The best youth sailors from the Caribbean and Americas competed in the Optimist North American Championships, held June 29th to July 7th at the Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club, in Los Angeles, California. Out of a total of 187 sailors from 22 countries, it was Curacao’s Odile van Aanholt that scored the Top Caribbean Sailor at 10th overall and more impressively won the Top North American Girl title.
"This is really great,” says 13-year-old van Aanholt. “I started the event okay but on the second day I had difficulties with the current and dropped some places. On day three, I took the leader board with a one, two and four.”
This is the second time that a Caribbean girl has finished at the top. In 2007, Nikki Barnes from the U.S. Virgin Islands achieved the same result.
Twenty-four sailors from the Caribbean and Bermuda competed in this event.
The Dominican Republic’s Justina Pacheco finished 28th and was the second highest placing Caribbean sailor.
“The conditions were nice, but it proved difficult because there was a lot of current pushing you back,” says Pacheco, who followed her California trip with a first girl and top ten finish at the Optimist Pre-Worlds Competition held in July in the Dominican Republic. “The right was always the faster side because there was less current, so if you went straight to the right with clear wind and tacked a little bit after the lay-line you were in the top ten but it was hard because you had to make a very good start and tack fast.”
Puerto Rico’s Jorge Gonzalez finished 30th overall and was the third top Caribbean sailor.
“I didn’t find the success as an individual that I was hoping for, but we still found success in team racing. Our practice and team work make us stay undefeated until the finals, which we lost against USA,” says Gonzalez, who is now moving into 420s.
St. Maarten’s Rhone Findlay finished in the top half of the fleet.
“What really helped me were the currents, which were strong and changeable,” says Findlay, who moves into Lasers next. “The first two races I figured out as I sail a lot on Virtual Skipper.com which has taught me about sailing currents.”
This is also the last Optimist regatta for the BVI’s Mollee Donovan, who will transfer her vast international sailing experience to Lasers. “Because of my weight, I was a lot slower than most competitors. Because of my going slower, I got frustrated so that showed in my results.”
The Caribbean will be the centre of the Optimist sailing World in 2012. This is when Club Nautico de Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic will host the Optimist World Championships from July 15th to 26th 2012.
For more information, visit: www.optiworld.org