Extended Optimist family heading to Sail Melbourne

The Optimist fleet at this year’s ISAF Sailing World Cup – Melbourne has rocketed to major international status with the inclusion of representative squads attending from China and New Zealand, to challenge the estimated 100 Australian entries.

For four days this coming December, 11-14, young Optimist sailors will be in the company of their Olympic heroes, both decorated and those vying for selection to the Rio Games in 2016, on Melbourne’s vast Port Phillip for the world class fixture.

The Optimist class is reportedly the fastest growing single-handed dinghy class in the world, which is designed for girls and boys aged between 8 to 15 years. “A bathtub that breeds the best sailors” is one description of an Optimist the class proudly promotes on the International Optimist Dinghy Association (IODA) website.

The countdown to next year’s 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli moved World Cup organisers to extend an invitation to the New Zealand’s Optimist association, NZIODA. NZIODA is now going through the process of selecting a team of 10 Kiwi Opti sailors to travel to Sail Melbourne under a new exchange program.  The partnership encourages Australian and New Zealand Optimist associations and sailors to support each other’s major events.

President of NZIODA Angus Haslett is very appreciative of the ISAF Sailing World Cup – Melbourne's offer to the Kiwi team. “An exchange program is a fantastic way to develop our young sailors and to do this affordably, which is absolutely key. Providing a boat and accommodation reduces the cost and removes a lot of the logistical challenges. NZIODA hopes 10 Australian sailors will visit NZ for either the Auckland Optimist champs in late January or Junior Sail Auckland in early February, where the reciprocal offer of a boat and accommodation has been made.”

Relations with Australia’s neighbours across the Tasman Sea were further cemented with the announcement of a partnership between Sail Melbourne and Sail Auckland. ISAF Sailing World Cup – Melbourne event director Mark Turnbull OAM says, “The event has invited and is providing free entry to all Yachting New Zealand Olympic and Development Squad sailors and in return they are doing the same for the Australian Sailing Team and Development Squad for next year’s Sail Auckland Regatta.

“It’s all about supporting the events in this region to make it compelling for the rest of the world to come and line up against the strength of the South Pacific contingent.”

A separate exchange program with Qingdao (an China’s leg of the ISAF Sailing World Cup) is for the first time going to deliver a six person squad to Melbourne to be part of the Optimist fleet, likely to be 100 plus. Last year’s fleet tally was 103. Under this exchange program six Victorian Optimists sailors (and parents) travelled to Qingdao, China for a training camp and regatta back in August.  Now China is reciprocating and sending a team to support the Sail Melbourne.

For interstate and international Optimist sailors considering a entry into the Club Marine Optimist Series, comes the news that OziOpti, Australia’s official charter boat supplier to AIODA, is sending a container load of 40 brand new Optis direct to Melbourne for charter. Further details of boats available to charter are on the OziOpti website: http://www.oziopti.com.au/charter

Prior to the Optimist’s four-day series, an invite-only coaching clinic will be run for international and some interstate Optimist sailors. Australian national team and Victorian Optimist state coach, David White, will head up the clinic.

On the host state’s chances among the busy Optimist fleet, White holds Australian team member, Nick Joel, in high regard. Identical twins Lily and Matilda Richardson made the state team recently and the 12 year-olds, who commute more than three hours each way on weekends from Albury-Wodonga to train at Black Rock in Melbourne, are names to watch out for in the future White suggests.

The current Australian Open Optimist champion, Otto Henry from Woollahra Sailing Club on Sydney Harbour, sealed the NSW state title this month at the Yachting NSW Youth Championships. He’s now aiming for the AIODA International Optimist Open and Australian Championships.

In the week prior to the ISAF Sailing World Cup – Melbourne is the relaunched Sail Sydney regatta. Regatta Directors have worked cooperatively to schedule racing to allow competitors enough time to compete at both events, prior to heading West to compete in the Australian Youth Championships and various other class Nationals that are being held in Perth across the Christmas/New Year period.

Competitors in the ISAF Sailing World Cup – Melbourne and Club Marine Sail Melbourne Invited Classes are able to secure a discounted transport package from Melbourne to Perth and return to enable easy shipping at the conclusion of the World Cup.

“Australia’s youth circuit is a healthy training ground fostering strong participating levels in a fun outdoor sport,” Turnbull adds. “The nation’s gold-medal haul at the London Olympic Games two years ago definitely stirred plenty of young sailors who are now aiming for the pinnacle. For those rising stars the ISAF Sailing World Cup – Melbourne is an important stepping-stone to International success.

“As well as a fantastic competition opportunity the Optimist kids and all those sailing in the youth classes at the world cup event will be in close quarters with some of the biggest names in the sport right now, including finalists for the ISAF Rolex World Sailor and Australian sailors of the year, Mat Belcher and Will Ryan.”

The Notice of Race for the team competition is available here.

Competition for both Olympic and Invited classes begins the following day, Monday December 8 at Sandringham Yacht Club, the host club for the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup – Melbourne.

– Lisa Ratcliff

M.O.S.S Australia