison met the sailors as they came back in from racing, answering their questions about his Olympic experiences, staying for the awards ceremony to present the prizes to the top sailors. The surprise guest of the afternoon was double gold medallist and Team Volvo for life member, Ben Ainslie, who popped down to the academy to sail his single-handed dinghy, the Finn. He also met the Optimist sailors and signed many a buoyancy aid and rash vest.
Goodison commented, “It is great to see so many kids getting into sailing at such a young age and learning to race well. They are all so enthusiastic and some seem to take it very seriously. We are probably watching future Olympians sailing here in these fleets.”
Watch the Volvo Musto Optimist End of Season Championship video podcast on the Volvo Sailing website www.volvocars.co.uk/sailing . It will be uploaded to the site by 25th October.
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