How close can it get? Reigning champion Raul Rios of Puerto Rico retained his title by the narrowest of margins in the final race of the championship held June 28 to July 5. If he had not won the race or if Rachel Lee (SIN) had registered another bullet, their positions would have been reversed. 2006 North American champion Ivan Aponte and Singapore’s Russell Kan were also still very much in contention.
The Singaporean team had been specially-invited to raise the level of sailing at the event and with three of their four sailors in the top 10 they certainly did that. Otherwise the leaderboard, with four Puerto Ricans, two ISV sailors and Ard van Aanholt from host island Curaçao (AHO) making up the rest of the 10, Caribbean sailors dominated.
Other islands also showed promise with sailors from the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Barbados all figuring in the top 60 of the 204 boat fleet from 25 countries.
The AHO team which is sponsored by Seven Island Investments showed remarkable progress. Coach Martin Jenkins, two times World Champion in the Optimist class, managed to raise the level of sailing resulting in five sailors in the top 50.
In the girls’ ranking it was a different story. South American sailors Lucia Falasca (ARG) and Kamilla Sabogal (ECU) took open silver and bronze, while the closed North American prizes went to Morgan Kiss (USA), Nikki Barnes (ISV) and Christina Lewis (USA).
In Team Racing, Puerto Rico retained the North American championship. But host Netherlands Antilles surprised everybody by winning the silver.
The 12 races can still be seen through the race tracking system and inside information can be read in the OPTINAM newsletter at www.optinam2008.org.
With a record of 25 participating countries, sailors from five continents, the premiere of the race tracking system, the opening in the middle of the center of Willemstad, the rocking closing ceremony with fireworks and dance shows by Optimist sailors, it was an OPTINAM not easily to be forgotten. Dominican Republic is up to the challenge to organize the North American Optimist Championship in 2009.
Report submitted by Robert Wilkes, secretary of the Optimist class organisation, and Marjolein van Aanholt.
Team racing during OPTINAM 2008
The Team Championship was held in the Caracasbaai, right next to a public beach. The beach was crowded with local people and supporters of the countries. The second mark was only 30 meters from shore and the finish another 20 meters further. The atmosphere was great and all countries passing were cheered up.
The last four countries left over were Trinidad, Netherlands Antilles and Singapore, all with one lost race and Puerto Rico that had not lost a race yet. Trinidad met Singapore. Singapore put Trinidad out of the championship with a 1st, 2nd and a 3rd. Still a great performance of Trinidad, who entered the Team Racing as 16th qualifier.
The next race was SIN – AHO. The host country was the sure loser—at least that was the expectation. The race started and an X-flag was hoisted. SIN returned to the start, but the flag stayed up. Who started early was unclear to the public. AHO sailed nicely to a first and second, but found SIN in 3rd, 4th, 5th. Ard van Aanholt, AHO team Captain, was near the finishing boat in 6th position while brother Just was in 8th just after SIN. Then Ard blocked SIN to let Just pass. AHO had the better scores, but who was the mysterious early starter. The calculation started and after some scary moments the host nation started screaming with excitement. They had beaten the seemingly unbeateble, SIN. Ard, who made his brother pass turned out the be the OCS. AHO won by only one point.
The first final between PUR and AHO was an easy win for PUR. Also the second race was easy for PUR. Although AHO was in 1st and 2nd, PUR totally controlled 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th. Until thrirty meters before the finish. The two AHO leaders stopped and created a mess just before the finish line and managed to move the two last AHO sailors one place up. The startig vessel had already take the anchor up as they were convinced AHO would be slaughtered by PUR. The anchor had to be dropped another time as third and final race had to be raced to give the decision. Again AHO took the first two spots, but great teamwork kept the two other AHO sailors back and PUR won the race by the tie breaker. 1,2, 7 and 8 loses from 2,3,4,and 5. PUR won the title like they did in Mexico last year as well.