WC Oppies in China

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6 Western Cape Optimist sailors arrived in China on Monday to participate in the Qingdao International Optimist Training Camp & Regatta. This amazing opportunity has been made possible by the Western Cape Government Department of Cultural Affairs & Sport (DCAS).

Nations competing: New Zealand, Russia, Japan, Singapore, Korea, Australia, South Africa and 10 teams from China. Total of 202 sailors participating.

Team Western Cape:
Rivaldo Arendse (Milnerton Aquatic Club)
Eurios Horne (George Lakes Yacht Club)
Ross MacKinnon (Milnerton Aquatic Club)
Damita Olsson (Milnerton Aquatic Club)
Hamilton Slater (Zeekoe Vlei Yacht Club)
Jared Tyler (Milnerton Aquatic Club)
Bev le Sueur (Vogelvlei Yacht Club) – manager
André Wollheim (Milnerton Aquatic Club) – coach

Departure


The events and sailing schedule:

Schedule

Tuesday 2 August

Here is a quick report on our trip so far.

We left in very high spirits from Cape Town and had a very pleasant flight to Dubai on a Boeing 777. The sailors all watched dozens of movies and played games on the on board entertainment system. A few had never flown before so the take off and landing were priceless to watch their faces. We landed at Dubai late evening and didn’t have time to explore before we took off again for Shanghai, this time on an Airbus A380. Most of us slept during the flight and as we traveled through the time zones and lost 6 hours we were woken up with lunch. We landed in Shanghai and the heat and humidity were very obvious however we were whisked into the air conditioned airport. We collected our bags and then went to find our sails.

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This is where the troubles began as the language barrier was an issue. English is now compulsory in schools in China now but most of the adults don’t understand a word. Bev went off to the baggage enquiries while we waited by the oversized baggage and the kids played a variety of soccer and rugby for about two hours. Finally they gave us a form and said they would send the sails to Qingdao when found. We went through and found a Chinese restaurant and had a wonderful authentic Chinese meal. We then went to the gate for our next flight only to find it delayed. They could not give us a reason for the delay or a time that it would take off and other flights for Qingdao were taking off. After a discussion with our contact in Qingdao we were reassured that this was perfectly normal for China. After a 5 hour delay we boarded a small airbus and it appears the Captain put on the Turbo as our 1 hour 40 minute flight became 45 minutes.

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We were met at the airport in the early hours of the morning by a delegation of Chinese led by Meng (pronounced Mung) and had a 40 minute drive to the hotel where we were checked in. The rooms are first class and the air conditioning a welcome relief. Qingdao is a huge city and makes Cape Town look tiny. Massive apartment blocks everywhere with beautiful gardens in between. Our hotel is in the “new” district of Qingdao built around 20 to 30 years ago as part of a planned expansion. Bev and Damita decided to go explore while myself and the boys had a shower and hit the bed around 6am.

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We all woke up at 12 and headed down for a lunch of KFC burgers and chips. We were assigned two 17 year old local high school boys as our guides and they showed us the way down to the Olympic Sailing Center. They were both quite knowledgeable about the Olympic Village and gave us a brief history. We were then shown the sailing area where we would sail from and the Optimists we would be using. The sea was very flat and calm with a mild ten knot easterly blowing across the bay. The boys were full of questions about the local sailing here. As we were walking back we passed around 20 local young children dressed in sailing gear heading for a sailing lesson. We headed back to the hotel for another shower and some relaxing time. We will be going to a local Chinese restaurant later for some local cuisine.

André Wollheim – Team Coach

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More on the Optimist Euro Champs

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Day 3

Wind gusting 35 knots. The race committee decided to postpone the race by 1 hour; and then again for 3 hours. At 16:00 we were called onto the water. The wind was incredibly strong and I was focused on NOT capsizing as many were around me! Whilst in the waiting area I watched as the Yellow boys fleet had 4 general recalls which resulted in 23 BFD! Just then my Vectran that connects my boom & mainsheet snapped!! Luckily my coach boat was close-by & David (Hungarian coach), replaced the broken piece within a minute. When I came to shore around 20:00, my face had a white salty film on it. This gives you an idea how high the spray was! Boys fleets completed 2 races and girls only 1. The boys had finished their qualification with 6 races and the girls with 5.

Day 4

Fleets were divided as follows: Gold, Silver and bronze for the boys. Gold and silver for the girls.

This day was the toughest of the entire competition. Wind gusting 30 knots and HUGE waves sometimes measuring around 3 meters. At 10:00 a postponement of 1 hour was called. Around 12noon both the boys & girls Gold fleets could go onto the water. They completed one race, the jury then gave the go ahead for the remaining fleets to race too. On a reach/broad reach coming out of the port it was really scary going over the waves as I couldn’t see what was on the other side. I was very proud of myself that I had gone out in these very tough condition as some competitors DNS or RET due to the wind and the waves. At the end of the day the boys finished with 9 races and the girls 8.

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Day 5

This day was the best day of the entire competition for me! Perfect conditions – no waves, medium winds and still some current though. I was more confident and very proud of myself as I had done two amazing starts. I was holding third position during both races but lost it all in the beat.

Conclusion

I would like to thank the Hungarian coach David Ralovich for all the great tips & guidance; and more importantly, coming to my rescue when my Vectran broke.

This was my first international competition with sailors from 46 different countries. An experience I will remember forever. Now thinking back to the 5-day competition, I’m happy to have had such tough conditions in the water. This definitely elevated my sailing skills & fitness. My next goal is to improve my strategy on the beat so I don’t loose positions after a great start.

English is the language spoken on the water, but when you have worldwide nationalities, some extremely funny words are spoken or rather shouted, by those not familiar with “starboard” it goes in rhythm like this….”hey, hey,hey”…,” hoi, hoi,hoi,”….hey-hoi,hey-hoi,hey-hoi!!

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Of Interest

I was fortunate to meet the Schultheis family – Victoria (2016 Optimist World Champ, Antonia (crowned 2nd girls Gold fleet at Optimist Euro Champ, Crotone) and 11 year old brother Richard crowned 2nd boys Gold fleet at Optimist Euro Champ, Crotone). One family who achieved podium results at the two most important Optimist sailing competitions in the world. Their secret – in the water 3 times a week throughout under supervision of the amazing coach Maurizio.

I look forward to my podium day!

Sailing for life! Just love it!

Chiara Fruet – RSA 1445

Results: http://www.clubvelicocrotone.it/euros/index.html

Oppie Clinic – August

Sailors from the South African Optimist team participating in the Africans in Angola invite you to join them at the KZN Grand Slam regatta from Sat 6th to the 9th of August. Vetchies Pier, Durban. Claire Walker the team coach will be running a clinic in conjunction with the racing. There will be a full training schedule for the 4 days. KZN Optimist has charter boats for those travelling form far.

For more info contact shellee@sailingcentre.co.za

Entries online at www.windsail.co.za

My Worlds

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In the Vilamoura Marina there is no wind at all, but me and another 250 Optimist Worlds sailors are rigged and ready to go out. Meanwhile we chat and crack a few jokes.

It is during one of these waiting sessions that Marco Gradoni (at 12 years of age he is the youngest sailor from the Italian team, he would finish 4th overall) tells me that in one of the races he has noticed I don’t roll enough during my tacks. In Cape Town, I explain, it is always windy, and hardly ever do we need to roll as they do in Europe. I ask Marco to teach me to roll like he does, and he talks me through it. This is one of the many lessons I have learned from the Italians during the last Worlds.

I represented South Africa, but because I was the only one going from here, I was lucky enough to be “adopted” by the Italian Team, coached by Marcello Meringolo. A lot of this has to do with my uncle, a sailing journalist in Italy that knows pretty much everybody involved in Italian sailing. When he made a few calls to ask for advice because I was travelling to Worlds, Marcello had no half measures: I would be treated as the 6th sailing member of the Italian team. That’s how it started, my parents sent me to Italy to my grandparents, and they drove me to Portugal for the regatta.

To get to Vilamoura I flew to Rome first, where I met Alessandro Mei, the Italian Team Leader, at my grandparent’s house. My grandparents drove me to the regatta, it took 40 hours to get there: We took an overnight ferry, we had a minor breakdown, we almost got lost, but we got there. Alessandro helped my Grandparents on a lot of issues that you don’t know unless somebody from your team has been there before: logistics and technical mostly. Like SIM cards, hotels, meals, measurements, and many others. Alessandro has always been very kind and helpful to me. The Italians came with their Optimist association president too, Norberto Foletti, who was always encouraging with everybody and took us all out to dinner away from the resort, where the catering was not always that great.

The starts have been a huge difference and hurdle for me. At home we don’t have so many boats on the start line. Even our biggest fleet at Nationals does not come close to the amount of boats there were on one start in Vilamoura. The European sailors are used to having hundreds of boats at local regattas, so they were better prepared in that regard. With such tough competition it took me a few days just to learn to find a slot on the line. Marcello explained to me how to gain a front line spot in order not to remain covered. If you start in second lane, your race is lost from the beginning, at that level hardly anybody makes mistakes and you don’t catch them again. Without any international experience, that is unfortunatelly what happened to me at the biginning of the regatta, and my final result was at the very back of the fleet.

 

I am not happy about my final placing, but I am happy that I went to find out what it is like to sail at the top level. Every day I tried to beat my previous day result, and tried to learn as much as possible. I totally missed my usual reference points, the people I normally sail against back home. Maybe, if we had gone as a team from South Africa, things could have been different, we would have pushed and helped each other. As it was, I was the only South African there and I spent the week trying to catch up with people that are on a different technical level, supported by a proper managerial structure. It also did not help that we raced the whole week in very light airs and ocean swell, whereas most of our training back home happens in stronger breeze and flat waters, no currents, no waves. In fact, when on the second last day the wind came in stronger than the usual 4 knots, and it built up to 8-10, that is when I had my best result. Who knows how it could have gone had we had more wind for the whole week?

I think I have learned more at this regatta than I would have learned in months of training here, and I made some new friends, especially the Italian Team, that took me in as one of theirs (I also came in handy for them with the English language when the protest forms had to be filled in). I was always with them: during briefings and debriefings on shore, I was at the Italian rubber duck inbetween races (which we shared with the Spanish team), we rigged and derigged together, we went to eat together and we spent together the time waiting for the wind to fill in.

As it turned out, the only Italian girl of the team happens to be the daughter of an old friend of my mother, the two of them having travelled together to (and competed against each other) several international regattas representing Italy in the Europe class. So, you see, history sort of repeats itself some 30 years later. I could not compete in the team racing, but I was happy to watch and support the Italian team that came in 3rd, behind Argentina and the winners USA. Afterwards we celebrated with a bottle of Champagne offered by the french measurer.

By then also my friends back home in SA were constantly demanding updates via Whatsapp because they were also supporting Italy. I had every member of the Italian squad sign the RSA flag that was flying at the back of the Italian duck for the whole week. As soon as I got home I put it up in my room to remind me of my Italian team mates and this wonderful experience.

Grazie Italia e forza azzurri

Alex Falcon – RSA 1432