One hundred and eighteen young sailors will take to the waters of Hamilton Harbour and the Great Sound this weekend to compete in the 2019 PwC Bermuda National and Open Optimist Championships.
Competitors, ranging in age from 8-14 years, will be representing Bermuda’s major sailing programmes, in addition to 28 sailors from overseas, including 21 from the US, five from Canada, one from the Cayman Islands and one from the United Kingdom.
“One of the goals of the event is to bring the world to Bermuda, so that our sailors can experience a high level of competition without having to go overseas,” says Dede Cooper of the Bermuda Optimist Dinghy Association (BODA).
The standard is indeed high with fourteen of the US sailors representing the US National Team while the lone British sailor is the reigning UK National Champion.
“The US National Team uses our regatta as one of their four team practices and that speak volumes for how highly they regard Bermuda for the high level of competition as well as a sailing venue,” says Cooper.
This year’s regatta is hosted by the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club (RHADC) and runs from Saturday, November 9th through Monday, November 11th with racers competing in either the Championship Fleet, in the Great Sound, or the Green Fleet, in Hamilton Harbour.
The event requires extensive logistic coordination including relocating virtually every Optimist on the Island to the RHADC plus, through the support of international boat builders McLaughlin, importing 26 Optimists for the overseas sailors.
“"It's quite the logistical challenge requiring a large team volunteers and Club staff,” says Neil Redburn, the Regatta Chairman. “We need to distribute lunches, help the sailors rig their boats, and launch 118 Optimists. There are two race committees managing roughly 60 boats each, recording the scores and making sure the sailors stay safe and have fun. And then we do it all again on Sunday and Monday!"
The Championship Fleet features the more experienced and competitive sailors, with the top 10 local racers qualifying to represent Bermuda at the South American Championships in Argentina next year.
Meanwhile, the Green Fleet serves as an introduction to racing for sailors who are newer to the sport, with the focus more on learning and having fun than competition.
“Opti Nationals” kicks off with registration and a pasta dinner for all the sailors on Friday evening at the RHADC and culminates with a prize giving on Monday afternoon.
“We’re looking forward to being the host club this year and welcoming the sailors and parents from all Bermuda’s sailing programmes and overseas,” says Willie Forbes, the RHADC Commodore. “The young sailors, and volunteers, will all be pretty tired at the end of it but they will have a lot of fun.”