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Exceptional sailing skills demonstrated in Optimist World Championship

by Nima Chandler on 17 Jul
Day 1 – Optimist World Championship Matias Capizzano ©
High intensity battles took place on the waters off the Royal Varuna Yacht Club on Sunday, the world’s best youth sailing teams fighting to earn a chance at the highly coveted IODA Challenge team racing trophy.

After three days of individual world championship racing in the Optimist World Championship 2017, the regatta switched gears for the two day Team Racing World Championship. The event sees 48 teams facing off against each other in special selections. Each team races at least two times. Those who lose twice are eliminated. Sixteen go forward into the next series of flights on Monday, which will eventually see two teams left in the regatta who will race against each other three times, the trophy going to winner of the ‘sail off’.

Among the 16 finalists are last year’s team racing champions, the USA; five time trophy holders Singapore; and two time winners Thailand. Other Asians in the top 16 include China, Korea, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. The Europeans claimed seven spots with wins by France, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, and a runner up slot awarded to Ireland. South America’s Peru and Brazil also move into the final flights.

Each earned their places by showing exceptional seamanship in big swell, choppy waves, and shifty winds. Observers described the racing as exhilarating to watch. Starts were tight and most races short, as quick as five minutes start to finish. Teams did their job, some assigned to push and block their opponents, clearing the way for other team members to advance, and most performing penalties when flagged then getting back to the job at hand. Some pushed too hard and suffered for it. Others pulled through in impressive form, celebrating hard won success at the end of the day.

European champion, Mewes Wieduwild of Germany said, “The course was a little bit tricker than in the Europeans, but fair. There are very good teams at this level. My hope for tomorrow is stronger wind.”

Leonardo Mirow e Crespo, whose team members come from different regions of Brazil and only had one opportunity to train together before flying to Thailand, was proud to have made it to the top 16 after the longest race of the day.

“It was very difficult in our last race because of the current and light wind,” he said. “Singapore was the hardest to sail against because they are so good. I think they have the opportunity to practice a lot, unlike our team.”

Turkey’s coach Serkan Dalgaci believes coming early made a real difference in achieving a spot in the top 16. “We came five days before the regatta. It was very useful for us to learn about the current, wind, and local conditons.” The team’s hopes, according to team leader Serdar Cicek, is “to be world champions”.

Regardless of outcomes, however, sailors were seen smiling and getting to know each other between and after team races, the comraderie shown each other a hallmark of the sport of sailing.

Monday will see some dramatic action as teams enter the surf with one thing on their mind, winning. In the afternoon, a new IODA Challenge Team Racing champion will return to shore to be feted with flags and cheering crowds, a highlight of the world’s most prestigious youth regatta.

The 2017 Optimist World Championship is organized by the Royal Varuna Yacht Club with the endorsement of the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand and the Junior Sailing Squadron of Thailand under the International Optimist Dinghy Association. It is supported by strategic partners including Pattaya City, the Sports Authority of Thailand and the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau. Co-sponsors include The Pizza Company, Apollo (Thailand), Thai Airways, and True Corporation.

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