Odile van Aanholt from Curaçao took the Gold Medal for youngsters under 12, and Bronze Medal for girls, at the Optimist Worlds in Malaysia. Two hundred and thirty one sailors from 57 countries competed.
The Asians dominated this year's Championship with eight sailors in the top ten, the other two places going to German sailor Marvin Frish and Odile van Aanholt.
Nappakao Poonpat from Thailand was crowned World Champion, only the fourth girl ever to win this title. Kimberly Lim Min of Singapore took the girls silver. Van Aanholt finished 9th in the overall Boys and Girls ranking, a remarkable result for a 12-year old who, in some cases, was competing against sailors of 16. At her first Worlds in 2009, van Aanholt finished 84th.
Van Aanholt started the championship impressively with a 4, 5, and 4 on the scoring board. On day three she scored a bullet and was in third position after eight races. In the second half of the regatta she dropped a couple of places. This was most likely due to the pressure created by her early success. After two bad races she managed to get back into the rhythm and by the end of the day held on to her 9th position overall.
Sailing conditions at Langkawi Waters were challenging. Hills surrounding the venue made it difficult to predict wind shifts, and rain and continuously changing currents complicated the championship. The wind varied between five and 15 knots, clearly an advantage for the lighter sailors. Van Aanholt, with her 37kg profited from this and flew over the short waves.
That Asian sailors dominated the Optimist Worlds came as no surprise, as countries such as Malaysia and Thailand have pumped millions of dollars into their youth sailing programmes. However, the success of Odile van Aanholt and other youngsters from the Caribbean shows that sailors from small islands can achieve remarkable results. At the moment Odile is ranked 9th in the world and still has three years of Optimist sailing ahead of her.
Article submitted by Marolein van Aanholt