2019 Monaco Optimist Team Race Report

One afternoon in late October 2018 my phone rang, on the other end was a very excited RCYC Commodore, Vitor Medina. He had just returned from the annual International Council of Yacht Clubs meeting where he had met Amelie Seyers from Yacht Club de Monaco. Amelie invited RCYC to send a team of four optimist sailors to the annual Monaco Optimist Team Race to be held in the second week of January 2019. How could I turn down an excited commodore?

I touched base with Jennifer Burger, who oversees the RCYC Academy. As RCYC doesn’t actually train dinghy sailors, given the nature of the club’s premises, we decided to see which RCYC members have kids sailing optimists. We came up with Eugenie Burger, Patrick Kessel, Theo Scheder-Bieschin and Sean Kavanagh. Unfortunately Theo had another adventure on the cards, the St Helena race, so we approached Kashief Davids, who regularly sails with the other three sailors at MAC to complete the team.

Excitement ran high and with time of the essence, the sailors and their families set about arranging all the necessary logistics. Kashief raised money for the trip through back a buddy and received a generous subsidy from Yacht Club de Monaco. Ullman sails jumped on board with a very generous sponsorship of four new optimist sails, kit bags, caps and shirts. Lars Kessel, Patrick’s dad, worked with RCYC to get team clothing for the kids, prior to the annual December shut down.

Given the young age of the kids at 12, 11, 10 and 10, it was decided that I, Michael Kavanagh, should accompany as coach / chaperone / parental rep. The format was team racing and we set about studying Chis Atkins excellent hand book and videos as well as doing team racing related on the water drills. Given the time of the year, most of our training took place in 20 knot SE winds, winds in Monaco would be sub 10 knots and the air temperature sub 10 degrees. Unlike fleet racing where its go, go, go as an individual, team racing involves an awareness of whether you are in a winning or losing position and quickly implementing a strategy accordingly. Many of the boat on boat maneuvers involve slowing the opposition to allow a team mate to pass and shoot up the ranking. It is a fantastic, less practiced aspect of our sport and great fun for the kids.

On 8 January 2019 we said goodbyes to the family and friends and boarded an Emirates flight for Dubai and onward connection to Nice. The kids settled in to enjoy Emirates entertainment, and strangely despite Emirates reputation, didn’t enjoy the onboard food. The approach to Nice was in the middle of the day and was spectacular, with the ocean beneath and snow capped mountains in the background. Great excitement. Our hosts in Monaco arranged an airport transfer to the apartment hotel in Monaco. We rode in a very fancy Mercedes Vito with the middle row of seats facing rearward. With black leather and tinted windows, we felt like rock stars!

On arrival at the hotel, we toyed with getting down to the yacht club to check out the lay of the land, however as the kids had little sleep on the flights, we decided that an early night was the way to go. Early the next morning after a good twelve hours sleep, we made our way down the hill to the yacht club. We were loaded with sailing kit, sails and excitement. Not quite sure which way to go, we figured down the hill to the sea was a safe bet. So off we set, down the road, through an ally way with a street market filled with fresh produce, across a garden, ducks and all and voila, we landed up at the Monte Carlo Casino and Hotel de Paris. We expected to see James Bond. Behind the casino was a lift down to an underground walkway and just like that we popped out at the yacht club entrance. It was all very fancy, with beautiful Christmas decorations adorning the hand rails of the elaborate stair case. The yacht club building resembles a super yacht with 5 or 6 decks. Amazing.

There were 16 teams from across Europe, the USA, Uruguay, China and Turkey. In the round robin stage, each team would sail against the other, followed by sail offs, and finals, time and weather permitting. All the boats were laid out in groups of four in front of the club house with country flags designating each team’s area. The boats, spars and foils were shiny new. Breakfast was served in the sailing center, chocolate croissants, fruit and fruit juice, very nice!

Once the deposit was paid we rigged up and following a short briefing, hit the water for the first races. It was immediately apparent that most of our opposition were older and more experienced than our young team, and that was reflected in the results, where we failed to score point  on the first day. Our spirits were lifted when we saw the score board and noticed that there were four teams who had not scored a point on day one. We now knew who our fiercest rivals would be. Conditions were challenging for us with large sloppy seas, 4-5 knots of wind and cold conditions, to us. One Belgian sailor had shorts on! Shows the power of base effects.

In the evening following the first day’s racing was a spectacular opening ceremony on the top deck of the Monaco Club house. There were jugglers, a stilt walker and a very elegant gymnast / dancer in a bubble. The food was amazing and it was a great opportunity to network.

Racing day two saw very light wind that failed to settle. The race officer did he best to get a few races in, but it was a struggle. In what turned out to be the final race of the day, we were up against Uruguay who also had a young, inexperienced team. In drifting conditions we were in a strong position with 1234, when the race committee abandoned, as they should have. Our spirits were up none the less and we were looking eagerly forward to the next day.

On day three the wind filled in with a solid 7-10 knots from the west. We got our first point against Uruguay and competed much better in some of our other matches. It was a long day on the water as the kids sailed from around 1100 – sunset at around 1700.

On the last day the race committee had to complete the round robin and then see what time was left for sail offs and finals. Unfortunately the wind didn’t show up until after lunch. We had our final match against a young Chinese team, a match we thought we had a good chance to win. The sailors sailed well until the final mark, at which point while in a winning position, we somehow found a way to hit the self destruct button and lost the match. It was a disappointing way to finish the regatta, but valuable lessons learned learned and experience gained.

With prize giving looming and time running short, following the completion of the round robin the race committee went straight to the final and third place match. Congratulations to winners Turkey, runners up Monaco and to Sweden and the USA who agreed to share third, setting aside an unfortunate protest for a collision in which one of the Swedish sails was torn.

In conclusion the trip was an amazing experience for our young sailors, we made many new friends and acquaintances, exchanged burgees and continued to build the relationship between RCYC and YCM. Thank you to YCM for the opportunity and support, likewise to RCYC, MAC, Ullman Sails, Harken and to our families and friends. We would love to return in a year, wiser and faster, to build on the experience.


Michael Kavanagh


Matt Ashwell – African Optimist Champion 2018

The final day of the 2018 Africans saw just one race. The wind was NE and quickly built from 12-14kts to 18-22kts as the race committee took some time to set the course. With wind building against an outgoing tide, the waves became short and steep, providing plenty of challenges for the sailors. The race was to be the best of the week for the South African team. Matt Ashwell ended the regatta in style, taking another convincing win. Karl Hofmeyer took a fine third place. Jude Stanley was 12th, Chiara Fruet 13th, Ingrid Holm 16th, Lena Holm 19th, Oscar Duys 31st and Rohan Childley 41st. Sean Kavangh failed to finish after taking a hard blow to his head when gybing. He was soon in an ambulance and off to the hospital for stitches. Not a great way to end a regatta.

Following race 8 the race committee hoisted AP over A signaling the end of racing for the day and the end of the regatta. Unbeknown to Matt, his dad Gavin, mom Jo and brother Oliver had flown in to congratulate and celebrate with him. They were on the water on a RIB, hiding low until Matt was alongside. When they stood up the look of surprise on Matt’s face was priceless, a truly memorable moment for the Ashwell family and SA Team.

At prize giving Matt was duly crowned 2018 African Champion and Ingrid took second placed girl. The SA team took third place in the team racing. When the national anthem was played for Matt it was a truly emotional moment, the culmination of and reward for years of hard work and skill building.

The event closed with an impressive fireworks display followed by some dancing and ‘creaming’ as the kids covered each other in cake.

The event was a successful one for Team SA. Many thanks to the organisers, hosts and sponsors. Congratulations to Coach Claire Walker and manager Jeanne Stanley on a job well done.

For four of the nine SA team members, this was their last Optimist regatta. We trust that optimist sailing has given Matt, Karl, Chiara and Oscar a love of the sport and that they will be sailors for life. With Brian Carstens and Keagan Nel (SA World’s team members) already on Dabchicks, the stage is set for the next generation of SA Optimist sailors to carry the flag to the Seychelles in 2019.

Jude, Ingrid, Lena, Rohan and Sean all had their first IODA Championship experience. They will no doubt be hungry for more.

Congratulations for Team SA, see you at Stilbaai, Vaal Dam in a couple of weeks for the Youth Nationals.


Michael and Heidi Kavanagh

Final Results

Africans 2018 – Update after 3 days of racing

Yesterday saw the resumption of fleet racing with 3 good races sailed. Following the passing of the front Easterly winds resumed, the sun was out and it was hot. Race 5 was sailed in 8-10kts. This was the chance for the lighter sailors to shine. Matt Ashwell won the race, continuing his dominant performance. Crossing the line just behind him was Sean Kavanagh. Sadly Sean was adjudged OCS. Rohan Childley sailed very well taking 14th.

The wind continued to build throughout the day, with 12-14kts for race 6 and 16-19kts for race 7. As the wind increased, so did the outgoing tide and the sea state became very challenging with short steep waves to deal with. The advantage shifted to the heavier and more experienced sailors. Matt Ashwell continued to sail brilliantly in all conditions although he was pipped to the finish line in both races, posting 2 second places. Rohan finished a credible 15th in race 6. Jude Stanley had a relatively consistent day posting results of 16,19 and 24. Ingrid Holm was sadly disqualified in race 6 for only doing a 360 penalty instead of a 720 when receiving a yellow flag from the on the water judges. She bounced back in the last race of the day, rounding the weather mark 4th and leeward mark 5th, before a final beat that saw her slip to 12th, still her best result in the regatta. That was enough to keep her as second placed girl in the regatta.

Sadly Karl’s DNF from race 4 (recall he crossed the line in 8th) was not redressed. The race committee gave precious little notice prior to the hearing. The notice was posted on the electronic notice board while team management were without internet access. Once notice was received, the parties rushed back to the club from the team hotel, dodging Maputo rush hour traffic. However the race committee were unsympathetic and could not see Karl in the video replay. As such his DNF stands. Life is tough! To Karl’s credit, he kept a brave face and with a smile, sees the bigger picture. He is amazing character and a fine young man.

Going into the final day we hope to crown Matt as 2018 African Champion. There will be a battle for bragging rights between Jude, Sean, Ingrid, who are lying 17th, 18th and 19th respectively. Rohan and Karl in 24th and 28th will be looking to mix things up with some good finishes. If Karl gets a second discard, he will shoot up the ranks and may well finish as second placed boy. Chiara, Lena and Oscar will be hoping to finish the regatta on a high and get into the top half of the fleet.

Wind on the last day is forecast to be more northerly and to build from 10kts in the morning to around 20kts later in the day.


Michael and Heidi Kavanagh

Download Results

Africans 2018 – RSA finishes 3rd in Team Racing

Just back at the apartment off the water, what a day.

The lighties sailed the second race of the day in a rapidly building wind that peak at 29 knots. They did a great job, knocking over Moz 3. After some indecision, the race committee then raised AP over H, sending all boats ashore. In less than an hour the AP was dropped and the D flag hoisted, signalling time to launch. We launched into a squall with cold hard wind and intermittent rain. After a considerable wait sailing in cresting waves (we saw at least Oppie get rolled over and had a few close shaves on the duck), the race committee reconfigured the competition given the time constraints.

The remainder of the heats were rattled off, with the RSA heavies beating the Mozambique 1st team. Luckily for Mozambique they got a pass to the next round as a lucky loser. The lighties then came up against Egypt and despite a gallant effort, were knocked out. The heavies came up against Oman and appeared to be knocked out too. The team kept a brave face and were soon delighted to hear that the result actually went in their favour as one of the Oman sailors was OCS.

Into the semis! In the semi’s they came up against a very good Angolan team. SA looked to have the better of them until a really strong blow hit mid race. The Angolans were better able to deal with it and pipped us to the post. In the 3rd place sail off SA came up against Egypt. We were in a skinny winning position with 1,2,6,8. Karl was number 6 and had three Egyptians trying to send him to the back. He sailed for his life, with his fitness and strength paying off. Instead of falling back he drilled all of them and ended the race third. SA taking a 1,2,3 in the race, sealing a podium in the team racing.

Awesome to watch, well done team. Ironically Mozambique capitalised on their lucky loser status and went all the way to the final, winning it against Angola. Very happy for the home team. Tomorrow back to fleet racing with a little less wind forecast.

Michael Kavanagh

Team Racing Results

Africans 2018 – Update after 2 days of racing

Hi Guys, here is an update from the Africans in Maputo

First and foremost the team is in great spirits. The kids are having loads of fun. Team management have been efficient and Claire is doing a first class job as coach.

Conditions have been challenging, with strong wind, steep, short chop and tidal flows to deal with. The resilience and enthusiasm of our sailors has amazed me. They are all fired up each morning and come off the water beaming each day.

Tide is definitely a factor. On day 1 in race 1 the out going tide was against the wind, hence all the black flags. During race 2 tide was slack and in race 3 tide was with the wind making the weather mark rounding sports. Yesterday the wind swung around from NE to S and wind was with tide in the race. It will be similar today.

The bay is shallow. Max depth on the race course around 5m and some boats reported hitting sand banks with their boards in the beat on day 1. Chop is short and sharp. Hard work upwind with proactive body movement needed. Downwind awesome surfing but always a risk of burying the nose in the wave in front. This has happened quite frequently with the light sailors in strong wind.

Matt Ashwell has been outstanding, securing four firsts in the four races completed so far. He is fast, strategically and tactically astute. Ingrid Holm has sailed a solid regatta so far, and is handily placed to compete for first girl. The Mozambican sailor Denise Parruque is having a great regatta and once she gets to discard her black flag from the first race will comfortably lead the girls, with Ingrid in second. However one more mistake from Denise and Ingrid is waiting to pounce.

Sean Kavanagh and Jude Stanley are placed just outside the top 10. Both light sailors, are doing remarkably well. With lighter winds forecast for the last two days of individual racing, they should be top 10 contenders.Karl Hofmeyer is similarly well placed, assuming he gets to discard his black flag in race 1 and mysterious DNF (he crossed the line 8th) from yesterday.

Rohan Childley, Oscar Duys, Lena Holm and Chiara Fruet will all be looking to break into the top 20 when individual racing resumes tomorrow.

Today is team racing. The wind is still in the South, but has moderated overnight, with around 16 knots expected. SA have two teams entered, the heavy weights: Matt, Karl, Chiara, Ingrid and Oscar and the Light weights: Jude, Rohan, Lena and Sean. After an entertaining team racing seminar by the legendary Chris Atkins last night, the teams are fired up and raring to go.


Michael and Heidi Kavanagh

Results after Day 2

Photo Gallery