Matt Ashwell – African Optimist Champion 2018

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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