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Zhik 2023 Black Friday LEADERBOARD

Gill Optimist Late Summer Championships 2023 at Plas Heli Welsh National Sailing Academy,

by Stephen Wright 14 Sep 07:52 PDT 9-10 September 2023
Gill Optimist Late Summer Championships at Plas Heli © Stephen Wright

The destination for the 2023 Late Summer Championships was exciting even if the wind forecast wasn't. Plas Heli, the Welsh National Sailing Academy in Pwllheli, North Wales, has a special place in the hearts of UK Optimist sailors - the 2015 Optimist European Championships were held there when the academy first opened, followed immediately by the British Nationals, which returned in 2018.

Pwllheli, and the waters of Tremadog Bay, have also provided a reliable training venue for the Welsh and National Optimist Squads over the years. With a direct line tracing out into the North Atlantic the swell can be tremendous - competitors in the 2015 Optimist Euros enjoyed a fresh breeze and waves of 2-3 metres.

With a heat wave over much of the UK and high pressure stuck over northern Europe there wasn't much prospect of breeze in Pwllheli, or anywhere else for that matter. Not to be deterred and keen to give it a go, just shy of one hundred Optimists arrived at Plas Heli on Friday night and Saturday morning. As a national Class sailors arrived from all corners of the nation - from Aberdeen to the Isle of Wight and from Dorset to Norfolk, all welcomed by sixteen Welsh sailors. Among the Welsh contingent was a flotilla of boats from Cardiff Bay Yacht Club, a club which is home of our current National Champion, Dylan Creighton, as well as a number of other talented and committed Optimist sailors.

With not a breath of wind on Saturday morning, Race Officer Chris Hoppins postponed racing for three hours, giving families time to settle in after their journey and sailors time to rig boats and catch up with friends. After a bacon sandwich the Mark Layers, led by local expert Rob 'Moley' Morsley, headed out to the race area to look for wind. It was glassy at first and the wind indicators might as well have been divining rods but at 12:45pm the clouds thinned a little and a zephyr developed - just enough to race. The PRO was radioed and excitement built but by 1pm the breeze dropped back to 2 knots or less.

Time passed, the sailors played indoor cricket in the event hall, paddle boards were inflated and the cloud cleared off the summit of Snowdon. By 3:15pm, with the sailors still ashore, little prospect of things improving, and nothing forecast on any wind model the PRO decided to abandon racing for the day. One forecast showed an hour or two of sailable wind on Sunday morning, so the warning signal was brought forward half an hour and fingers crossed for the following day.

Saturday evening was for many the highlight of the weekend, starting with families heading down to the beach to swim, paddle board and relax. The sun came out and the water was exceptionally warm, well warm for Wales anyway. The sailors took to the SUPs in groups of friends, helping each other aboard before attacking other SUPs in acts of piracy. It was wet, noisy and a lot of fun. As if to mock us, a sailable breeze picked up for perhaps an hour before fading again.

By now the bar was open and Kirk Ward played acoustic guitar on the balcony. Many thanks to Sean Devlin for putting on a great BBQ and for arranging the live music, with Paul Rogers and Carousel playing late into the evening. After eating, some younger children headed off for an early night, while the older ones played 'Welsh Manhunt' in the dunes, or joined the rugby fans watching the England vs. Argentina match in the bar. Many families stayed on site, either camping or in caravans or camper vans.

On Sunday morning, the flags hung limp on the flag poles. A race management meeting was convened and after discussing a number of options the PRO decided to get the fleet on the water and be in a position to race if the breeze filled in. Thanks to the whole beach team for getting everyone tallied and on the water so efficiently, the trolley team hitching up twenty two launching trolleys for a new Welsh record.

The plan seemed less wise at 11am with sailors paddling out through a mill pond but by 11:30am we had an average wind speed of 4 knots with occasional 'gusts' of 6 knots. Chris Hoppins and his team snapped into action and the course was laid, with a 500 metre beat. After one general recall, Main Fleet started under a black flag, getting away the second time with only one unlucky sailor. The 28-boat Intermediate Fleet started cleanly five minutes later, sailing a slightly shorter course on the inner loop.

After such a long wait it was wonderful to see the boats racing. Some sailors went right, believing there was more breeze over there but a big left shift during the first leg favoured those who'd opted for the middle or left side of the course. The breeze stayed long enough to complete the first race but no longer and, after a short pause to reassess, racing was abandoned for the day.

Well done to all the sailors for taking part and congratulations to those who had a podium finish. The winner of Main Fleet was Thomas Knight of Chichester YC, the runner up Noah Mathers, third was Fraser Hakes of Parkstone YC and the first girl Beth Llewllyn of Hayling Island Sailing Club.

Sean Di Salle, from Gurnard Sailing Club, won the under 11 trophy, which was made by Rolls Royce, donated by Brian Staite of HISC in 2016, and has an inscription "Strive for perfection in everything you do" on the base.

The winner of Intermediate Fleet was Guy Kent of Emsworth SC and Parkstone YC, second overall (and first girl) was Roisin Epstein and third was Sam Bourke both from Cardiff Bay YC. The Regatta Fleet, who had enjoyed some fun sailing and a little racing on both days, was won by William Foster, aged 8 years, from Warsash Sailing Club. Thank you to Gill, our main sponsor, for providing the prizes.

A nod of approval is due to Lochlyn Grant who after being caught in a slow-motion, port-starboard situation but unable to change direction quickly, did his two turns and continued racing.

Overall, it was an enjoyable and worthwhile weekend, despite the lack of wind. The last word goes to Lady Carla Stanley, IODA Vice-President Europe, who at the 2015 Optimist Euros opening ceremony in Plas Heli said: "If you don't try, you fail before you start..."

The Optimist Class will be back in Plas Heli in August 2024 for our Nationals, when we will be assured of a warm Welsh welcome, fabulous scenery and, hopefully, some of the world-class sailing conditions it is renowned for.

Regatta Fleet Results:

PosSail NoHelmR1R2R3Pts
1st6048William Foster2114
2nd5725Claudia Bentall1225
3rd6277Zelda Abney‑Hastings3339
4th4998Evelyn RogersonDNCDNCDNC18

Intermediate Fleet Results:

PosSail NoHelmR1Pts
1st6505Guy Kent11
2nd6558Roisin Epstein22
3rd6507Sam Bourke33
4th6103Sienna Watts44
5th6039Jacques Kent55
6th6354Hugo Thomas66
7th5665Finn Kameen77
8th5970Tomos Martin88
9th6555Martha Hughes99
10th6365Eleanor Hughes1010
11th6501Ayla Griffiths1111
12th6105Sam Wealthy1212
13th5519Blythe Brown1313
14th5961Zoe Green1414
15th5687Charlotte McGaughey1515
16th5556Finn Neal1616
17th6393Cameron Ritchie1717
18th5916Clarissa Jackson1818
19th6552Amelia Browne1919
20th6643Finnian Keegan2020
21st1314Amelie Renard2121
22nd5664Sam Taylor2222
23rd6571Fraser Smith2323
24th5722Martha Newstead Taylor2424
25th5292Rory Newstead Taylor2525
26th4630Jake White2626
27th6196Daisy Abney‑Hastings2727
28th5708Elsie Munro2828
29th1669Iris Egar KeaneDNC30

Main Fleet Results:

PosSail NoHelmR1Pts
1st6298Thomas Knight11
2nd6606Noah Mathers22
3rd6593Fraser Hakes33
4th6622Laszlo Drummond44
5th6617Finley Browne55
6th6516Callum Marshall66
7th6529Henry Cruse77
8th6454Freddie Pank88
9th6611Jonny Rogers99
10th6628Harry Draper1010
11th63Sean Di Salle1111
12th6418Tristan Shaw1212
13th6424Beth Llewellyn1313
14th6229Kit Bentall1414
15th6624Andrew Perratt1515
16th6472William Shaw1616
17th6500Henry Blades1717
18th6520Isla Hutchinson1818
19th5500Alex Welfare1919
20th255Jai Mutreja2020
21st6316Patrick Di Salle2121
22nd6147Gracie Allsopp2222
23rd6605Gughi Ceccatelli2323
24th6610Nia Byrne2424
25th6451Charlie Holland2525
26th6432Oscar Coates2626
27th6360Emily Leary2727
28th6523William Fuller2828
29th5461Wilbur de la Haye2929
30th6480Natalie Ayling3030
31st6355Robin Wright3131
32nd6595Lizzie Hudson3232
33rd5990Rufus de la Haye3333
34th6570Charlotte Self3434
35th1281Iain Coward3535
36th6551Elvi Coates3636
37th6404Edward Taylor3737
38th6522Ruby Coster3838
39th6282Finlay Ritchie3939
40th6453Alice Atkin4040
41st6163Stella Davey4141
42nd6594Finn Byrne4242
43rd6483Edie Rogers4343
44th6600Niamh Epstein4444
45th6434Will Keys‑Batson4545
46th6503Angus Millar4646
47th6374Freddie JONES4747
48th6013Lochlyn Grant4848
49th5370Oscar Manning4949
50th6476Joshua Ayling5050
51st6368Merryn Wealthy5151
52nd6382Jack Harding5252
53rd6591Hector Jackson5353
54th6439Jack Ward5454
55th6512Darcy ODonnell5555
56th5997Isaac Thomas5656
57th6107Rory Luddington5757
58th6449Harry Whelan5858
59th6344Finlay White5959
60th6343Molly Martin6060
61st6638Lexa Taylor‑Green6161
62nd6395Meg Thomas6262
63rd6644Tom KeeganBFD68
63rd6640Pippa KnightsDNC68
63rd6569Charlie KnightsDNC68
63rd6582Ben McEwenDNC68
63rd6464Ryan SurguyDNC68

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