More on the Optimist Euro Champs


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.


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.


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!!


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


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

Entries online at

My Worlds


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



News from the worst of the best all the way from Optimist Euro champs, Crotone, Italy

Day 1
Boats out at 11:10. 1st fleet started at 12noon. I was in the 5th fleet which meant I had to be in the waiting area in the bay. We started at 12:50. My first race had wind over 20 knots with current. I didn’t performed well! Second race the wind dropped a bit around 15 knots. The fleet ahead of me did 3 general recalls. One under a U flag and second under a black flag. 5/6 girls didn’t start that race! I did a bit better. Third race the wind picked up again over 15 knots waves and current was still a challenge. I also chose the wrong side of the beat! I protested a boat because we collided. I learnt never to go into a protest without a witness! As a result, I got a DSQ.

Day 2
Arrived at the club at 10:00. The conditions in the bay was wind gusting over 25 knots and waves over 2 meters. The race committee decided to wait for the conditions to improve. At 15:50 my coach (dad) ordered me to change out of my sailing gear! At 16:00 the race flag went up! Thanks coach. I was in the second fleet. Waves sometimes over 2 meters and wind gusting around 20 knots. My boat was always full of water (salty yag) and I spent most of the race bailing! It’s physically exhausting! The good thing is, I sleep like a baby & don’t hear the snoring of my coach!!


This is a fantastic experience & a great learning curve!
Thank you to everyone for all the encouragement, I really appreciate it very much⚓

Ciao Chiara Fruet – RSA 1445

Results BOYS after 4 Races
Results GIRLS after 4 Races

From Oppie to L26

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1. Taft is sailing in The Lipton Cup, in South Africa. The most prestigious regatta in South Africa. He is the 3rd youngest, to ever sail in The Lipton Cup. The first, his cousin’s friend Daniel, the second, his cousin Ryan Barnardo, and finally Taft. They were all 13, and all from the same yacht club MAC.
2. The team did not make their weigh in, and needed a lighter sailor, to fill a spot, so they asked Taft to join the team.
3. He was weighed and added to the team, the day before opening ceremonies.
4. He was able to join the team, for he is a member of the MAC Club (Milnerton Aquatic Club).
5. The type of boat he is on is an L26. These boats are over 30 years old.
6. The regatta was gifted to The Royal Cape Yacht Club in 1909, by Sir Thomas Lipton (yup of Lipton Tea)
7. We were recently in Sri Lanka, the very place, Sir Thomas Lipton, began buying up tea estates, to support his vision, to bring tea to the masses.
8. Every yacht club, that participates in the regatta, brings water, from their yacht club waters, and they are all poured into a fancy, silver bowl and poured into the ocean.
9. The first day of the regatta, they were in first place, Just one thing in your article of facts…. on the first day they were coming 1st but later dropped to 2nd place, then three quarters of the way through the race the wind died and the race officer was forced to abandon the race.
10. The second day, they were off the line beautifully, when one of their opponents screamed that they were over early, fear of getting an OCS, they went back around the start line. They came from last to 9th.
11. The 3 day, they were doing great. They were sailing in gusts of 39 knots, this is 44.88 MPH.
12. Somehow their spinnaker (balloon type thing- that is a spinnaker) got snapped and got caught under the boat, and was tipping them over, they had to cut the spinnaker, to save themselves and the boat.
13. It is now, at the bottom of the ocean, in front of Table Mountain.
14. It is worth 15,000 Rand, which is a great deal of money. Another spinnaker has replaced the one at the bottom of the sea.
15. They ended up coming in 7th place, after all of that.
16. There are 3 more days of racing.
17. Taft has bruises all over his body, from hiking, running across the boat, knocking his knees on equipment.
18. He is on an opposing team to his cousin, who is sailing for UCT. (University of Cape Town)
19. Most importantly, he is having the time of his life!

Stephanie Buckley