This has been one of the great Optimist championships.
Optimist Worlds 2008. Photo: Esra Karahan - Optimist World Championship 2008
Four races in lighter winds and eleven in heavier was an excellent test of all-round skills. The race committee, headed by Orhan Tüker and aided by the two IROs - Alen Kustic and Luis Ormaechea - did a great job in getting the 15 race series completed. The Altinyunus hotel was comfortable, the food unlimited, the shore personnel headed by Neylan Gunay excellent, the sun shone and the cooling breeze often blew even into the night.
2008 was the year of Caribbean sailors, even more than 2007 belonged to New Zealand. Raul Rios (PUR), already North American champion, won with two races to go and good results in all wind conditions. Ian Barrows (ISV), still with two years left in the Class, can be proud of his silver. Puerto Rico won the exciting team-racing final with USVI taking bronze. To cap it all Puerto Rico also won the Miami Herald Trophy for the team with the lowest cumulative points of the best four sailors.
The Europeans were not totally outclassed. Kristian Kirketerp (DEN) took bronze, the Danes were second in the Miami Herald and there were six Europeans in the top ten. It is merely that the presence of 53 nation s and worldwide distribution of a strict one-design (over 60% of the fleet sailed charter boats) means stiffer competition.
Among the girls it was the Asians who dominated. Tomoyo Wakabayashi (JPN) missed out on a potential over-all bronze on the final windy day by a mere 8 points but took girls' gold. Rachel Lee (SIN) benefitted from the same winds to climb to silver and 11th over-all and Lu Yu Ting (CHN) took bronze ahead on the diminutive 35kg Thai Noppakao Poonpat. Some of us are old enough to remember doubts about 'cultural problems' with women's sailing in Asia. Not here, not now! 12 year old Alaa Shouhdy of Qatar may have come last but she was here and she finished ten races.
The young sailors are here for the racing. It was great and the atmosphere in the dinghy park and hotel was exceptionally warm with the usual improbable friendships being formed between young people who might have little in common but for the sport they love.
DAY 7 report:
Race Officer Orhan Tüker did a magnificent job in running 2.2/3 races (race 10A had been sailed on Wednesday) in light conditions on a day when the wind did a 180° shift at lunchtime
Raul Rios with 5/11/4 in the latest three races has extended his lead to 47 points and Ian Barrows of the USVI moved into second place. But the most dramatic rise was from Tomoyo Wakabayashi (JPN) whose 2/27/1 lifted her into bronze medal position. If she can maintain this place it will be the fourth successive year in which we will have had a girl on the podium. Even if she cannot, the three leading girls are currently all Asian so the chances of an Asian successor to Olympic prospect Xu Lijia (top girl in 2001 and 2002) and 2006 silver medallist Griselda Khng (SIN) for the girls' prize look good.
Three races are required to complete the series with the second discard only being applied if all three are sailed. However by 0900 on Day 8 a good northerly breeze has set in and it is just possible that the series can indeed be completed.
Website at www.optiworld2008.com/
Optimist Worlds competitors. Photo: Esra Karahan - Optimist World Championship 2008