by Nevin Sayre
'The Future of Sailing is happening in Bermuda.' Vice Commodore and Chairman of RHADC Sailing Committee Neil Redburn commented, 'This is the future of junior sailing if we are serious about increasing participation.'
2014 O’Pen BIC North American Championships
The Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club hosted what will likely go down as a 'legendary' O’Pen BIC North American Championships. Sailors traveled from as far as Hawaii and France to join the fun and amazing Bermudian hospitality. Twenty races and an epic freestyle expression session were held in ideal conditions ranging from six to 20+ knots.
PRO and ISAF Judge, Charles Tatem, commented, 'This was one of the most fantastic children’s events I've ever been involved with - it is so positive to all the competitors and not just the few at the top. Everyone is encouraged to perform at their best and not someone else's concept of what is best.......'
The racing was spectacular with a mixture of 'conventional' and 'Un-Regatta style' courses, sometimes with required freestyle moves, capsizes, stand-up sailing, and 360s. RHADC Sailing Director Nico Stefani commented 'This really teaches the kids how to develop great boat handling skills, which can be transferred to skiffs and other high performance boats.'
Going into the event it was unknown which sailors would prevail, but regardless of the unconventional course requirements, the top sailors always came out on top. By the end it was clear the Bermudians were the class in the 'O’Pen' age group while the Hawaiians cleaned up in the Under 13s. Mikey Wollmann came from behind in the last race to narrowly take out reigning Female 2013 Optimist and 2014 Byte North American Champion (and big sister), Ceci Wollmann by one point. Ceci will be representing Bermuda at this years Youth Olympics in China. Lars Von Sydow (Hawaii Kai Boat Club) rounded out the podium by eaking ahead of Peter Dill and Joe Arrowsmith from RHADC. Andre Stowasser representing the French Sailing Federation rounded out the top sailors overall. Kanoa Pick edged out fellow Hawaiians, JP Lattanzi and Marcos Baez, in the Under 13 age group. Close behind was the Miami Yacht Club team.
Nevin Sayre of Open BIC North America reminded everyone each day at the skippers meeting 'All competitors were reminded of rule number one - Have Fun!' The focus was on energised sailing with all sailors encouraged, regardless of ability, and to have them coming off the water with smiles on their faces. A skateboard ramp, built by the Bermuda Skateboard Association, and a DJ playing some radical tunes, added to the cool factor off the water. Short, sharp races and quick turnarounds kept the sailors engaged and lunch breaks ashore with games added to the fun.
In the Freestyle competition, it was the young Hawaiians who also wow’ed the judges the most with an incredible display of boat handling, agility, and creativeness. The spectators went wild with Marcos’ now famous 'plank walk', tacks in front of the mast, and his fluid ability to steer the boat with just his weight. Close behind on the judges cards was the tandem team of JP and Pearl Lattanzi with Pearl’s gymnastic moves, head stands, climbing the mast and JP’s 'happy dance'.
Every sailor left the regatta with new friends from around the world and individual accomplishment. The sailors’ improvement during the event was infectious. Based on their great success, the Royal Hamilton Dinghy Club is eager to host the O’Pen BIC Worlds in the near future, and it’s safe to say they will have full endorsement from all the participants. O’Pen BIC regattas are known for their focus on fun, learning, and sportsmanship.
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