“I stepped in this role quite late in the programme due to the fact that the previously appointed manager contracted Covid and had to step down. The Team Manager position is typically a parental role, and because my daughter was competing in the event it was decided that I should take over . . . ” Read More
Mark Sadler (Team Coach)
“At the end of the day, we did a good job of representing SA Sailing and SA Optimist sailing. We got respectable results, we acted well as a team, and we all wore our SA uniform with pride throughout the regatta. It was an experience that no one will forget and will be a stepping stone in each one of these sailors sailing careers, for sure . . . “Read More
Nicola Sadler (RSA 3207)
Elisa Falcon (RSA 1431)
“We had flown into Milano three days earlier and drove to the venue in a rental car. When we rented the car, we didn’t realise that there wasn’t enough space to fit all the sail tubes and be comfortable for the drive. So, we came up with the plan was to squash Theo in the back with all the bags. Then as soon as the coast was clear, we stopped at a petrol station, (or as the Italians call it: Autogrill) and took some pool noodles that we had and put them on the roof of the car. Let remind you, there was no roofrack. Anyways we tied the tubes to the roof and Theo and the rest of us were comfy again . . . ” Read More
Theo Scheder-Bieschen (RSA 1407)
The 2021 Optimist World Championship was an amazing experience involved, the event which was held in Riva del Garda in Italy was executed almost perfectly to accommodate the sailors and everyone involved. As soon as we arrived in Riva our team was blown away by the beauty and expansiveness of the lake itself, we were all very excited to be there. The sailing itself was a lot of fun and we even made into the team racing and managed to beat the German team which is a great accomplishment, I’m sure everyone that was there had the time of their lives and none of us will ever forget it.
We had the team arrive in Garda on Monday, 2nd of July. This enabled us to receive our charter boats for the regatta 2 days before the official measurement day and 3 days before the first race day.
This event is a long haul with 6 fleet race days and 2 scheduled team race days. If we were to make it to the team race finals this would mean 11 sailing days including our 3 training days.
Tuesday, 3rd of July, we received 3 brand new charter boats, two Blue 2 optimists and 1 Nautavela. Elisa used Chiara Freut´s old boat which was reregistered with a SA measurement certificate. After receiving the boats it takes a fair bit of time to get the boats set up correctly. Rake settings, Toe strap length, shock cord lengths, sail ties and set up on the spars.
Tuesday afternoon we got out with our chartered rib and got two long windward leewards in with a Rabbit start. The kids needed to get used to the lake conditions with short chop and get their heads around a different boat. We finished the day with a short video debrief.
On Wednesday we got two sessions out on the lake with the objective to test both sides of the lake. The first upwind of the race course is on one side of the lake and the second upwind is towards the opposite side and the wind is very different from side to side due to divergence off the mountains on either side of the lake.
At this stage we could already see the trends between the kids. Nicola sails the boat very upright and in a high mode. Sean sails lower and faster. Elisa was somewhere in between and Theo being just a little big for the boat, similar to Elisa but a bit slower.
Thursday we got the boats measured and got a quick afternoon session in to be ready for race day.
We made good use of the time available to be as ready as we could be for the first race.
For race day one, the fleet was split into four groups, Yellow, Blue, Red and Green. We had to share a rib with the Ecuadorian sailing team who had 5 competitors. We would tow all 9 sailors for around 40 minutes to get to the race course area. This would give our Yellow fleet starts a 20 min opportunity to get a feel for the breeze.
The coach boats are restricted to stay in the waiting area 150m behind the start line from the orange flag at 10 minutes to the warning. With sailors in all fleets the best I can do is paint the picture pre-start of what I could see up the course in terms of wind, line bias and course axis. We also have the start line divided into 4 imaginary zones 1, 2, 3 and 4. I could give the sailors an indication well in advance of their starts which zone or zones where the best options to start. For the less confident starters, Theo and Elisa, we worked on a zone that may have an area of low density to help them get off the line. For the stronger starters, Nicola and Sean, I could give them the ideal zone to start based on what I could see and they could deal with it based on that information.
From the coach boat I could see the starts but could not see any part of the race other than sometimes seeing the bottom gate rounding of the Blue and Red fleets providing that all the starts got off cleanly. Once the last fleet had started, the first fleet would be finishing and heading back to the start line to intercept the coach boat for water and food before their second race.
To understand what happened in the race as a coach you had to piece information together. The sailor feedback, the tracker and what you could see happening with the wind would be used to come to some sort of conclusion. Not so easy.
For the first 3 days, the qualifying series, things went as I was expecting. Nicola sailed consistently to be placed in the middle of gold fleet. Sean had some good moments but did struggle a bit with holding a lane which made it a bit tricky with a one sided race course. Elisa and Theo struggled to get to the front row of the start line in the first few races but improved immensely race by race.
It was tough, due to the high standard of the fleet and also because lake sailing is so specific with very little plan B options. The reality is they actually sailed very well.
So going into the fleet split, there was a little disappointment with possibly higher expectations but the reality is the placings were about right. Sean probably could have been a click higher up but one gold, one silver and 2 emeralds is sort of what you would be expecting, all things considered.
With two days of team racing scheduled we must admit we wondered if we would even qualify in the first 48. Turns out we qualified 41. That was cool by itself. With zero expectation we raced on Wednesday against Hungary as our first match. A loss as expected but they did a good job of keeping it close and it was not a white wash. Next up, against Germany, we expected to be going home as you can’t lose more than one match before you´re out. The kids did a marvelous job and out of the blue, sent Germany home and we had to race again. Our third race of the day was against the Netherlands. We lost this one but with a great effort. It was a successful day!
We sat out the second team racing day for the finals. No one other than the team racing teams were allowed on the water.
The final 3 days were tricky, to say the least. We had some unusual weather with some thunderstorms. The traditional southerly breeze was a bit mixed up.
The first day, we only got one race. With heavily pin end bias start to even out the start line and a must go right race course. Things were different. Not a lot of options. Nicola struggled with these starts with her normal conservative approach. Sean had some good starts but again struggled with holding his lane and getting forced in a direction he didn’t want to go sometimes. Elisa and Theo had some good ones. Elisa consistently chipping away, both of them struggling when the breeze got light. As we had wind ranges from 6-13 in some races and even on some legs of the course. Theo did well, the aim was to beat the boats he could and get back the 10 points he was behind to get off the bottom of the table, which he did very well, one step at a time.
Out of the 5 races in the final we had 2 Northerly, very switchy, races. Normally referred to as a casino. Roll the dice kind of thing. The other 3 races in 8-14 TWS. These where average races for us. In a championship like this you do need things to swing your way sometimes. To get one or two glamour results that catapults you up the result sheet. I think the team got good but average results. This meant we ended the regatta in a respectable standing. Just missing the odd standout race.
At the end of the day, we did a good job of representing SA Sailing and SA Optimist sailing. We got respectable results, we acted well as a team, and we all wore our SA uniform with pride throughout the regatta. It was an experience that no one will forget and will be a stepping stone in each one of these sailors sailing careers, for sure.
Well worth it!
Just a note of thanks to our manager Stefan. Who, with his experience with this kind of event, helped make sure we had sandwiches and signed the team in and out, with no penalties. He handled the commercial side and just did a great job of giving me the opportunity to do my job properly as a coach and the sailors the opportunity to fully focus on the sailing in a well prepared and relaxed environment.
A World Championship experienced with a good team, is a good world championship.
I could say that I had a good experience, but really, I prefer to say, it’s Worlds that should appreciate to have experienced me and my South African team. The team was made up by Mark as coach, Stefan as Team Manager and Sean, Theo, Nicola and I were the sailors.
Said that, the opening ceremony was amazing and held outside. It started with funny Italian music and the same crazy man who did the prize giving of the Meeting shouting in the microphone with a lot of enthusiasm. Afterwards, in alphabetical order, all the countries walked through the centre of Riva del Garda. All the sailors wearing team uniforms carried their flags. When it was our turn, we did encounter some South African tourists that cheered us on.
We had flown into Milano three days earlier and drove to the venue in a rental car. When we rented the car, we didn’t realise that there wasn’t enough space to fit all the sail tubes and be comfortable for the drive. So, we came up with the plan was to squash Theo in the back with all the bags. Then as soon as the coast was clear, we stopped at a petrol station, (or as the Italians call it: Autogrill) and took some pool noodles that we had and put them on the roof of the car. Let remind you, there was no roofrack. Anyways we tied the tubes to the roof and Theo and the rest of us were comfy again.
We arrived in Garda two days early, so that we could take delivery of the charter boats, train and learn about the venue. I was the only one in team SA who had her own boat, and when we went to measure, I was the only one underweight and had to add correctors. All boats had to be measured. It was one of the hottest days of the event and everyone had to stay outside the measurement shed in a queue with their boats and there was very little shade.
I must say the weather there is very odd. One day it’s raining while it’s still warm with no wind and other days is windy, raining and flooding the apartments of the Royal House, where we were staying. That night it rained so hard, and because the gutters were clogged, we ended up having 5 centimetres of water in the apartment. We took the spare bailers and bailed furiously until the apartment was dry again.
Because of the steep chop, sometimes our tows to the racecourse would last up to 45min. You’d sometimes see the committee boat just motoring past while we’d be constantly bailing water out.
Anyways, some days we would have light wind coming from the north. With that wind in the early morning, it was hard to get at least a race in, without having to postpone. The wind would normally come from the north and then would turn 180 degrees to the South, this is what the locals call the Ora (the Time). When the Ora or the southern wind comes through at 12:00, it pick up to 12 to 20 knots. What I had learnt from the coach and my own experience is that when the wind is strong the right is favourite and in lighter wind, the left and the middle right are better for the pressure.
As the qualifying racing days went by, some good, some bad, we qualified for the team racing, which for me was the highlight of the event. I was happy and excited that South Africa got into the team racing. During team racing only the teams who qualified were allowed on the water. Everybody else had to stay and watch from land. All teams had two chances: if they didn’t win the first round, then they’d have another chance, and if they also lost that round, then the whole team sailed back to land. Our first match was RSA vs HUN, and we lost. Then it was RSA vs GER, and we won, so we were given another chance against NED. In that race there was a lot of confusion and miscommunication, so we did lose and were sent to shore. But it was a phenomenal and exciting experience that day. Overall, it was tough, but looking on the bright side of things, we got to have a rest day.
This meant we could go and visit Venice! We started with breakfast all together and then Stefan, Theo and I went to visit this incredible city on water. It took us a three-hour drive and a ferry trip. We spent the whole day in Venice; we went on a Gondola and went to St Mark’s Square. By the time we had finished seeing the Bridge of Wishes it was time to head home.
The teams we talked with the most were Bermuda, Hong Kong, and the Americans. The Italian and the Bermudans were the teams next to us in the boatpark. I must say that the Italians did take a while to realize I was Italian. They also have a very PG vocabulary; you could spot Nicola and I sometimes smiling at each other, understanding what had been said by some Italian kid.
This event was very well organized, and the effort of the Coaches and Managers were great. In between races, it was hard to find the coach boat because from far away you could only see the color of the duck., not the country’s flag.
The Measurement shed was converted to canteen for the championship and we had all our dinners and breakfasts catered for there.
Sometimes, though, we were a bit late for breakfast, because we needed to wait for Sean to finish his Pronutro breakfast back at the apartment.
This regatta was an opportunity so see my Italian family. Charlie is a good and old friend of my parents, and he came to visit me on the last day of the Finals Series.
I had not seen him since I was 4yrs old when he came and visited us in SA. Charlie was a 470 helmsman and represented Canada in the 90s. My father introduced him to the team, so he took some amazing photos of us. Charlie has a very interesting way of talking with his two accents. One minute he has a very Italian accent, the next he is talking to you with a strong Canadian accent. While Charlie was there my results improved a little, but by then we were already locked in the final fleets. Anyways, it was wonderful seeing him again and I hope I can see him again soon. Chiara Fruet even came to visit us twice; she was nearby in Malcesine to train with her Waspz but came to have dinner with us and spent the afternoon taking pictures of us for our sponsors back home.
Also, my uncle Andrea, my aunt Elena and my cousins Eddie and Finn arrived to visit me with a Camper they rented out for the occasion. It made me feel happy and excited to see them there.
Unfortunately, the World Championship 2021 had to come to an end, and that meant saying goodbye to my good friend and teammate Nicola, who then went home to Spain, and to all the friends I made there. The team that travelled with me from Cape Town I would see later in South Africa.
The morning after the prizegiving I took off to Tuscany on the camper with Andrea and family and then to Rome where I met grandparents and uncles. I had a wonderful and memorable time with them after my Championship. On my trip back to Cape Town, at the airport I met an NBA player who was travelling to Tokyo for the Olympic Games. He was twice my height, literally. So, to sum it all up I have amazing, special, and everlasting memories of the Worlds in 2021 and maybe some unfinished business, watch out!
Team Manager’s report from Optimist World Championships 2021
I stepped in this role quite late in the programme due to the fact that the previously appointed manager contracted Covid and had to step down. The Team Manager position is typically a parental role, and because my daughter was competing in the event it was decided that I should take over.
It did help a lot that just a month beforehand I had travelled to Italy with Elisa to take part in the Meeting del Garda. That trip provided us with the blueprint to use for this trip.
An Optimist World Championship follows a very distinct structure from other championships. Each country enters up to 5 sailors, a coach and a Team Leader. Sometimes a third adult, a Manager, is entered. They are all entered, because the entry covers everything: meals, accommodation, and of course the entry in the competition. The events normally happen in a closed compound, and access is gained only by entered people who wear the event badge. The organizers take care of everything, from shuttling people to and from the airport to chartering boats and RIBs (these carry additional cost over and above the entry fee). Once your team is entered, you pretty much only have to worry about flights and some spending money, the rest should be covered by the organizers. In reality there are a number of tasks, small and big, that one Team Manager must quickly learn about and carry out.
Team and Travel arrangements
Our team was made up of 4 sailors, a coach and myself.
One sailor, Nicola Sadler, would be travelling from Spain where she lives with her parents and her father Mark Sadler, being the coach for the SA team, would be driving her to Riva Del Garda from Palma. Their trip was probably longer and harder than ours.
Elisa Falcon, Theodore Scheder Bischein, Sean Kavanagh and myself flew from Cape Town to Milano via Doha on Qatar Airways.
Due to Covid restrictions the amount of paperwork to be filled in at the airport and before boarding was quite phenomenal; we needed a whole 3 hours at the airport to check in, but once we boarded the plane we could enjoy quite an unusual amount of space. The outgoing flights were less than half full and it was possible to lay down and sleep on whole rows of seats.
Before travelling could commence, though, we had to go to the lab and get Covid tested 48 hours before flying and some packing arrangements had to be made.
A week before flying I fixed covid testing times and packing times. I wanted to pack two tubes with 6 sails. I wanted to have each sailor’s racing sail in one tube and all the training/spare sails in the other, so that if one tube got lost we could still all sail. The plan did not account for the fact that Sean still had not completed his sail development programme and was to carry 3 sails and a whole array of spars, so he ended up having all of his gear in one tube and the other two sailors shared other two tubes. Luckily no tubes were lost, so my plan did not need to get tested. Despite a generous baggage allowance from Qatar, we still had some overweight bags and had to perform a reshuffling show at the check in counter, where the heavy packers took advantage of the light packers’ residual weight allowance.
In the weeks preceeding travel I asked the families to prepare travel documents, medical insurance, pocket money, and gave some advice on what to carry and what not to carry.
At any rate, the flight to Milano was quite uneventful, save for a couple of false alarms of lost property.
In Milano we discovered that the rental car I had prebooked was a little too small for our purposes and we upgraded to a station wagon. We fitted reasonably well, tubes on the roof, for our three hour drive to Lake Garda. We arrived in the evening, directly at the house where we were booked to stay.
Accommodation and surrounds
Mark and Nicola were already there and had sorted the sleeping arrangements. The boys and I would sleep in the first floor apartment and Mark and the girls would take the third floor apartment. The building is a three storeys apartment block with 12 separate apartments. All were occupied by teams competing in the championships; we had Thai, Norwegians, Romanians, Latvians all in the same apartment block. Although the spoken languages may differ around the world, the smell of wet boots and wetsuits seems to be rather universally constant.
Riva is quite a small town, and from the apartment block to the sailing club it was no more than a 5 minutes walk. Oftentimes the sailors would walk to and from the club without an accompanying adult, and that was perfectly safe.
Mark had also brought from home two of his bicycles for a swifter commute and unless we had to carry some gear to or from the club we mostly left the cars in the courtyard. When we needed to carry equipment down, it helped that I was able to communicate with the carpark attendant in Italian. We quickly became friends and he would allow me to leave the car parked for long periods of time where only members of the organization should have parked. Speaking in Italian also allowed us to have the upper hand in other circumstances throughout the event, and the organizers remembered me from a month before too. Some things for our team happened faster in Italian even though everybody from the organizing team speaks very good English.
The club is one of the oldest and largest clubs in the country. It had already hosted an Optimist World Championship in 2013 and it was Norberto Foletti’s project to have it at his home club one more time. He was a long standing member of FVR and the President of Aico, the Italian Optimist association, for many years, but he died just a month before this event. FVR hosts on average 6 major regattas a year: European championships, worlds, or all Olympic classes National championships. They have a very well structured organization with several staff, and for them this World championship was just another event. Running on the heels of the Meeting it was a small event too.
Being in Europe, charter boats were not mandatory and two thirds of the competitors brought their own boats. In Team SA only Elisa had her privately owned boat, the other three were chartered. A mistake was made during the entry when 4 boats had been chartered instead of three, making it quite a mission to obtain the refund. The charter boats were supplied by Nautivela, directly from the manufacturer and Blue Blue, through SailingCenter, a Dutch charter company. We were randomly allocated a Nautivela for Sean and two Blue Blue for Nicola and Theo. All Charter boats are brand new and go for sale immediately after the event, quite reasonably priced. Most privately owned boats are very new too. There is an incredible assortment of manufacturers; Carter, Fighter, Winner, Baranowsky in all his different permutations, Faccenda, Nordest, Mc Laughlin, They are all there. I just did not see any Chinese manufactured boats, and I cannot say that any one manufacturer has the biggest share of sales, all brands were evenly represented and none is remarkably better that the others. The same can be said for spars, foils and sailmakers, there is a phenomenal variety of suppliers for all tastes. It is incredible to note how many manufacturers specialize exclusively in producing only Optimist parts or sails and do not chase other markets. Volume of sales must be large enough to justify such business choices. I had the impression that most new suppliers nevertheless are from Poland: that seems to be the new epicenter of Optimist production.
It must be noted, however, that Optimist sailing in Europe is an industry, not a leisure activity. Under the directorship of IODA every little aspect of every event is scrutineered and kept in check by rules and bylaws. IODA charges a fair amount to sailors, NAs and event organizers to generate enough income to pay salaries to secretaries, measurers and other staff and to fly them around the world from event to event. Likewise the club and National sailing teams are all similarly structured and run like pro football teams. Each team is accompanied by a Coach , a team leader and more often than not a second manager. They each have their own roles and their days quite filled with tasks. Very few parents could be seen at the venue, and the few that were there attended in an official capacity. To put things in perspective: the Italian team had Alex De Murtas with them, who was one of the hopefuls for overall victory. Alex is a FVR member, has been for generations. He probably lives within walking distance from the club. Never once has anyone of his family been seen at the venue. The Italian team (5 sailors, a coach and a team leader) lived together, ate together, trained together, went to bed at the same time, no external interferences. We saw them at every meal and had them near us in the compound, never did I see an Italian parent until the last day, when they all arrived. This arrangement is the same that is applied at every other regatta by every other team: the club teams travel with their coaches who drive the club’s van. This has created a legion of professional Optimist coaches who all run their programmes and logistics in the same way. There seems to be an unwritten protocol that everybody follows. All coaches know each other and are pretty much interchangeable. There is hardly anything to reinvent in the organization and structure of all the European teams.
Our setup was not as well proven as the other teams, but with Mark we quickly allocated each other tasks and we learned quickly how to structure our little army. Mark is not normally an Optimist coach, being the parent that drops his children at the gate of the club, and I had to quickly find out what was needed of me throughout the event. We started from the most important feature: the sailing. Our day programmes and schedules had to revolve around the sailing, be it training or racing, therefore Mark had priority in calling briefing times, rigging times, breakfast times and my task was to assist in any way so that he should focus only on the sailing. It was my task to submit our daily temperature checks, organize meals, laundry, purchases, signing in and out, delivering the trackers, filling up the water bottles, and running any errand that would make life easier for the team. I learned quickly and hardly had a moment of spare time. There was always some document or payment or enquiry to chase, and with 4 teenage sailors there were quite a few search and rescue missions to be undertaken for wetsuits, shorts, sunglasses, burgees, dry bags, etc. Any dream I may have hatched on the plane to sip afternoon beers on the club balcony quickly dissipated on day one. I tried to make sure that everybody had what they needed when they needed it and put on the back burner admin tasks which I took care of when the boats left the shore.
The first two days of the event are also measurement days. A never ending queue of Optimist enters one side of the shed to exit at the other end after all is checked to be compliant. With three new charter boats it went rather quickly for team SA. Only Elisa had too big a tolerance on her mast ring (for which I had a spare) and was 100 grams underweight. We applied correctors to her boat and all were ready to go. The measurement checks are quite strict, and quite a few boats needed some work to measure correctly.
Coach boats are shared between two countries to minimize the amount of traffic on the water. We originally requested to share with Spain because Nicola sails with the Spanish squad, but the request never reached the organizers and Spain was already paired up when we got there. We tried to go with Ireland because Elisa had worked with their coach already, but Ireland was also already paired up. I then met Michael, our Polish coach friend from Saldanha and TSC, and in a last attempt I tried to share the coachboat with Poland, but we would have had to forfeit our RIB charter fee because Poland was using a private RIB. This was an important lesson: coachboat pairing must not be left to happen randomly, we must make our request early on and make sure that the pairing is done correctly. It must be the coaches choice to pair up with someone, and the Manager’s duty to make it happen during the early entry stages. Organizing to go with with Poland early on would have saved us also a little bit of charter fee.
Anyway, we were paired with Ecuador and Mark was able to seize control of the RIB so that he could better manage our athletes. At the beginning it was chaos for both coaches, they had sailors in all 4 fleets. When it came to the Finals, the Ecuadorians had all sailors in one fleet, so it was easier for them; Mark had his sailors scattered over 3 fleets and had to become creative, asking the Spanish team to tow Nicola who needed to be out for the first starts. I doubt he had any time to watch any of the racing, because at any one time he would have had a sailor at the RIB in between races.
It had to happen anyway, but Covid certainly accelerated the process: there are no more physical notice boards. Everything (results, notices, protests) is posted on whatsapp groups, on the event microsite, or on the event’s app, which you must download when you register. Every sailor has their own online account where his/her personal communications, protests, etc are posted. There are also emails sent back and forth with the organizers, therefore it is unthinkable to take on the role of Team leader or coach without a smartphone. All communications happen very quickly, and people want results, or pictures before racing is even finished and WiFi can be slow, so I purchased a local SIM to be able to stay on top of things, that certainly helped. With Mark we also had VHF comms from shore to RIB, but we rarely used it, we communicated mostly via whatsapp. Also the Race Committee rarely used radios. Only during team racing did I hear them on VHF. Another app that one must install on the phone is the Track Track, that enables shorebound folks to watch the racing on a screen. It provides an accurate rendering of the results and positions, albeit with a 6 minutes delay, but it is not as accurate as the software used in Television to broadcast the America’s Cup. For the coaches it is sometimes the only way to watch the regatta, but it is somewhat ambitious to try and do some forensics of a race with it: you can’t pick up shifts and windspeed changes, and sometimes the marks are way off position. Still, better than receiving a telex.
The Africans bid
During the past year a group of South African parents started working on a Continental Championship bid to be held in Langebaan in 2022. I knew that, as Team Manager, it would be my task to present and market the South African bid at the IODA AGM. I was briefed and given the signed forms and sent off. I also asked my daughter Sara to prepare a 3 minutes presentation video, highlighting the merits of the chosen venue. I circulated this video on the Whatsapp groups for all other teams to see and that was the beginning of my canvassing campaign. Before the AGM I had to have two meetings, one with Susan, the regatta secretary, and another with the IODA Exco to promote our bid. I think it went well because they decided to bring our bid to the AGM. The AGM is something huge: 52 delegates attend, one for each country in attendance at the Worlds, and several more attend remotely. It looks almost like a United Nations meeting. The buffet lunch alone is a valid reason for attending. The usual things are discussed, budgets, rules, elections of key personnel, and then the venues for Worlds and Continental championships have to be voted 2 years in advance. We were voting for the venues of 2023 after watching the bidder’s pitches. Worlds and Europeans needed 5 subsequent revotes before the ties would be broken. Other continents, including Africa, went a lot quicker. We secured the bid for 2022, but in all honesty I cannot claim any credit for my presentation; we had no competition for our bid.
I emphasized the willingness from our side to have also non-African countries attend, and I put the Family holiday spin to it: come to South Africa for the family holiday of a lifetime and stay also for the African Championship. There is plenty of work to be done to put this championship together now, and we must not think that we are starting too soon. If we have to take away a lesson or two from what I have seen at FVR, we have to get going with the organization from now. Charter boats must be organized and delivered, RIBs must be sourced, venue hired, judges and RO contacted, deals must be struck with tourism boards and travel agents, and so forth.
The big shed
FVR has a 5000sqm shed just on the shore of the lake. This shed constantly changed purpose during the event. It started out as the measurement checks area: boats would wheel in from one end and emerge stamped and approved on the other side. Each team had an allocated time to bring all the boats and equipment, not sooner, not later.
Half of the shed was then converted to canteen. A catering company was in charge of serving buffet breakfasts and evening meals to all teams. Each team had a designated table and allocated time to come and eat; 4 separate shifts.
Another quarter of the shed was filled with wooden boxes for the teams to store their equipment. Each box was ¾ of a cubic metre and we used ours to keep tools, spares, life jackets, snacks.
The balance of the shed was used to store rigs upright for those who did not want to roll their sails every evening and for the coaches meeting every morning. Some evenings there would be some presentations for the sailors, regarding team racing, or other relevant issues like measurement.
This shed is also where every morning a small army of caterers would prepare the packed lunches and the team leaders would come and collect.
I spent a lot of time in this shed, if it wasn’t to collect or store equipment in the box, I was there to pimp our sandwiches that needed some boosting up from the initial recipe. I would have to go there to collect and deliver the trackers every day, of course I was there with our team for all the meals, and I ended up there because of the WiFi, of course.
As far as the racing goes, I did not see much of it. Obviously there was plenty of discussions, briefing and debriefing to attend with Mark and the sailors, where I quickly was brought up to speed, but my days were differently occupied. I was glad that we rented a car and I could have that mobility required to run some errands and carry sails and bags. Other venues for World championships have been run in resorts where everything is there and you don’t need to leave the compound, but Riva was a little more spread out, and to have access to something faster than walking was useful from time to time.
It was just a lucky coincidence that we had a Take Away Pizza Dude just 100 metres from our accommodation, because that allowed me to bridge the time between sailing and dinner with 4 feral kids. Almost every day we would pick up an Extra Large pizza to be shared during debriefing.
We were contacted by some South Africans who run a Windsurf Centre near FVR, and we were invited to go visit, but we never managed to take them up on their offer, that is how full our days were.
Team Racing and Venice
In fact the only spare day we had was the second day of Team Racing, because we did not make it past the first day elimination rounds. We still did better than expected, but a lack of experience in Team Racing led us to an early exit from the tournament. The only element to blame here is the small number of Optimist sailors in South Africa. Only a larger fleet would enable Team Racing, as it stands we would not have enough teams to practice.
For this rest day, some of us decided to rest and remain in Riva, while Elisa and Theo decided to join me for a 2 hour drive to visit Venice. We were there for 3 hours, had an ice cream, walked through the city, and went for a Gondola tour, then back to Riva.
I believe that if you travel to the other side of the world for a regatta you should make the effort to visit a bit of the country you are travelling to, and with Venice only a short distance away I thought it would be criminal to give it a miss.
Packing and getting to know new cultures
The last day of racing was followed by packing, returning charter boats, and prizegiving. While prizegiving and the customary exchange of garments was happening between sailors, Mark was loading trailers, I was haggling the refund of damage deposits and emptying our storage box so that we would all be able to attend our final dinner in the shed, where extra space was created to allow everybody to dine simultaneously.
My brother and his family came to pick up Elisa for an extra week of holiday in Italy, and I asked him to bring a bathroom scale along. I was not going to entertain the Qatar Airlines passengers one more time in Milano airport: I made my two travel buddies weigh and reshuffle their belongings before closing their luggage and weighed all the tubes to make sure we were within the allowances.
For the trip back it was just Theo, Sean and myself, and everything went smoothly.
For the past two weeks I had encouraged my travel companions to embrace some of the local culture, try Italian foods and drinks and generally appreciate the diversity. All my hard work came to fruition when, after checking in our luggage, with half an hour to spare, we decided to hit the food court of the Airport.
We settled down and enjoyed our Big Macs with fries and a Sundae to top it all off.
Following the excitement of the team racing it was back to fleet racing with the sailors competing in Gold, Silver, Bronze and Emerald fleets based on how they did in qualifying. Following her consistent top 20 results Nicola was comfortably in Gold fleet, Sean solidified his place in Silver fleet with his 9th place in the last qualifying race and Elisa and Theo were in Emerald.
Two races were sailed for each fleet in Wednesday. Starts were tough as always with the sailors fighting for every inch. The plan was to fight for first row starts near the favoured end of the line. Find a good lane after lane of clear air and sail on the lifted tack to the favoured side of the course. Easy on paper! Extremely difficult to execute in reality. There were bands of lifted breeze on both sides of the course and a relative header in the middle. Picking a side and committing was key.
Nicola quickly found out that there were no lemons in gold fleet and that it would tough whether you were front middle or back. She finished mid fleet in her first race in gold and an excellent 19th in the second.
Sean was a bit overeager in his first race in silver fleet and got a U-Flag and max points. In his second race he was reminded that while it is tempting to keep your head in the boat to ensure you are sailing fast in a tight groove, getting your head out of the boat, identifying wind shifts and clean lanes of air are what get you to and keep you at the top of the fleet. Unfortunately, he sailed on too many headers, in poor air at times and crossed the middle of the course too often. These are valuable lessons that are hard to learn training in small groups on the Southern tip of Africa. Sean finished a disappointing 49th. But as Jimmy Spithill said many times during the Americas Cup “If you are not winning, you are learning”.
Elisa and Theo both posted some better finishes in on the day. Elisa getting her first top 20 of the regatta with a 17th in the first race of the day and Theo a 40th in the second race of the day.
On Thursday the plan was to go for three races in each fleet. The start time was moved up a little and this gave the race organisers a chance to get a race in the morning breeze locally known as the Peler.
Nicola had a tough race as she seemed to be a little late getting up to the start line. She tried to escape on port but found too much starboard traffic. She sailed well to stay in touch with the fleet despite living in skinny lanes and being forced to the left side. In the end she lost a few places on the last beat and posted a disappointing 39. Being the smart sailor that she is, she will no doubt learn from this one.
Sean had his best start of the regatta and lead the fleet to the right. Unfortunately, the wind went a little left and there appeared to be a touch more pressure on the left. He did well to limit the damage and rounded the weather mark in 10th. Approaching the leeward gate he was up to 5th but lost a few positions making a late decision to go for the left gate (looking upwind) and rounding on the outside. The left was the correct side however Sean seemed reluctant to commit and put in too many tacks, crossed the middle and approached the finish on the starboard lay line. Had he committed to the left a top 10 was very doable, however he finished in 20th, a huge improvement from yesterday and a confidence boost going into the last day.
Elisa was sharp at times and finished in a creditable 31st while Theo struggled in the dying Peler and finished down the fleet.
There is a day to go in the regatta. The sailors will want to finish on a high note tomorrow. The race committee is asking for an early start and would like to get three races per fleet. After racing there will be a rush to hand back the charter boats and pack up, prize giving and then the greatest fun of all, trading! This is where the sailors swop their t-shirts, rash vests, caps and just about anything tradeable for those of their new friends from around the world. Great anticipation.
(Copied without permission from the Royal Cape Yacht Club Facebook page)