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Two new local entries for optimists

Ahzai Smith is eyeing a three-peat of national optimist titles

St George’s Dinghy and Sports Club and Visionary Sailing Academy will both achieve a milestone in the Bermuda Open and National Optimist Championship.

The two clubs are making their debut in the regatta, which starts on Saturday, and are among six locals clubs being represented, including the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club, Endeavour and Sandys Boat Club.

“To have two new clubs in our national championship, to me, means that sailing in Bermuda is bright,” Dede Cooper, the regatta chairperson, said.

“I expect good racing and great conditions. I’m most excited about how many people are entered who are new to the sport and to see such a diverse pool of new sailors.”

Ahzai Smith and Laura Hupman are the defending national optimist boys’ and girls’ champions.

Smith is gunning for a third straight title but could have his work cut out against compatriots Sebastian Kempe and Christian Ebbin. Hupman could have her hands full defending her crown against Rachael Betschart and Leyli Walker, who is the granddaughter of late local sailing legend Jordy Walker.

There is added incentive for Bermuda’s sailors as the regatta will also serve as trials the IODA South American Championships in Chile next year.

A new overall boys’ and girls’ winner will be crowned as Stephan Baker is not returning to defend his title, while Vanessa Lahrkamp has aged out of the class.

The championship will run from November Friday until Monday and will involve 135 sailors, the second largest fleet in the regatta’s history, from the United States, Cayman Islands and Ireland.

Advanced sailors will compete among the championship fleet in the Great Sound while novices will make up the green fleet that will race in Mangrove Bay. The regatta is being hosted by Sandys Boat Club for the first time since 2010.