Optimist World Championship Closing Ceremony

PLAUDITS, praise and applause were in abundance as winners from across the ranks of the 2019 Optimist World Championship were awarded for their nautical triumphs.

Teams, coaches and supporters flooded into Antigua’s Nelson’s Dockyard on Monday night for the prize-giving ceremony to officially recognise the rising stars who displayed exceptional skill on the water during eight days of intrepid racing.

But the wider message was clear: The Optimist class is about more than just victory.

Sailors were praised for showing courage amid challenging weather, sportsmanship in the face of defeat, and unfailing accord with their counterparts from a record 65 nations.

Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez congratulated competitors on their prowess during days of intense wind, squalls and swells.

Photo by Matias Capizzano

“I was out on the race boat last week; you are really, really brave fellows,” he said, adding: “You are here from 65 countries; world leaders have a lot to learn from you. You can come here, be competitive and you are all happy and get along. The future looks bright for the world, not just sports.”

Paola Vittoria, head of the organising committee, told the sailors, all aged between 11 and 15: “Do more of what you love, follow your dreams, be kind and honest. You are our future.”

Photo by Matias Capizzano

She thanked volunteers who worked assiduously behind the scenes to create a successful championship, hosted by Antigua for the first time in its 57-year history.

Vittoria also expressed gratitude to governing body, the International Optimist Dinghy Association (IODA), “for believing in Antigua”.

IODA President Kevin Whitcraft urged the sailors to “keep the memories”, to thank those back home who made their participation possible, and to “keep sailing”.

Awards were presented to the top three teams in the 2019 Optimist Team Racing Championships with Italy taking the gold medal, followed by Thailand with the silver and Peru claiming bronze.

Photo by Matias Capizzano

The top three sailors in each fleet also received prizes. First in emerald fleet was Switzerland’s Simon Mille, 12. First-placed in bronze was Argentina’s Tadeo Funes de Rioja, 15, and top in silver was Turkey’s Alp Namdar, 15.

The Jacobsen Trophy was presented to Spain as the top overall nation, followed by Italy and USA in second and third position.

Antigua’s Theodore Spencer was recognised as the top sailor from the host nation.

The top three girls received prizes too. They were Spain’s Maria Perello, 14, her third consecutive year out-performing all other girls. Second girl was Argentina’s Amparo Stupenengo, 15, and third was Turkey’s Arikan Okyanus, 15.

The top 20 sailors were awarded, with the leading trio taking to the podium. Thunderous applause was reserved for three-time World Champion Marco Gradoni, 15, of Italy, followed by Malta’s Richard Schultheis, 14, and Spain’s Jaime Ayarza, 13.

Special tributes were also paid to photographer Matias Capizzano whose creative eye has brought 30 Optimist events before an international audience over the years.

Antiguan videographer Roddy Grimes-Graeme, of Acquafilms, also received a mention for his daily videos capturing all the action on and off the water.

Before closing, the Antigua and Barbuda national team handed the IODA flag to Italy, which will stage the 2020 Optimist World Championship at Lake Garda.

Photo by Matias Capizzano

Photo by Matias Capizzano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Download the IODA app onto your smartphone to capture every second of the coverage and all the latest news. Full details can also be found at http://2019worlds.optiworld.org

Website: 2019worlds.optiworld.org

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Final results here can be found here:

http://2019worlds.optiworld.org/en/default/races/race-resultsall

Italy’s Marco Gradoni becomes three-time Optimist World Champion

A RESOUNDING win for Italy’s Marco Gradoni brought the 2019 Optimist World Championship to an end on Monday as the 15-year-old claimed the winning title for an incredible third consecutive year.

Competitors battled it out on the water in Antigua amid high winds and a punishing current in an intense day that saw elation for some and disappointment for others.

A small craft advisory earlier in the day saw the bronze and emerald fleets – which included the host nation team – relegated to the sidelines. The Antigua Meteorological Office had predicted gusts as high as 28 knots and waves up to three metres, causing race chiefs to cancel races for the lower two fleets.

But the weather was no match for Gradoni whose “perfect performance” propelled him to an electrifying finish, almost 20 points clear of his closest competitor.

“There were good winds of about 15 knots and a lot of current; I got two good races,” he said.

“I am really happy – I think the realisation will hit me more in one or two days.”

Already 15, this year’s competition was Gradoni’s last, but he added that he hoped to eventually make a career out of sailing.

Italy’s coach Marcello Meringolo said: “Today was difficult because there were many guys who were very strong but Marco performed perfectly.”

A few false starts had increased the tension among the young competitors.

“That made it hard but Marco started very easy and free. They were perfect conditions for him and he got to the finishing line fast,” Meringolo continued.

“This is the third time Marco has been World Champion so he has written history for the Optimists class; it will be very difficult to beat that record.

“I hope he will continue with the sport and go on to the Olympics.”

The championship was a particularly proud one for Meringolo with Team Italy also securing first place in last week’s team racing.

“This is a story not just for Marco as an individual but for the whole team,” the coach added.

Malta’s Richard Schultheis, who had been in the top spot for the first two days of fleet racing last week, finished second.

“Today was the final day so I just tried to keep my position and stay on the podium. I did not push too much and I sailed safe,” he said.

Forging new friendships with counterparts from other nations is a central tenet of Optimist sailing, which is open to youngsters up to the age of 15.

“It’s been a really nice event with beautiful conditions, and everyone always together and having fun,” Richard testified.

He may be only 14 but this year is likely to be the last event for Richard too.

“I have sailed in the Optimists for several years and now I would like to move on,” he said, adding he hoped to venture into faster WASZP foiling.

Delight at securing third spot was palpable from Spain’s Jaime Ayarza, 13.

“I am feeling great because I had really good results and I am really happy,” he said.

“My objective was to enter the top 30; I didn’t think I would get so high. It was quite windy and difficult today but I managed to finish well.”

Ayarza is now looking forward to next year’s championship which will take place in Italy’s Lake Garda.

“I hope to come next year and try my best and be in the top five. I think it would be really difficult to become a professional sailor but if I have the opportunity I will,” he added.

Spain saw additional success by claiming the top placed girl; Maria Perello, 14, finished in 25th position in the leader board.

In fourth place overall was Turkey’s Can Erturk with South Africa’s Ian Walker March in fifth.

Monday night’s prize-giving ceremony will see Gradoni presented with the Beacon Challenge Club. Gradoni and Perello, as top placed boy and girl, will also receive luxury Italian designer Locman watches as special gifts.

Gold, silver and bronze medals will also be given out, along with prizes for the first 20 sailors.

 

Download the IODA app onto your smartphone to capture every second of the coverage and all the latest news. Full details can also be found at http://2019worlds.optiworld.org

Website: 2019worlds.optiworld.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/optiworldantigua2019/

Photo by Matias Capizzano

 

Photo by Matias Capizzano

All eyes on Monday’s Optimist World Championship finals

BATTLE lines have been drawn and the gauntlet thrown firmly down as the 2019 Optimist World Championship’s top ranking sailors prepare to thrash it out on the water in Monday’s hotly anticipated finals.

Sunday’s high winds and vigorous current saw an intense day of racing, resulting in a mixed bag of successes and losses for the young competitors.

Host nation Antigua’s famed trade winds once again packed a punch for the pint-sized participants, who are aged between 11 and 15 and hail from 65 countries across the globe.

A smart, strategic move left Team Spain’s Jaime Ayarza, 13, third in the leader board after securing a first and a second place in his two races.

“It was a difficult day because it was very windy and I am light. But I went over to the left side near the coast and got some good wind,” he said.

“I am looking to do my best tomorrow for the last day. The secret to being a good sailor is being confident and staying focussed. I give my best every time and don’t give up,” he added.

Jaime is among the 60 sailors in the tournament’s gold fleet, with the remainder of the 255 competitors divided into silver, bronze and emerald according to their performance in last week’s qualifiers.

Ireland’s Luke Turvey – who celebrated his 14th birthday on Sunday – misjudged the breeze costing him valuable places.

“It was a very bad day for me,” he said, his disappointment palpable.

“I went right and everyone else went left and got a lot of wind off the cliff. I lost several places, maybe as many as 25.”

Initial results on Sunday left him in 103rd position.

Still, Luke is determined to enjoy his last couple of days in Antigua before flying home this week.

“I love how warm the water is; I’ve been swimming every day. I’m really looking forward to swimming with stingrays on Tuesday,” he added.

Thirteen-year-old Tatu Uusitalo, currently in 142nd place, said Sunday’s “shifty” weather was markedly different to conditions back home in Finland.

And with gusty winds predicted for Monday, he knows he is going to have to up his game.

“I will have to hike a lot and stay strong,” he said.

One team that trained specifically with tough winds in mind is USA.

Thommie Grit, 15, said the four boys and one girl had really enjoyed the waves and swell after practicing hard overseas before heading to Antigua this month.

It has paid off with four of the team in the top 40 placed sailors.

“Our training was pretty hardcore,” he recalled. “We sailed in St Thomas and Fort Lauderdale to get warmed up and in shape.

“The starts were really difficult on Sunday because the current was pushing everyone back. I managed to pass a lot of people by surfing waves,” Thommie added.

For many of the sailors, including those from Antigua and Barbuda, the event is their first major regatta.

Coaches and team leaders have been busy keeping up morale among the slower racers.

“The conditions are very challenging,” said Trinidadian coach Marvin Bernard, whose three charges are ranked between 244th and 249th.

“But the boys are doing their best, having fun and enjoying the country and that’s the main thing. The wind has picked up a lot this week which has given them more experience and is helping them learn,” Bernard said.

“I keep talking to them and motivating them; they are only young and will have more opportunities later on.”

Antigua’s national team are also in the lower third of the leader board but spirits remained high on Sunday with the marking of Theodore Spencer’s 13th birthday.

Meanwhile, one sailor from Australia earned high praise from regatta organisers for stepping forward to help out a fellow competitor who ran into difficulty at the dockside earlier in the contest.

“I saw one of the Latvian team capsize with no foils which meant he could not pull up his boat,” related Jonathan Tuite, 14.

“One of his team mates helped him get his boat upright. I noticed his foils started flying away so I retrieved them and helped him get them back on.”

Jonathan’s quick thinking and benevolent spirit is testament to the championship’s central ethos of sportsmanship and friendship, said organising committee chair Paola Vittoria.

Monday’s finals will begin at 11am in Nelson’s Dockyard. European teams continue to dominate the leader board’s top spots with two-time defending world champion Marco Gradoni of Italy in first position, followed by Malta’s Richard Schultheis in second and Spain’s Ayarza in third.

Ian Walker March, of South Africa, is currently fourth and Bermuda’s Sebastian Kempe is fifth.

The 2019 World Champion will be crowned at a special ceremony on Monday at 7.30pm in Nelson’s Dockyard. Gold, silver and bronze medals will also be given out, along with prizes for the top boy, top girl and first 20 sailors.

The evening will culminate with a buoyant live performance by Antiguan band, Spirited.

 

Download the IODA app onto your smartphone to capture every second of the coverage and all the latest news. Full details can also be found at http://2019worlds.optiworld.org

Website: 2019worlds.optiworld.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/optiworldantigua2019/

Photo by Matias Capizzano.

Italy triumph in 2019 Optiworlds team racing

ITALY cemented their status as the team to watch at this year’s Optiworlds with a euphoric win over Thailand during Friday’s team racing finals.

The Italians sailed to victory in a nail-biting climax which saw their south-east Asian opponents battling to the end to defend their title as 2018’s team champs.

It meant additional elation for Team Italy whose Marco Gradoni currently occupies the top spot out of 255 participating sailors in the fleet racing’s leader board.

“I think we did good work because we are now the top team,” Marco, 15, said. “I want to say congratulations to Thailand. It’s a good feeling to win but we want an even better feeling when the championships finish.

“I want to maintain my position and will try to keep a clear mind,” he added.

Italy’s coach Marcello Meringolo described Friday’s animated races as a “fantastic experience”.

“We were very happy for the good wind,” he said.

There was a rollercoaster of emotions among the Thai competitors who lost their first race but secured a win in the second taking them through to a third.

The team’s Weka Bhanubandh also marked his 12th birthday on Friday and was presented with a cake upon arrival back into Nelson’s Dockyard.

Photo by Matias Capizzano

“It was my best birthday ever,” he enthused. “The atmosphere on the water was tense but it was really fun and exciting. Congratulations to Italy; they did really well.”

Weka cited “miscommunication” among his team members as the reason for not winning. He adding that, although the youngsters were disappointed, they remained confident ahead of the next three days of fleet racing finals which kick off on Saturday morning.

The team racing is a popular midway feature of the annual Optimist World Championship, allowing the young competitors a chance to compete alongside their team mates in a series of quick-fire short sprints.

Host nation Antigua were knocked out on Thursday after losing first to Sweden and then to Japan, the latter on a scoring penalty.

Of the 16 nations which raced on Friday, Team Peru had also hoped to emerge triumphant but said they were proud to claim third place.

“We trained a lot in team racing in Peru. We also went to Uruguay to practice. I am happy with how we did but we really wanted to get to the final two,” said Sophie Zimmermann, 13.

Peru’s Alejandra Vega, 15, said the high winds had caused some difficulty.

“But we are planning to get a good start tomorrow and do what we trained for,” she added.

Meanwhile, competition is stiff at the top of the leader board. Gradoni – the two-time defending world champion – is just one point ahead of Malta’s Richard Schultheis who has seven points. South Africa’s Ian Walker March is currently in third position with eight points. Bermuda’s Sebastian Kempe is in fourth place with 17 points, followed by Spain’s Jaime Ayarza with 19.

The annual championship is one of few sporting contests worldwide where boys and girls compete together. The best performing girls so far are Spain’s Maria Perello, currently on 39 points and in 16th position. Team USA’s Samara Walshe is also going strong in 20th place with 42 points.

The event will draw to a close on Monday evening when the 2019 world champion is presented with the Beacon Challenge Cup. Gold, silver and bronze medals will also be given out, along with prizes for the first 20 sailors and the top three females.

The top girl will be awarded the Helen Mary Wilkes Trophy and the top boy will receive the Peter Barclay Trophy, both named in tribute to veterans of the championship’s governing body, the International Optimist Dingy Association (IODA).

Former IODA president Wilkes has been a familiar face on the sailing scene for four decades after first becoming involved as an ‘Opti-mum’ in the 1970s. Her strenuous work has earned her a number of awards including the gold medal of World Sailing in 2017 following 34 years of service to the sport.

Barclay is also a former IODA president. He handed over the reins to Kevin Whitcraft in 2017 after a decade in the seat.

 

Download the IODA app onto your smartphone to capture every second of the coverage and all the latest news. Full details can also be found at http://2019worlds.optiworld.org

Website: 2019worlds.optiworld.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/optiworldantigua2019/

Photo by Matias Capizzano

Dramatic weather forces fleet recall during youth sailing finals

HEAVY squalls, a fleet recall and dive-bombing seagulls combined to create a dramatic day on the water for young sailors competing in the 2019 Optimist World Championship.

Winds reached up to 26 knots and rain pelted down on Saturday during the first day of the finals, prompting race chiefs to summon 63 boats back to shore.

It was a tough call for course rep Luis Ormaechea who made the decision to pull back the entire emerald fleet during the second race.

“It was not an easy day and visibility was not good,” he said. “All four fleets completed the first race but by the second race it became very difficult to control so many boats.

“I decided to send the emerald fleet ashore to make things easier. The green fleet was chosen because they have less sailing experience.

“Recalling a fleet doesn’t happen very often but it does from time to time; safety is the most important matter,” Ormaechea added.

Saturday was the first day of three scheduled days of finals with sailors divided into gold, silver, bronze and emerald fleets according to their performance during qualifying rounds earlier in the week.

Host nation Antigua’s team of five were among those ordered to retire.

But that did not stop them enjoying the invigorating surf, said coach Rhone Kirby.

“They were exhilarated; those are the conditions they love the most,” he added.

Other competitors agreed.

“The squalls were really fun; at one point I could not see anything. It was mean out there,” enthused New Zealand’s Amelia Angus, 14.

“I could see a big wave coming and I was praying, dear God, please don’t let me capsize. It was sort of frightening but mainly fun. I just had to hike really hard. I think I did pretty good today.”

Australia’s Ethan Lozevski, 15, said the nation’s team of five boys had a fairly successful day.

“Three of us were in the gold fleet; I am in silver. I had a good first race but during the second race I broke my tiller.”

Initially perplexed, Ethan was determined to finish.

“When it happened, at first I thought I would have to give up. Then I decided I would just try and do as best as I could. I came last but I finished,” Ethan said.

Meanwhile, Antigua’s wildlife continues to enthral many of the 255 competitors, aged 11 to 15.

“The birds are crazy. My friend got a sandwich snatched straight out of his hand while sitting in his boat,” Ethan laughed.

“I love Antigua so much; it’s so nice,” Amelia added. “I saw a stingray when we were swimming and our coach saw a huge turtle.”

It is the first time the prestigious championship – widely seen as a pathway to the Olympics for promising young sailors – has been staged in the Eastern Caribbean. It has brought an estimated 1,000 people to English Harbour during the district’s traditional slow season.

The contest will culminate with a prize-giving ceremony in Nelson’s Dockyard on Monday evening from 7.30pm.

The 2019 World Champion will be presented with the Beacon Challenge Cup.

Gold, silver and bronze medals will also be given out, along with prizes for the first 20 sailors and the top three girls.

A rousing performance by Antiguan band Spirited – featuring homegrown cricketing legends Richie Richardson and Curtly Ambrose – will draw the event to a close.

 

Download the IODA app onto your smartphone to capture every second of the coverage and all the latest news. Full details can also be found at http://2019worlds.optiworld.org

Website: 2019worlds.optiworld.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/optiworldantigua2019/

Photo by Matias Capizzano

A day of lively team racing during the 2019 Optimist World Championship

TEAM work, sportsmanship and some good-natured competitive banter characterised the first day of lively team racing during the 2019 Optimist World Championship.

A total of 44 countries – including host nation Antigua and Barbuda – took part in a series of fast sprints on Thursday, which saw 16 of them qualify for the team racing finals on Friday.

The two-day, high-energy event is a popular midway feature of the championship and gives the young sailors, aged 11 to 15, some pleasant respite from the hotly contested fleet racing.

Antigua’s five-strong team will get a break from competing on Friday after losing their races to Sweden and Japan, the latter on account of a scoring penalty.

Their coach Rhone Kirby said Theodore Spencer, Shanoy Malone, Maurice Belgrave, Tyrique Adams and Sue Agusti had been sailing well but were disappointed not to be ranked higher in the leader board.

After results of Wednesday’s final day of fleet racing qualifiers were posted last night, Theodore was in 193rd position and the remaining four between 218th and 241st out of 255 competitors.

“This is their first big event and the wind has been exceptional,” Kirby said. “It all comes down to experience. I have been telling them to try their best and learn as much as they can for the next regatta. It’s not the end of the world that they’re not winning.”

Fiona Kidd, Secretary General of the event’s governing body, the International Optimist Dinghy Association (IODA), said the young competitors had really enjoyed Thursday’s rousing races.

“The kids get to sail with their team mates which they love; they get so animated,” she said.

“They go head to head on the water and the team with the last boat across the line loses, so they try and slow each other down and outmanoeuvre each other. It’s really fun with a lot of adrenaline.”

She continued that the sport teaches youngsters valuable life skills for the future.

“They have to learn to play by the rules and it also instils things like independence, resilience and discipline.”

She added that the logistical challenges of preparing for the largest-ever Optimist World Championship – with a record 65 countries taking part – had been significant and praised organisers for an exceptional feat.

Meanwhile, it is not just Antigua’s famed sailing conditions that have proved a hit with the visiting participants.

Team Thailand, who won three out of four races on Thursday, have been relishing the local marine life too.

“We were doing our morning stretches when I looked up and saw two dolphins in the water,” said Weka Bhanubandh, who turns 12 on Friday.

Coach Dam Rong Sam added that the clear water allowed for regular glimpses of sea turtles, delighting the team of four boys and one girl.

Friday will see semi-finals and finals for the team racing before the winning nation is crowned 2019 Optimist World Team Racing Champion.

Three days of fleet racing finals will kick off on Saturday morning.

Photo by Matias Capizzano

 

Photo by Matias Capizzano

 

Download the IODA app onto your smartphone to capture every second of the coverage and all the latest news. Full details can also be found at http://2019worlds.optiworld.org

Website: 2019worlds.optiworld.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/optiworldantigua2019/

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