RSA Optimists in Argentinian Optimist Worlds – report and some results

The RSA Optimist Team to the 2015 Worlds
The RSA Optimist Team to the 2015 Worlds

William Brooks reports

It has been an interested few days. I will try to describe them in a few short chapters.

The trip over
A rather rushed and early start in ct was followed by an equally long check in at jbrg where we eventually managed to check all the gear through to ba as planned. We were so enjoying the time to relax in the departure area that we almost missed the boarding on our flight to sao paulo, eventually boarding just 15 mins before take off. The saa wide body airbus was very comfortable and we all took our seats without problems, the kids preferring to sit together. Poor campbell found himself next to a dodgy looking nigerian with a ropey cough. Luckily a switch was arranged and the risk of losing campbell to the underworld smuggling rackets was averted.

After a long 10 hour flight we eventually arrived at the chaotic creation that is sao paolo airport. We checked through the transit desk without too much trouble. The only incident was a brazilian customs officer repeatedly checking alexanders backpack until he found the offending item. I was most relieved that this was not any form of narcotic but rather his favourite hair gel. Alexander was gutted that this was now gone but we were all very relieved when he announced that he was sure the loss would not unduly affect his upwind performance.

After a strenuous aerobic session that involved walking the full length of terminal 2 and 3, we eventually located our check in gate for the tam flight to ba. We were all now fairly tired having spent 20 odd hours travelling and another 4 to go before we would get to anything that resembled a bed.

The lights of ba were a beautiful sight and before long we were on the ground in ba. By the time we had checked through immigration all, all our bags and sail/spar tubes were waiting for us in the collection area. The transfer bus was there waiting for us and in no time we were heading for the hotel.

The Accommodation
Arriving at the apartment hotel I could not help but think of one of those episodes of Fawlty Towers. The receptionists spoke very little english and everything seemed to be in varying degrees of total chaos. We had carefully booked two separate apartments of 4 beds each. One apartment would be kept for gavin and myself for the duration of the regatta, the other was a temporary arrangement to see us through until the full team checked into the official regatta apartment on the 20th. I was quiet chuffed to find that my twin room apartment was in fact a four room apartment. The bathroom décor was that dodgy green colour so popular in the boksburg/benoni area in the 70’s but otherwise it was clear and spacious.

The next morning the hotel management asked me to confirm our bookings, luckily I had copies of our email confirmations. And so the ‘Fawlty Towers saga’ started. It seemed that the regatta organisers had double booked us into an 8 bed apartment. We would have to move apartments that afternoon. But now the problem was how to deal with the regatta booking, the payment etc. The saga continues, keep posted for further updates.

The Club Nautic San Isidro
Wow, this is not your average yacht club. Set on a colossal waterfront property about 20kms north of central buenos aires this is an incredible place. A country club on steroids. This is what all yacht clubs want to be when they grow up. It seems all sporting fancies are taken care of whether it be golf, tennis, swimming, squash, kite boarding etc. A vast system of canals and moorings surround the mansion like club house. The admin block is larger than most yacht clubs in SA. What a place and what a privilege to be here.

The Championship
As we arrived at race headquarters is was very apparent this was a premier world championship. Teams from 51 countries with the best U16 youth sailors in the world. An aura of professional preparation permeated the boat park. Big name coaches from all over the world were everywhere. All the rockstars of opti sailing were there. Alexander was in his element, he couldn’t help himself shaking hands and introducing himself to everyone.

The Equipment
A group of brand new and nearly new Lange optis were parked in our assigned bays in the park. Each boat would be pre assigned by the organisers to a specific sailor. The official boat and gear supplier Riotecna were ready to issue us with foils and spars once our registration formalities were completed. Luckily we had elected to bring our own spars as some of the Riotecna ones were a bit ropey. After a good few hours of setup we had the optis ready and the team could get out onto the water to get a first feel for the venue.

First Sail
Alexander was out first and joined a group of around 40 optis speed testing in 15 to 20kts E/SE wind on the chocolate brown water that is the Rio Del Plata race course. He hooked up with the Austrian team and the coach surprisingly allowed this cheeky Saffa to test with his rockstar team. Alexander had a blast and particularly enjoyed the downwind reaching with the following swell. In no time he was joined by Jemima, Elsje and Campbell.

The Brains Trust
This has got to be the luckiest opti team in the world. In Dave Hudson as their coach they have one of the most respected experts in the world of sailing, an Olympic sailor and South African who has one more national championships than anyone else. Philip Baum, the new President of SA Sailing is the team manager. In Peter Mamacos, Gavin Long, Lianne Tiley and myself they should have a support team that can help with most things. These are five very lucky kids.

The Program
Today we start with the pre regatta racing. Two days of intense testing of the equipment and getting familiar with the venue. We will have our coach boat so on the water the formal coaching also starts today. Measurement, tune up race and opening ceremony on Monday and Tuesday and then the games begin with the start of the fleet racing on Wednesday.

Ok, here is my second report in the same chapter format as before:

One thing about these international opti regattas is a rather antiquated attention to a set of rules that sometimes bears little resemblance to the fundamental purpose of the sport i.e. Getting kids to race sailboats. In order for the team to register for this championship we were required to disassemble all moving parts from our boats and present these to an assembled throng of officials in order to ascertain that the said pieces were within the 9 decimal point requirements of the IODA class rule book. The net effect of this challenge was that the poor technical support crew (read parents) were required to spend another day in the baking South American sun doing the disassembly and assembly job whilst the kids enjoyed a day wandering around the boat park checking out the international talent. The whole challenge and relative frustration levels reached new heights when a certain opti sail recently purchased from a well known loft in Cape Town was found to be ‘outside of class rules’ on account of an offending extra layer of dacron on the clew area. A massive debate ensued whereupon it was decided to send said offending opti sail to a local loft for a trim. Technical team at this point were at wits end needing cold beer desperately whereas opti kids were making great progress in the talent identification department.

Love on tour
It all started with the Italian girls. To be fair to the boys these girls are very attractive in their swish Slam outfits. At this point in the program I was making good progress getting Zander to understand the importance of boat preparation. Things were going well, we were making good progress. Then all of a sudden the production line came to a halt.  And then they met again on the pre regatta race course. It is an amazing thing how a proper spanking on the race course can destroy love. It was over before it began.  The boat preparation department remains challenging.

Partner team
We have been very lucky to be allocated as the partners to the GBR team. The GBR team coach is the well known RYA Opti coach Alan Williams, author of many of the RYA opti books. He has been very helpful to Dave allowing him to join on some of the teams training sessions and generally giving advice where needed. We will share coach boats with team GBR for the remainder of the regatta.

Tune up race
These races are always a bit of a laugh. Most of the rockstar teams did not even pitch for the race. Despite the dodgy organisation our team managed to get valuable practise time on the water and the team felt positive from the experience.

Opening ceremony
The Club Nautico San Isidro is a very special place. A 106 year old yacht club with more facilities than you could ever imagine including an 18 hole golf course. I felt very very privileged to stand alongside many old timers of the CNSI as a rousing version of the Argentina national anthem was played by the Argentinian Navy Band on a magnificent spring evening on the occasion of the 2014 Opti Worlds. It was very special. The speeches talked about the role optis play in developing sailing whether it be Olympic champions or regular sailors, the importance of dialogue and friendship amongst sailors through international competition, the value of participation over winning and the pride of representing your country at a premier international youth regatta. I only wish I had a copy of the speeches. They hit the nail on the head.

Management team
I have said before how lucky this team is to have such a capable and dedicated coach in Dave Hudson and a management team of parents backing him up. It takes an enormous commitment to keep things on track and these kids should know how lucky they are.

Opti parents
Opti parents often get a bad reputation and I would like to put a few things straight. Precious few kids would ever get to Opti Worlds without the dedication, commitment and sacrifice of parents. The process simply doesn’t happen otherwise. For parents it is often a very rough road, full of ups and downs. The world of sailing needs more opti parents, parents who see the benefits of sailing for life and are willing and able to make the commitments and sacrifices. I have met many of these parents  in the last few days and I can assure you all the sailing needs these people. In fact sailing the world over should celebrate these people, they are the guarantors and underwriters of our sport. The sailing press should stop for a moment from taking cheap shots at these people and recognise what they actually do for our sport. Enough said.

First day results
Conditions on the race course for the first day were fantastic. Fairly steady N/NE winds of around 15/18kts and a very well organised race team. Our team did well recognising the very high level of competition on the course.

I am reminded by that often quoted Naas Botha line: “The Currie Cup is not won in July”. Incidentally, good luck Province, sorry I cant be there, I am busy doing my part in the underwriting of SA sailing.

Remembering that this is a very young RSA team, the results from the first 2 races and overall are as follows:
Alexander Brooks 21; 41; 87th overall
Arin Long 41; 49; 147th overall
Campbell Tiley 48; 58; 175 overall
Elsje Djikstra 66; 60; 194th overall
Jemima Baum 68; 64; 201st overall

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