On the final day of the 31st Garda Optimist Meeting, there was an Italian victory for the girls with Alexandra Stalder (Bardolino del Garda) winning the Junior category hands down. Poland dominated in the Cadets.
On the last day of the 31st Garda Optimist Meeting, the sun shone on the near 1200 young helmsmen who had arrived on Lake Garda, Trentino from 30 different countries with, for the first time, participants from Antigua and Sri Lanka. The event, organised by Fraglia Vela Riva and Vela Garda Trentino as part of the World Championship Week of Juvenile Sailing (which involves the other clubs on Upper Garda in organising sailing events specially for the young), set another record of participation with a total of 1126 helmsmen, thus confirming its title as the largest single-class regatta in the world.
Six races were completed in sometimes dreadful weather conditions, but that didn't dampen the spirits of these determined, young sailors who represent the future of sailing. Many past winners of the Garda Optimist Meeting have, in fact, gone on to become Olympic athletes and sailors involved in the challenges of the America's Cup as is shown on the event's medal board.
It was a fight to the finish for the Italians for the coveted title of the Junior category (with 854 participants from 12-14 years), which ultimately went to Alexandra Stalder of Bardolino del Garda, Italy and who demonstrated great skill and strong determination. Alexandra, (Circolo Nautico Bardolino), actually won the category by an impressive 12 points over Clapp of G.B. Alexandra, who is in the national team of Optimist Class Italia, had been in the lead after the first day but had slipped to third place with two races to go behind national Optimist team-mates (GAN) Silvestrini (CN Porto San Giorgio) and Tezza (Fraglia Vela Riva).
On the last day, however with the sunshine and a light wind from the north (which later switched to the south with gusts of 20 knots), Alexandra Stalder sailed to the top of the standings. She had a good partial win on the penultimate race which paved the way for a final victory beating Clapp of G.B. taking first place by a comfortable 12 points. She is by no means the first girl to have won the Garda Optimist Meeting outright. The last was in 2009 with Cecilia Zorzi of Trentino and before that our own Olympian Giulia Conti in 2000. But for the moment Alexandra remains focused on the World Optimist Championships in July...at least for now!
In third place was Aslan of Turkey, (Turkish athletes have won the last two editions of the Meeting), and fourth was the first of the Italian boys Alberto Tezza ( Fraglia Vela Riva), from Vicenza. The rest of the top ten came in as follows: Fifth Vincent of France, 6th Marfat of Croatia, seventh Jordan of Germany, eighth Van Cauwenberghe of Switzerland, ninth Schùlter of Germany and 10th Serra of Portugal. Altogether an ethnic mix of nations which makes the Garda Optimist Meeting unique in the world and which provides an indelible memory of a wonderful sailing experience..and not just for the participants.
For the record, 12 year old Marcus Wilson, first ever participant from Sri Lanka, and who had never sailed in such cold water (and not only the water was cold given the bad weather lately in North Italy), finished 22nd in the 'pearl' fleet leaving at his back 140 helmsmen. An admirable result as he always took to the water despite being seen at the end of the day shivering with cold. For him it has certainly been a one-of-a kind experience.
In the younger Cadet category, (9-11 years), Poland dominated with three athletes in the top five switching positions among them and leaving very little room for the others. In the end it was Jakub Golebiowski who won by two points over Pawel Abramowicz. Sweden's Marius Westerlind took third place while the other Pole Filip Szmit, who had been in the lead for three days, dropped to fourth place missing the podium by just one point. First of the Italians was once again an athlete from Fraglia Vela Riva Giorgio Moreschi. He fell right back on the last race (94th discarded), but with good partials finished in a very respectable fifth place. Maddie Hawkins of the U.S. was the first girl 13th overall.
Statement from the President of Fraglia Vela Riva
'In spite of the awful weather of the last few days, everything went off very well- commented Mauro Stanga, President of Fraglia Vela Riva - The initial disappointment experienced by some of the organisational staff over the bad weather, rain and cold temperatures, was soon made up for with the wind which didn't let us down. The water staff, coordinated by Fausto Maroni, knew how to make the most of the brief periods of wind.
The disappointment was short-lived when on the last day, Easter Sunday, the sun shone on Lake Garda, Trentino showing it at its absolute best to all the youngsters and their families who had travelled so far, (see Sri Lanka, The U.S. The Dutch Antilles, Antigua) and who had not yet had the opportunity of seeing this area in all its glory with the snow-capped mountains as a backdrop to spectacular Lake Garda.
The tenacity of these children didn't waver for a moment, even in the pouring rain, and this is, what I believe, is the beauty of The Garda Optimist Meeting, bringing together people from far off lands all with one thing in common...a passion for sailing and who didn't shirk away no matter how bad the weather was... which was more suitable for skiing! I want to thank everyone who helped give this event such a happy ending and to those who worked so hard at the organisational level and who also give so much satisfaction. Everyone is precious in their role and this has been a good test for The World Optimist Championships coming up in July.'