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Peru’s Zimmerman Wins Optimist North American Championship

Sailing fast isn’t the only reason why Peru’s Alexander
Zimmerman won the 2005 Optimist North American Championships, sailed out of the
island of Tobago, June 26 to July 2. The other half of the equation was sailing
smart. “Concentration,” said 14-year-old Zimmerman, about the secret to his
success.

185 junior
sailors, ranging from 7 to 15 years of age and hailing from 18 countries,
competed in this first Optimist North American Championships ever to be held in
the Caribbean.

“This moment
has fulfilled a three-year dream,” said David Lewis, president of the
Trinidad & Tobago Optimist Dinghy Association (TODA). "Our island’s
history and heritage had been founded on those who arrived by sea. Today, this
event puts us on the road towards fulfilling a vision where the children of
these islands see sailing as an alternative sport and recreation for the
future."

Racing took place
off Store Bay, located on the southwest side of Tobago. Caribbean Sea
conditions were calm during the early part of the week, building to 4 to 5 foot
swells that caused several sailors to swamp. Meanwhile, winds were generally
light and shifty, yet midweek thunderstorms did lead to vacillating conditions
that ranged from blustery gusts followed by dead calm. Ultimately, sailors
raced 11 races on a windward-leeward course that had an offset mark and upwind
finish.

Zimmerman led the
fleet from day one. "We brought a strong team from Peru,” said Peter
Barclay, vice president of the International Optimist Dinghy Association
(IODA), who hails from Peru.

Trinidadian
sailors pushed hard towards the top with three sailors consistently placing in
the top ten. “It was tough out there. But, we really trained hard for this
event and were up to the challenge," said 14-year-old Matthew Scott, who
ended fifth overall and second to fellow islander Anthony Alkins for the Top
Caribbean Competitor award.

In addition to
placing first overall in fleet, Peru’s Zimmerman also won a trophy for Best
Placed Competitor from a Non-North American Country.

The USA picked up
a booty of prizes. Anne Haeger scored Best Placed Female Competitor in North
America as well as Best Placed Female. Fellow countryman Colin Smith won Best
North American Competitor and Best North American Male.

In other awards,
Brazil’s Carlo Mazzaferro ended as Best Placed Sailor under the age of 12.

Individual racing
was suspended midweek for two days while 16 teams competed in the IODA North
American Team Racing Championship. "Optimist team racing uses a ‘direct
elimination with repechage’ system familiar in other sports," explains
IODA Secretary, Robert Wilkes. "The table looks complicated but is based
on the simple principle that after two defeats the team is eliminated. Seeding
is on the basis of individual races."

Torrential rains
and little wind allowed only 16 of the team races to be sailed the first day.
In spite of this, humbly 13th seeded Puerto Rico disposed of the mighty USA 1
team and then 5th seeds Brazil. The next day, clearer skies and stronger winds
allowed the remaining 19 races to be sailed, with team Peru emerging
victorious, followed by Bermuda second, Mexico third and Trinidad & Tobago
fourth.

While the
four-member team from Bequia didn’t go home with any top awards, they did have
a winning week in the form of experience gained as newcomers to the sport and a
first time entry to an event with such a wealth of international competition.
"We usually sail with 8 Optimists. This is a much bigger event. “It’s new
for us and it’s been hard,” said Jamal Ollivierre. “But, it’s been fun.”

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