Over 300 of the country’s top youth and junior sailors are busy preparing for the annual Volvo Gill Optimist British National and Open Championship.
Optimist sailors battle it out at the Volvo Gill Optimist Inland Championship, Grafham Water Sailing Club in May
This year Largs Sailing Club, Scotland, will host the event that notoriously draws in some of the country’s top young racers, as well as attracting interest from overseas competitors who come to challenge themselves in the UK’s testing conditions.
This year the racing event co-insides with the anniversary of London 2012, where Britain’s top sailing talent battled for gold on home waters. To inspire the future generation, the Championships will welcome a special guest; double Olympic gold medallist, Shirley Robertson, OBE who was part of the BBC commentating team in Weymouth and Portland. The Team Volvo ambassador will spend time on the water coaching and passing on the knowledge that has helped her consecutively claim two gold medals, one at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games the second at Athens 2004.
'Sport is one of life's gifts! The younger you can unwrap the opportunities the better. Being in Largs, the place I began my racing career, watching those at the beginning of their sporting journey will be hugely inspirational. A perfect way to mark the first anniversary of London 2012' commented Shirley, who is originally from Dundee, Scotland.
As always the event will accommodate five separate categories, the Senior Fleet for those aged thirteen to fifteen, the Junior Fleet for those aged eight to twelve, Regatta Racing for those aged eight and above and those looking for transition to the Junior fleet, Regatta Coaching for those competing at the event for the first time and Mini Racers for those aged eight and nine, who are just learning to sail.
Fresh from representing Team GB at the Optimist World Championships, Lake Garda, Italy, World team members, Milo Gill Taylor 13 (Spinnaker Yacht Club), Max Clapp, 14 (Royal Southern Yacht Club), Benno Marstaller, 13 (Restronguet Sailing Club/Mylor Yacht Club), West Mersea Yacht Club’s David LaBrouche (15) and Robbie King, 14 (Warsash Sailing Club), will be looking forward to more enjoyable, competitive racing on home waters.
Other rising stars in the class include Haydn Sewell, 11 (Royal Victoria Yacht Club) who, over the past year has showcased his potential and claimed the highest ranked Junior sailor of the weekend at the Volvo Gill Optimist Inland Championship in May. Regatta fleet’s Zachary Lyttle, 10 (Bowmoor Sailing Club) who claimed an impressive four top five placing’s at the Inlands will again be looking for another great performance.
Simon Rogers, IOCA (UK) Chairman commented 'We are really looking forward to returning to Largs Sailing Club for a week of highly charged, competitive, fun racing. Having double Olympic gold medallist, Shirley Robertson join us to kick start the week off is really exciting and we look forward to her support and welcoming her back to Scotland.'
The Optimist is one of the most popular youth sailing classes in the world, and has launched the career of many top Olympic and Ocean sailors such as quadruple gold medallist, Sir Ben Ainslie and silver medallist, Hannah Mills. IOCA (UK) recently won the bid to host the 2015 Optimist European Championship at Pwllheli Sailing Club, Wales. This will be the first time a major international Optimist event has been held in the UK since 1969.