2021 Optimist African Championship CANCELLED

IODA has been informed by the organizers of the 2021 African Championship that was to be held in Alexandria, Egypt from September 3rd to 10th, that due to the lack of time and the inability to provide the required charter boats for the championship at the present time, they will not be able to organize the event this year.

The past 18 months have been extraordinary and the pandemic still continues today, so planning any IODA Championship continues to be very challenging. 

IODA respects their decision and looks forward to coming to Alexandria, Egypt again in the future.

Stefan, Mark, Nicola, Elisa, Sean & Theo – Optimists of the Month July 2021

Worlds Team RSA 2021. Mark Sadler (Coach), Elisa Falcon, Sean Kavanagh, Theo Scheder-Bieschen, Nicola Sadler, Stefan Falcon (Manager).

Stefan Falcon (Team Manager)

“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)

Nicola, Elisa, Theo, Sean & Mark.

“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.

Sean Kavanagh (RSA 1439)

 

A Coach’s Perspective – Worlds Team RSA 2021

Preparations

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.

 

Qualifying

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.

 

Team racing

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.

 

Finals

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.

 

Summary

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.

Mark Sadler July 2021

 

Alex Kuhl BRA 4090. Optimist World Champion 2021

My Worlds – Elisa Falcon

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.

Elisa Falcon with a port start at the World Championships in Italy.

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!

Thank you to everyone who made it possible.

20 July 2021