Optimist of the Month

Elisa Falcon – My African Championship

Let me introduce myself: I am Elisa Falcon, I am fifteen years old and I am proud to be the so-called grandmother of the Oppie Class in South Africa.  
This African Championship has been really a special and successful event. I think that the organisation of it was tough and a never-ending exercise for a large group of volunteers and parents, my father being one of them. He even took a couple of days off work to finish and prepare everything on time. I cannot put enough words to express how memorable and special everyone made this event be. Thank you!
I, on the other hand, was preparing for the racing days to come. Considering the weather conditions, with very light wind, which is strange in the Western Cape,  I did not do so bad at all. I sailed through the bad days and made the most of the good days. I had high expectations that I did not manage to fully meet, but I assure you, I’m satisfied with my experience. Cal Tomlinson, a friend of mine, told me that in these regattas you don’t walk away with your result; you walk away with the friendships created and the memories made.   I thank my roommates, Faith and Scarlet, the coaches, the managers, and the rest of the team once again.
Another thing that I was extremely happy about, was that one of the coaches was my brother Alex Falcon. He has taken a huge role in creating the sailor that I am today and having him as one of my coaches for my last Oppie regatta was, to say the least, a bonus. Alex was obviously there as my coach, not my brother, but I am grateful that he was there nonetheless.
I think we had some good achievements and Team Racing was one of them. South Africa doesn’t have a numerous sailing community, like other countries in Europe do. We don`t have the experience of big fleet racing, nor the numbers to do regular Team Racing training. Therefore, considering the circumstances as a team we achieved a lot on that day. Team RSA started strong: we had great, exceptional starts and could race with good tactics. Unfortunately, because a lot of us do not have experience with this specific type of racing, after more than two hours the three RSA teams got tired and lost a bit of team coordination and we immediately paid the consequences for it. Pity.  I would like to congratulate team three for making the podium anyway! 
The last day of the Regatta, a great friend, Olivia Purchase and myself, created our little graduation of the Oppie Class. We brought our elegant evening dresses on the coach boat and got dressed, after our last race,  while still on the water. We then sailed back into the harbour in our dresses and had many photos taken by friends and family. It was very fun.
As the granny of this Class, I hold so much love and pride for my Optimist kids. I’ve watched so many of them from the beginning, to now see them become the faces of the South African Optimists Class. I’ve watched them grow, succeed,  fall and try again for so long and so many times that it has been an honour to have been part of each and every one of their journeys. Again, thank you to everyone and the parents for making it happen. In particular, my super-dad Stefan Falcon, for being the best dad, friend and supporter.
In closing, I want to give many thanks also to my personal sponsor, Hybrid Composite, a company in Cape Town that makes superiorly light boat parts using composite materials. They are reknowned all over the world for their products reliability and robustness. Hybrid is currently involved in a major refit of the famous JClass Valsheda, for which they are building some of the largest composite deck hatches ever manufactured.

Meet Keagan Nel

Keagan will be competing this year at the Youth World Sailing Championships in Oman.

Keagan started his competitive sailing career at the age of 9yrs. Coming from a sailing family he grabbed every opportunity that came his way. He competed in his first Continental Championships in Algeria at 11yrs in the Optimist class.

Thereafter he represented South Africa at Continental and World Championships in Angola 2017 and Cyprus 2018. Keagan moved off the Junior boat to the Laser Radial Youth Class. As well as sailing on many other types of boats whenever possible.

He had a successful campaign over the past two years, collecting podium finishes in the Dart 18 Class Single and Double Handed, the Laser Radial Class, and the Youth Nationals. Finishing off the season as the highest-ranked sailor in his division.

The combination of these achievements resulted in him being selected for the South African Team to go to the World Sailing 2021 Youth World Championship being hosted in Oman from the 11th to the 18th of December.

He will be participating in the boys’ ILCA 6 class. The Youth Worlds is the pinnacle of a Youth sailors’ career with a 60 boat fleet from all over the world and is used as a feeder event for youth going into the Olympic cycle.

Keagan is very proud to have been re-awarded his Youth Provincial Colours and received the award for the Northern Region Youth Sailor of the Year and Dinghy Discipline sailor of the Year.

International Day of the ‘Opti’ Girl!

Tina Lutz (GER) Olympic 49er Silver Medal – 11 October 2021

International Day of the Girl provides an opportunity for us to confirm that the strength, health and empowerment of girls is important in our future.  If we empower girls ….everyone benefits.

Opti girls are strong, resilient, and talented.  The results of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics illustrate that girls who participated in past IODA World and Continental Championships can become Olympic Champions.

At the Tokyo Olympics all the women boat helm medallists had earlier participated in an Optimist World or Continental Championship. Six of ten of the winners of the Girls’ gold at Optimist Worlds 1995-2007 later won Olympic medals.

Optimist Gold Medal                                Olympic Gold Medal

1995-6 Lisa Westerhof (NED)                   470 2012

1997 Siren Sundby (NOR)                         Europe 2004

2001-2 Xu Lijia (CHN)                                Radial 2012

2003 Hannah Mills (GBR)                          470 2016-20

2004-5 Tine Lutz (GER)                             49erFX 2020

2007 Alex Maloney (NZL)                          49erFX 2016

As we celebrate International Day of the Gilrl, lets all help the next generation of girls get the experience they need so that they too can go on to become Olympic Champions like the girls and women before them.  The Optimist Class prides itself that our class is gender equal but getting girls started and keeping them sailing is a challenge. We need to do more to encourage girls to stay sailing. We challenge our Members to raise the bar and bring more girls to our IODA events, so that they too can gain the Opti experience needed to inspire them to stay in the sport of sailing in the future

Remember if we empower girls ….everyone benefits!

Article first published on the IODA website

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