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Gill IOCA Optimist Early Summer Championships at Weymouth & Portland Sailing Academy

by Sandy Ramus 27 Jun 09:40 PDT 8-9 June 2024

With a world-class venue and 154 young sailors signed up to one of three fleets there was a lot of excitement running up to the Gill IOCA Early Summer Championships. All we needed was for the wind forecasts to moderate.

Saturday, the day of the Round the Island Race, had looked very windy all week, while Sunday promised to be a cracking day.

Main Fleet

At the Competitors' Briefing on the first day of the regatta, Ian Bullock PRO, informed us that due to very heavy winds he thought it unlikely that there would be racing today. The Race Committee launched and Ian monitored the breeze on the water for a couple of hours. By midday, the average wind speed had settled at 26-28knts with gusts over 30knts and racing was cancelled for the day.

Making the best of the situation, around 25 kids headed to the OTC windsurfing centre to hire some kit and enjoyed amazing afternoon on the water. While other families drove a few miles and enjoyed a wild walk at Portland Bill.

Waking up on Sunday morning we were all relieved to see that the forecast was right with the wind having abated to around 20knts. The PRO got the children on the water sharpish and got stuck into the racing. The sun was shining, wind was steady and we knew it was going to be a great day's racing. The 97-boat start line was a fine sight and gave boat-on-boat racing throughout the fleet.

Race 1 saw a lot of place changing with Bear Baker of Lymington finally crossing the line in first place.

Race 2 saw Hugo Fletcher get a cracking pin end start and smash the favoured left hand side of the course. By the first mark he had a commanding lead and never looked back.

Harry Draper found a new gear as the breeze increased to 23 knots and he took not only race 3 but also 4 and the regatta. This is Harry's first big championship win confirming that his selection for the GBR/IOCA Worlds Team in Argentina earlier this year was well deserved. We wish him and all the rest of the team the best of luck.

Much of the action was captured by Noah Fitzgerald of Optical Marine on video.

Racing Regatta and Coached Regatta Fleets

While disappointed not to be sailing on the Saturday, these sailors benefitted from some great shore-based coaching organised by Andy Kerr, Roger Hakes, Dan Burns and our Class Coach, Sian Reynolds.

The seven stations covered a variety of topics including flags used ashore and afloat, racing rules of sailing, races courses (acted out with traffic cones in the event hall!), important knots, hiking/sailing and bailing, interpreting weather forecasts and wind data, and how to raise a protest. Many thanks to all those who helped deliver this excellent session.

Sunday was a day to remember for both these fleets.

Racing Regatta fleet aims to provide a full, competitive, race experience for developing sailors and it didn't disappoint. Race Officer Roger Hakes, took the fleet to the north of the harbour, off Castle Cove and ran five, well-paced races in bright sunshine and fresh breeze.

Racing was tight at the front of the fleet with Felix Palmer Ward (HISC/Emsworth SC) winning the first and last race, Charlotte Davis (Parkstone SC) winning the third and Zoe Green (Netley SC/RLymYC) taking the fourth race. It was all to play for in the final race. Many congratulations to Cara Lynch (HISC/Warsash SC) who sailed very consistently, counting 1-2-2-2 and winning the Racing Regatta Fleet overall and taking home the Jeremy Strugnall Trophy.

It was one of those days when there was as much challenge and as many stories of success further down the fleet as at the front. Elsie Hutchinson, for example, who recovered after a DNF in the 3rd race, to come 9th in the 4th race, showing great resilience in challenging conditions. After five races the fleet were starting to tire and Roger sensibly called it a day.

The Coached Regatta fleet aims to provide a balance of fun, coaching and racing and is intended for younger, less experienced sailors, generally in their first year of travelling to events. Many thanks to Andy Kerr, ably assisted by Amelie Hiscocks and Cian Epstein, for devising a plan to get this fleet out on the water on Sunday. Setting a reaching course in the morning and then a square course later in the day, both within the confines of the marina, worked well and allowed a mini series of three races.

Again, it was close racing but consistency paid off. Congratulations to Clemency Renard, age 8, of Hollowell SC who won the Coached Regatta Fleet and took home a brand new perpetual trophy, kindly donated by Sailing Awards of Bournemouth.

Many thanks to all the sailors for great racing, some travelling from as far away as the Scottish Borders or the Channel Islands to take part in the event. Well done to all those who got out on the water and raced, especially those for whom this was their first event in a new fleet - it's always a big step up, even more so on a breezy day like Sunday.

Huge thanks to the Class sponsor Gill for their continued support and a final thank you to all the volunteers who made the event possible, the Race Committee, our Class Judge, Sian Reynolds, and all the parents who helped out ashore and on the water to make the event such a success.

Full results can be found here.

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