Optimistic start to Yachting NSW Youth Championships

Botany Bay, just south of the Sydney CBD, is the arena for the Georges River 16’ Sailing Club hosted Yachting New South Wales Youth Championships over this October long weekend.

More than 300 sailors are participating in the annual event, October 4-6, 2014, making it one ofthe largest youth regattas in the country. Interstate support for the NSW titles is on the rise; particularly in the Optimist class given GRSC has been nominated to host the 2016 Australian championship.

West Australian Optimist sailor Isabelle Kenny has collected many more trophies than her time in the class intimates. This year alone the 13-year-old, with only two and a half years in Optis, clean-swept the First Female Optimist Sailor category in the WA, NSW and Queensland open state titles.

Fremantle Sailing Club is hosting the 2015 AIODA International Optimist Australian and Open Championship next January and Isabelle and fellow West Australian sailor Campbell Stewart have made the journey to the NSW states to scout out the main competition among the 56 strong gold fleet line-up representing the ACT, Victoria, NSW and Queensland.

“NSW has really upped its program,” says Isabelle’s mum, Liz Kenny. “We’ve come over to check out the scene.”

Her daughter is hoping to finish First Female at the nationals and for a top five result on home waters to qualify for the 2015 Optimist world championship in Poland in August. Kenny’s time in an Opti is ticking down due to the class’ upper age limit. Once she hits 16 her focus and obvious talent will swap over to a 29er skiff.

The Optimist class racing at the Yachting NSW Youth Championship has been broken into three categories; open, intermediate and green fleet. Rather than individual club coaches, who are usually parents, the green fleet is being coached this weekend by two young and way more cool coaches appointed by the Australian International Optimist Dinghy Association.

Connor Campbell and Hayden Warren are looking after 17 young Opti sailors starting from nine years of age and walking them through the steps of a regatta without the pressure of on-water results. “It’s the first step towards more serious competition but there’s no full on racing,” said Campbell. Today’s Green fleet group was taught how to sign on and off at the regatta office and contested one race. Briefings, guessing name drills and learning boat parts via games rounded out day one. So what was the best part of their day? No tears! An excellent result said a relieved Campbell.

Racing for all classes commenced this morning between Ramsgate Beach, south of Brighton Le Sands, and Kurnell. The Flying 11s and Optis raced off the same start line closer to the eastern shoreline and the Laser 4.7s, Laser Radials, 420’s and 29ers completed their four race schedule further west, on the Kurnell side of the vast expanse of Botany Bay.

North-easterly breezes at 10-13 knots kept the chop manageable for the many lightweight youth sailors. At 15 knots the bay really starts to kick up say the locals. There was still plenty of spray flying and the opportunity to bail out the saltwater was taken on the spinnaker runs. Driving, trimming and bailing water while also guarding your place in the fleet is seriously hard yakka, particularly for the single crewed Opti sailors.

The Yachting NSW Youth Championship is more than focusing on the top scorers. It’s about family time; plane trips from far away ports and road trips from other states and local Sydney suburbs, and meeting up with friends made at previous regattas.

On the water kids are chatting and calling out to each other. At the race finish the volunteer race management team – there are 70 of them on the water this long weekend spread over three courses and seven classes – are saluted with a wave and a ‘thank you’ by the appreciative youngsters. 

And it’s not just the kids enjoying the social side of the sport. Parents in RIBs tracking their child’s progress chat from boat to boat. Ashore other parents mingle around the club while they wait for their progenies to return to regatta HQ.

Principal Race Officer Andrew McLachlan pushed all fleets into a fourth race today, knowing a significant temperature rise to summer levels of 30 plus is forecast to tie in with much lighter winds for the remaining two days.

On the location McLachlan, who is also GRSC Commodore, said, “There is nowhere else like Botany Bay with its true breezes. It’s not like Sydney Harbour… there’s no one else out there, which means fair sailing, and the amount of beach and grounds around the club mean we can park and launch hundreds of dinghies.”

The state youth championship is run under the auspices of Yachting NSW, a not for profit organisation responsible for the administration, promotion and advancement of the sport of sailing at all levels throughout NSW. Gill and Nautilus Marine are keen event sponsors.

Results will be available here.

 Lisa Ratcliff/Event Media

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