50th Optimist World Championships kicks off in Caribbean

William raises the New Zealand flag at the opening ceremony - Optimist World Championships
John Adair

Boca Chica, Dominican Republic plays host to the 50th anniversary of the Optimist World Championships where the top 240 sailors from 52 countries compete in the largest fleet race in the world.

On Monday evening (16th July) the sailors and coaches gathered for the opening ceremony where each country paraded into the arena displaying national emblems and team colours, led by the Dominican Republic Navy band. Short speeches from illustrious figures in the local and sailing world were followed by colourful and typically exuberant Latin dancers to kick off this regatta which spans six days of fleet racing with twelve races and controversially this year, only a single drop. Two days of teams racing will punctuate the fleet racing on Saturday-Sunday 21st-22nd July.

Race 1 start - Optimist World Championships
John Adair
Initially all sailors were arbitrarily split into four flights (Yellow, Red, Green, Blue) of sixty sailors with each flight racing alone rather than against another flight, again a departure from the typical format.

Following their success at the recent New Zealand Nationals, five sailors have been selected by NZIODA to represent New Zealand at the Optimist World Championships: Leonard Takahashi-Fry, Tim Adair, Isaac McHardie, William McKenzie and Cameron Moss.

On the first day’s racing, the wind settled into a consistent south-easterly onshore breeze of about 8-10 knots, with lots of chop and swell. In the first flight race 1, the main bunch was drawn well over the line with at least thirty seconds until the start signal, consequently the majority of the fleet were over at the start but surprisingly there was no general recall. The results later revealed only a couple of OCS so it seems many were lucky not to be identified and ruin their card. This was punishing for the lone Kiwi sailor who did return to re-start the race.

William McKenzie was the New Zealand highlight of the first day with a second placing in his first race, finishing in 19th place after two races. Singapore leads the regatta with sailors in first and second place, followed by Netherlands in third.

Day 2 promised 5-8 knots of wind which failed to deliver. An earlier than expected tropical storm swept through just before Race 3 was due to start, bringing thunder, lightening and torrential rain. After many hours on the water the race committee decided to cancel racing for the day.

Day 3 of racing continues tomorrow.

John Adair protects his camera gear at the OptiWorlds with Lowepro from TA Macalister

William McKenzie finishing in second place Race 1 - Optimist World Championships
John Adair

Race reports from the NZ Optimist Association website:

It’s hot and humid in the Dominican Republic and Day 2 of the Championship is over. Hopefully they will all be tucked up in bed having a good rest for tomorrows racing! If you are mad keen to watch the racing live, tune into the tracking from 4.30am ….that’s 12.30pm the day before in Dom Rep! They are 16 hours behind NZ.

Only two races have taken place on the first day and no races on the second day….bizarre weather! On the second day they were out on the water and a storm came in. As they are an hour from the shore there is not much they can do, however it blew over quickly and then the wind died completely.

William raises the New Zealand flag at the opening ceremony - Optimist World Championships
John Adair

Race 1 – Leonard Takahashi-Fry and Tim Adair were in the same flight….Race1, Flight 1 – This proved to be a difficult race for both sailors. At least half the fleet started over the line with no recall. Tim decided to go back just in case he was over and therefore his finishing position would be adjusted once they took into account all the osc’s. Unfortunately for Tim no-one was penalized. Tim 44th, Leonard 29th.

Race 1 - Cameron Moss 35th, William Mckenzie 2nd, Isaac McHardie 27th. They were all in separate flights.

Race 2 – Leonard 8th, Tim 13th, Cameron 30th, William 15th, Isaac 3rd. They all remained in the same flights for Day 1.

New Zealand Yachting Trust Optimist Dinghy Worlds Team - Optimist World Championships
John Adair

William McKenzie is best placed Kiwi after two races - 19th overall.

The opening ceremony was enjoyed by everyone and the Kiwis held their flag up proudly but it was marred at the end when 400 sailors and parents were all leaving at once to get on the buses back to the hotel. An Aussie dad and sailor and 3 Brazilian sailors decided to walk back along the beach instead of waiting for another bus. They were mugged at gunpoint and their laptop, phones and sailing gear were all taken! This was shocking and the officials were very sad that this happened.

Once everyone is at the sailing club or the hotel complex, it is safe, fun and socializing with other teams and swimming in the pool keeps them all entertained.

Let’s hope Day 3 produces some results!

50th OptiWorlds 2012 Opening Ceremony - Optimist World Championships
John Adair