Young sailors set for gruelling Race to the Rock
Several young sailors will take part in the Bermuda Optimist Dinghy Association’s Race to the Rock on Saturday
Competitors will sail in Optimist dinghies from North Rock Beacon to Spanish Point. Participants can opt to sail the 11.5-mile race as part of a team of two or three, or they can choose to do it individually.
Owing to the rigorous nature of the race, the participants are required to be intermediate or advanced-level sailors and must also have permission from their sailing coach to participate.
The sailors range in age from 11 to 15 and come from all the local clubs, including West End Sailing, Endeavour, the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club and the Royal Amateur Dinghy Club. The course record of 2hr 19min 22sec was achieved by Sebastian Kempe in 2019.
Race to the Rock is a fundraising event for the BODA, a registered charity that supports the High Performance Optimist sailing programme.
Optimist sailors from different local sailing clubs feed into the BODA’s high-performance group, which offers top-level coaching from international sailing instructors and also facilitates Bermuda’s participation in overseas Optimist sailing regattas.
“Depending on the wind direction and wind speed, the sailors can be out there anywhere from 2.5 to six or seven hours,” said Mark Soares, the BODA president.
“If we have wind from the southwest, it will mean the sailors will have to zigzag back and forth because they cannot sail directly into the wind; then it’s guaranteed to be a long day for them.
“For those who don’t know, the Optimist is a small, single-handed sailing dinghy and is the first boat that most children learn to sail in.
“The hull is only about 8ft long and therefore the 11.5-mile course is a long way in boats that size.
“When watching the race, you really feel for the youngsters duelling it out in rough conditions, especially when they capsize and have to right the boat on their own and keep going. It requires mental toughness and is a real test of endurance.”
Dede Cooper, the BODA secretary, echoed the sentiments of Soares, while reflecting on the growth of the sport on island.
“The Race to the Rock really is a testament to the skill, dedication and fortitude of Bermuda’s young sailors,” she said.
“Thanks to the build-up from SailGP and America’s Cup over the last few years, sailing has come to the forefront in the Bermuda sporting community.
“Interest is up and BODA’s sailors are recognising with the proper foundation that there are many opportunities in the international arena and maritime sector for Bermuda sailors.
“Bermuda is an ideal sailing venue and BODA has trained some phenomenal sailors over the years who now compete worldwide at a very high level.
“Most of them started sailing in Optis and came through the BODA High Performance Programme.
“We want to make sailing accessible to all of Bermuda’s youth and events like this one help us to raise funds to enable the continued success of our young sailors beyond Bermuda’s shores.”
The BODA is sending five sailors to the World Championships in Bodrum, Turkey, and a further four sailors to the European Championships in Denmark. The young sailors are appealing to the public to consider supporting them in the Race to the Rock by pledging online at ptix.bm.