Bermuda's best youth sailors will once again have the enviable pleasure and ultimate challenge of competing against the world's best Optimist dinghy sailors in the 2008 Renaissance Reinsurance Junior Gold Cup, October 9-12, sailed on Bermuda's Great Sound and in Hamilton Harbour adjacent to the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. This year, invitations were sent out to the Optimist Dinghy associations of 16 countries on 5 continents in an attempt to lure their best "Opti" sailors to our shores during the second week of October.
This international regatta in Bermuda is a unique opportunity for local sailors to compete against the best Optimist sailors in the world in our own waters. It is the 6th year that Renaissance Reinsurance has sponsored this event, providing the financial support to fly the guest sailors to Bermuda at no cost to themselves and providing them with charter boats and equipment required to compete. The international youth sailors, ages 13 to 15, are selected by national Optimist associations. Once in Bermuda they are hosted by local families and gain an insight to Bermuda culture by spending a day in school with their hosts.
The backdrop of the King Edward VII Gold Cup match-racing event running concurrently with the youth event provides the real bonus for all the kids entered in the regatta... they are surrounded by their sailing heroes when not on the water. The young sailors attend the daily Gold Cup press conferences and mix and mingle among the teams competing in the main event. World-renowned sailors and Americas Cup veterans such as Ed Baird, Torben Grael, Dennis Conner, Russell Coutts and others have given freely of their time by participating in youth sailing clinics, explaining the finer points of sailing and sportsmanship.
In 2008 the young sailors will meet Ben Ainslie (GB), winner of multiple gold medals in the Olympics and the eight of the top ten skippers on the World Match Racing Tour including Mathieu Richard (FRA) and Ian Williams (UK), ranked as the #1 and #2 ISAF Open match racer in the world and currently ranked #3 and #1 respectively on the World Match Racing Tour. Sebastian Col is #3 on the WMRT. There are twenty-four sailors representing thirteen countries in the King Edward VII Gold Cup presented by Argo Group.
Bermuda Optimist Dinghy Association (BODA) past president Ron Stan summed up the Ren Re Junior Gold Cup saying, "It's a fantastic opportunity for Bermudian and invited international sailors to compete against one another on the water, and after the racing, have the chance to meet with the best match racers in the world. The senior sailors are always happy to hold informal discussions with our Opti sailors about rules, racing tactics and their sailing experiences.
"Staying with the locals is a great cultural and life skills experience for all parties. We had five Japanese Opti sailors stay with us during another event, and I can tell you that we all learned a lot from that week," Stan said. "This regatta kicks off our racing season here in Bermuda," said Stan. "It involves various qualifying series for the International Optimist Dinghy Association (IODA) championships, such as the Worlds, North Americans, South Americans and Europeans."
The Renaissance Reinsurance Junior Gold Cup plans for four fleet races per day on Great Sound starting on Thursday, October 9th. The final day, Sunday, Oct. 12, will see the championship sailed on Hamilton Harbour during the final rounds of the King Edward VII Gold Cup, if time and conditions allow. The Bermuda Optimist Dinghy Association thanks Renaissance Reinsurance for sponsoring the Junior Gold Cup for the sixth consecutive year and thanks the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club for their support of junior sailing in Bermuda.
The Optimist Dinghy is a 7' 9" square bowed, sprit–rigged boat designed by Clark Mills of Clearwater Florida in 1947 for children under 16 years of age. After a number of modifications over the years it became a strictly controlled one-design class in 1995.
Today "Optis' are sailed in over 110 countries by over 150,000 young people and is the only dinghy approved by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) exclusively for sailors under 16 years of age. At the Athens Olympics over 60% of the skippers and 70% of the medal-winning skippers were former Optimist sailors.
The story of the Opti in Bermuda
The story of the Opti in Bermuda started in the early 1970's when Carlos Bosch introduced home-made wooden kit Opti's to families at the Spanish Point Boat Club. Bermuda's first Optimist Worlds team participated in the World Championships in Sweden in 1972 and then again in Switzerland in 1974. In 1998 the parents of Bermuda's Opti sailors officially agreed to form an organization to be called the Bermuda Optimist Dinghy Association (BODA).
Since those early days the Association has become a registered Bermuda Charity. Soon after BODA was formed, a team traveled to the Worlds in Portugal in 1998. Bermuda has entered a Worlds team every year since then with results in the top twenty in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2007. Today Bermuda also sends teams to IODA regattas in North and South America and often Europe.
Other non IODA events such as the US and Canadian National Championships, New England Championships and Orange Bowl events have seen Bermudians winning or placing very high on the leader board. Some of Bermuda's best adult sailors today such as Stevie Dickinson, Zander Kirkland, Katrina Williams, James Doughty, Jesse Kirkand, Gareth Willaims and Rudy Bailey learned the world-class skills necessary to enable them to represent Bermuda in other classes from their start in the "Opti".
Club and WaterWise programmes train future Opti stars
Future Bermuda Opti stars will come out of the local club programmes and also the WaterWise programme. Three hundred eleven year olds in Government Middle Schools learn to sail as part of their academic curriculum each year.
The WaterWise educational tool is for all Bermuda's Middle School children who would never otherwise have a chance to learn water skills. Everything they study in their classes is related to the WaterWwise theme. They calculate, experiment, write, draw, sing, study and play the culture of seamanship. Swimming, paddling, rescues, CPR and the fundamentals of being under sail are practiced at school before they ever go on the water.
When they do hit the water, they are supervised closely but go solo, completely on their own. For everything they either do or don't do, there is an immediate response that they have to deal with. Experience shows that after completing WaterWise, their academics and deportment show substantial improvement. It is an educational experience they will never forget.
Bermuda WaterWise started in 1999 as collaboration between the Bermuda Sailing Association, the Bermuda Ministry of Education, the Bermuda Ministry of Youth Development, Sport and Recreation and the US/NZL based WaterWise Educational Foundation (WEF). In the spring of 2000 came the pilot group of 20 children. It has been growing ever since.
WaterWise founder Gus Miller has used the Bermuda model for other programmes around the world. Miller says, "With , Bermuda's children will regain their great maritime heritage. A portion of each student group develops a gift for sailing, and from them will come Bermuda's future." 3 of Bermudas top Optimist sailors in 2008 where introduced to sailing via the WaterWise Programme.
BRIEF BIOS of international entries
Ian Barrows – US Virgin Islands (ISV) 2nd in Worlds, 1st in SAs 1st in Scotia Bank #1 sailor in ISV – only 13
Just van Aanholt – Curacao (CUR) (also 13yrs) 13th in SAs, 24th in Nas
Lucia Falasca – Argentina (ARG) – Winner of Argentine Nat'l Champs last month. 11th in NAs, 2nd female, 24th in SAs, 5th female
Balder Tobiasen - Denamrk (DEN) – 8th at Worlds 1st in Italy at Trofeo Marcello, 3rd at KABB Regatta in Spain, #1 Danish ranked sailor
Jesper Gunneling –Sweden (SWE) 87th in Worlds, 19th in Lake Garda,(largest opti regatta), top Swedish sailor
Guido d'Errico – Italy (ITA) 49th in Worlds, 2nd in Trofeo Marcello
Fernando Monllor – Puerto Rico (PUR) 18th in Worlds, 20th SAs, 22 in Nas, member of the PUR Team Racing team, one of the best teams in the World
Duncan Williford – USA winner of US Team Trials, member of US Worlds Team Christopher Williford – (twin brother) winner of US Nationals, 32 in SAs
Douglas Campbell - Australia (AUS) 1st in Western Australia Champs, 8th Australia Open
Julien Fougere – Canada (CAN) – Canadian Natl Champion, member of Canada Worlds Team
Sam MacKay – New Zealand (NZL) 19th at Worlds, 2nd at NZL Nat'ls Sister Olivia Mackay – 11th at NZL Nat'ls
Jamie Diamond – Great Britain (GBR) top ranked Brit, member of GBR Worlds Team
Frederick Nygaard – Denmark (DEN) 2nd in Dutvch Youth Champs, 2nd at Danish Open Champs, 79th at European Champs
Brian Bulhoes - 2007 Bda Natl Champs (BNC) - 1st, 2008 Worlds - 26th, 2008
North American Champs (NA) - 42nd, 2008 South American Champs (SA) -18th.
Owen Siese - 2nd BNC, 62nd Worlds, 56th SA,
Kalin Hillier - 3rd BNC, 61st Worlds, 44th NA ,
Christopher Sposato- 5th BNC, 208th Worlds, 95th NA
Mackenzie Cooper - 7th BNC, 125th NA , 97th SA,
Dimitri Stevens - 8th BNC, 96th NA, 44th SA
Kyle Burgess -10th BNC, 118th NA
Raheim Steede - 12th BNC,
Sam Stan - 13th BNC,
Makai Joell - 14th BNC,
Michael Barit- 16th BNC,
Antonio Bailey- 17th BNC