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Optimist Worlds: Kiwis have good speed but struggle in big fleets

by Andrea Brabant 6 Jul 16:27 PDT 7 July 2022
NZ Optimist Team at the Opening Ceremony, 2022 Optimist Worlds, Bodrum, Turkey, July 2022 © Matías Capizzano

NZ Optimist Worlds team Country Manager, Andrea Brabant reports from the 2022 Optimist Worlds in Bodrum Turkey.

We are currently just over halfway through the Optimist Worlds 2022 here in Bodrum, Turkey. The New Zealand team consisting of Jed Potbury, Ashton Cooke, Nathan Soper, Mark Mains and Arthur Rebbeck arrived early before the competition started to pick up and set up charter boats and to get acclimatised to the heat and wind conditions here in Turkey.

Coming directly from New Zealand winter has certainly been a bit of a shock, with the temperatures here reliably sitting around 35C everyday – with blue skies – it is almost like “groundhog day”! During our training week we had some days with strong winds – normally thermal breezes that build up in the afternoon. Many teams were preparing for this sort of wind condition and we have been surprised about how grown up many of the sailors from other countries are – both in terms of age but also size. Our team is comparatively young and small.

The team easily went through measurement and registration with no hiccups – thanks to some good planning and the assistance of the NZIODA checklists! It meant we were organised and there were no dramas. The first day of racing the boys were split into different qualifying groups. Over the three days of qualifying the boys all showed moments of brilliance. One key learning here has been that our New Zealand sailors are FAST! They can all absolutely foot it in a straight line with the very top kids from the other countries and this was reassuring to know that in New Zealand we are definitely at the top of the game in terms of speed and gear.

Where our sailors have struggled is mainly in starting and big fleet race tactics. This is understandable when talking with other countries as most of the Euro and South American teams are doing regattas just about every weekend with hundreds of boats. Their race tactics are very well honed. With New Zealand not being able to travel to the Worlds since 2019 and a lack of events even in New Zealand due to Covid restrictions, our team is definitely on a steep learning curve and unfortunately at a disadvantage with a lack of regattas over the last two years to practice those skills. Going forward working on this aspect will be key to lifting New Zealand results on the world stage.

At the end of three days of qualifying, Mark Mains and Ashton Cooke managed to qualify into silver fleet and Jed Potbury, Nathan Soper and Arthur Rebbeck qualified into bronze fleet. This is a great achievement with the calibre of the sailors here – 280 of the ‘Worlds Best’. The fleet racing then took a break, with two days of Teams Racing scheduled. Our boys enjoyed the racing but again with no teams racing practice in New Zealand for a few years with the Pupuke event having been cancelled, our skills in teams racing couldn’t match other countries.

We have now started into the final series – which consists of three days of fleet racing. The first day of finals saw some great racing from Nathan Soper in the bronze fleet, with two top ten places in that fleet. The boys are having to try and learn about the “Med” style wind conditions here which are very different to New Zealand – long oscillating wind shifts – very different to New Zealand’s more system driven wind conditions.

The experience the team are gaining is invaluable, they are all learning so much and under the experienced guidance of coach, Andrew Brown. Lastly most importantly the team are getting on so well and are building life-long friendships.

Subsequent to this report the World Championships have concluded full results can be viewed by clicking here.

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