The Dominican Republic made history by serving as the first-ever Caribbean location for the Optimist World Sailing Championships, which celebrated its fiftieth edition in Boca Chica, July 15th to 26th. Two hundred and thirty sailors from 52 countries and five continents competed in the Club Nautico de Santo Domingo-hosted regatta, including 24 Caribbean sailors from ten island nations. Though Singapore sailors, led by championship title winner Yukie Yokoyama, finished in the top three as well as first in team racing, the island sailors benefited from the world-class experience and excelled in spite of non-typical weather conditions.
“Normal conditions at our club are 8 to 17 knots from the southeast,” says regatta director Joaquin Pacheco, who also enjoyed watching three of his four children sail. “We only had two days with these conditions and the rest were very shifty and stormy. We managed to get in only nine races of the 12 programmed.”
Curacao’s Odile van Aanholt placed highest among the Caribbean sailors, finishing 33rd as well as third best girl overall and best Caribbean girl. “The wind direction wasn’t stable and the same went for the strength. Because of this it was very hard to secure my position. Plus, I had lots of trouble with the starts. That caused my final result to not end up as high as I would have liked,” says van Aanholt. “However,” she adds, “I will be sailing another year in Optis combined with other boats.”
The US Virgin Islands’ Scott McKenzie ranked second among the Caribbean sailors. “The light winds had me in the middle of the fleet. I just worked on good starts and playing the shifts the best I could,” says McKenzie, who will also continue sailing Optimists another year as well as train in the Byte for the 2014 Youth Olympics. “Nonetheless, I was sitting as low as 106th until the last day when the winds picked up and I pulled a 16th and a 4th, boosting me to 73rd overall.”
Maria Justina Pacheco, from the Dominican Republic, finished third among the Caribbean sailors, at 75th overall. “I had a really good first race, but I got a DNF (did not finish) on the second one so I had a lot of points added to my score. As the championship progressed, I had a few bad races that I couldn’t drop. I do think it helped that I was local and knew what the wind was going to do, so I could think ahead and plan before the others,” explains Pacheco, who will leave Optis this year to sail International 420s, Lasers, Sunfish and 29ers.
The USVI’s Paige Clarke ended as the fourth ranked Caribbean sailor, in 78th place, while the BVI’s Sam Morrell rounded out the top five in 104th. Morrell was actually leading the Caribbean sailors at first. “I almost won the first race, and finished sixth, but my results slid after the two- day team racing break,” Morrell explains. “My goal now is to continue training very hard, cross train in other boats and windsurf as much as possible, compete in the Optimist Worlds next summer in Italy and qualify for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games.”
Hosting an international regatta of this caliber continues to put the Caribbean on the map as a world sailing destination. Plus, it offers the opportunity to boost junior sailing in the Caribbean.
Regatta director, Pacheco explains, “We will capitalize on all the efforts made by many people to organize the Worlds. Our plan is to have a fleet of 100 Optimists sailing in our country over the next few months and we have already acquired 66 used Optimists from the Worlds’ regatta to achieve this. Then, we will also try to organize a big successful regatta for sailors in our region like St. Thomas’ Scotiabank International Regatta.”
For full results, visit: www.optiworld.org/events.php
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.