Huge fleet readies for Optimist challenge
More than 100 Optimist dinghy sailors from six countries will set sail from the America’s Cup Endeavour West Fort in Dockyard to compete for the Colonial Bermuda National and Open Championships this weekend.
Organised by the Bermuda Optimist Dinghy Association and hosted by the America’s Cup Endeavour Programme, the regatta will be the largest fleet ever assembled to sail for a Bermuda national championship.
Numbers for the championship fleet this year have been bolstered by the high level of interest from BODA’s American counterpart, the United States Optimist Dinghy Association, which is sending 20 sailors.
Fifteen top sailors from the US National Optimist team are registered, including Stephan Baker, the 2016 North American and US national champion from Florida. Also entered is fellow Floridian and 2015 Orange Bowl champion Bella Casaretto.
Other top sailors registered in the star-studded field include Kamil Manowiecki, 2016 Polish national champion as well as the top male and female sailors from Canada, Jack Gogan and Maya Heidenreich. Rounding out the international fleet is a small group from Belize and the Cayman Islands.
Local sailors with their eye on the podium will certainly include Ahzai Smith, hot off his top Bermuda finish at the RenRe Junior Gold Cup last month. Other contenders in the 75-boat Championship fleet will be Jordan Etemadi, 2015 BODA Sailor of the Year, Christian Ebbin, who has finished as second and third-ranked Bermudian in the Junior Gold Cup, Sebastian Kempe, the recent Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Autumn Series winner, and leading local female, Leyli Walker.
Equally as exciting will be the Colonial Bermuda National Green Fleet Regatta, which comprises 64 beginner racers, including 46 graduates from the America’s Cup Endeavour East and West locations.
With the help from a grant from BODA, these sailors are excited to enter the regatta, marking the first anniversary of the inception of the Endeavour programme. These sailors have worked hard over the summer with the ultimate goal to be prepared to compete in this regatta.
Tom Herbert-Evans, the Community Sailing Manager, said: “We are seeing many of the America’s Cup Endeavour programme graduates wanting to continue sailing competitively and/or recreationally.
“There are more eager participants and, as it stands, there aren’t enough boats or facilities in Bermuda able to cope with the amount of interest.
“This has certainly been driven by the 35th America’s Cup being held in Bermuda.
“Students seeing teams speeding across the Great Sound at 40kts — how can you not be inspired by that.”
Sean Ringsted, the BODA president, said: “Our dream at the start of 2016 was a regatta of 100 sailors and we have exceeded that goal, thanks to the enthusiastic efforts and commitment of sponsors, parents, coaches, volunteers and our regatta chairwoman Dede Cooper.
“This is a stunning end to the year, in which BODA has provided financial, coaching and logistical support to a significant number of local junior sailors in pursuit of their sailing dreams in Bermuda and overseas.
“The large entry of local sailors speaks to the vibrant health of junior sailing in Bermuda and BODA is thrilled to play its part in conjunction with the various club and Endeavour programmes.
“I am also very grateful to all the volunteers who are giving their time on and off the water to make this record-breaking event possible.”
Soon to be the centre of the sailing universe for the America’s Cup in 2017, Dockyard lends itself as an excellent venue for the event this year.
“It seemed so obvious to take advantage of such a perfect site to hold this year’s championship,” Cooper said.
“Dockyard and Wedco have so much to offer, and we are pleased to be able to support the local businesses up here.
“We are also particularly grateful to our title sponsor, Colonial Insurance, and the Neptune Group, who helped get the boats and sailors here to this regatta.”
Twelve races are scheduled for the championship fleet over the long weekend and all racing will be in the Great Sound, the home of the 35th America’s Cup.