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From being terrified by boats to a sailor at World Championships

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Nina Gotfredsen is the only female in the teams that will be representing Bermuda in Spain and Antigua (Picture supplied)
Nina Gotfredsen with Dylan Menzies and Miguel Power who are travelling with her to Spain and Antigua
Nina Gotfredsen has fallen in love with sailing after being terrified by the sport when she first started (Photograph supplied)
Nina Gotfredsen will be flying the Bermuda flag in Spain and Antigua (Photograph supplied)
Nina Gotfredsen sailing in the water (Photograph supplied)

When Nina Gotfredsen first started sailing an optimist dinghy at the age of five, she was so terrified that she wanted nothing more to do with the sport.

After a gap of four years, she was persuaded to make a return to the water by her friend, Tyler Rossouw, and that decision has paid off in style as Gotfredsen, 13, is now in the Bermuda team for the Optimist World Championships, which take place from June 15 to 25 in Costa Brava, Spain.

Gotfredsen, who last year won the Bermuda Optimist Dinghy Association Female Sailor of the Year and Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club Female Sailor of the Year, is the only girl in the five-strong World Championship squad alongside Shiloh Cruickshank, Trystan Hocking, Dylan Menzies and Miguel Power. They will be competing against 57 nations and more than 250 sailors next week.

A year nine student at Warwick Academy, Gotfredsen is set for a big couple of months as she will also be flying the flag for Bermuda at the North American Championships in Antigua from July 2 to July 9, and she is thankful that a friendship inspired her to return to the Optimist Dinghy, which is used by sailors up to the age of 15.

“I started when I was five but I didn't like it,” Gotfredsen said. “I found it scary and I was terrified. I wouldn't go back until my friend joined and I said I would try it again if she did, so I ended up liking it a few years later.

“My friend didn't like it, so I kept on sailing and it took a while for me to get good, but it’s calming and nice being in the water.”

Gotfredsen is thrilled to play a part at big international events but is also aware of the task that lies ahead against sailors from some of the top countries in the sport.

“It’s very exciting that I get to go to an event that has only the top five sailors from each country,” Gotfredsen said.

“I get to participate in the worlds and it will be very hard because other countries train a lot and have some of the top coaches. You can never be prepared enough but I do feel that I'll do well, I've trained a lot.”

The young sailor is not part of the BODA’s high-performance programme under the direction of national sailing coach Pablo Weber but is instead trained by Nico Stefani. Gotfredsen's mother, Ciara Brady, confirmed that decision was made after development training sessions under Weber.

“She felt the approach and style of her club coach, Nico Stefani, worked better for her and she learnt more from him,” Brady said.

“We decided that we would spend the money that would have been spent on the HP team on sending her to regattas off island to gain race experience and allowing her to take an additional weekly lesson at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.”

Gotfredsen has been preparing for the upcoming competitions by focusing on increasing her sharpness and ways to control her dinghy by training at the RHADC three times a week under the watchful eye of her coach.

“My coach has been very supportive,” Gotfredsen said. “He’s done special training that will help me when I go away. We practice special courses that provide agility and boat handling. My family, friends and teachers support me and everyone has been wishing me good luck.”

The World Championships will be the third time that Godfredson has represented Bermuda. She was part of the island’s teams that went to Rio de Janeiro for the South American Championship and to Bahamas for the North American Championships last year. The teenager has also attended other competitions in the United States and Italy and intends to continue with her sailing, which has afforded her an opportunity to embark on excursions abroad.

“I want it to be my life, ” she said. “Sailing is actually fun, I've always wanted to travel the world sailing in a big boat with my friends and I want to keep racing because I love it.”

As part of her development, Gotfredsen has been offered a coveted spot-on Loot (Lake Ontario Optimist Team) from July 26 to August 10 in the United States.

She will train under coach Roberto Fabini for two weeks and compete on his team in the Cork International Optimist Regatta and team racing event in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, and the Optimist New England Championship in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, with Brady believing that the sport has taught her daughter some valuable life lessons.

“Sailing has taught Nina perseverance, independence and the value of risk taking,” Brady said.

“She can compete with the boys and beat them and to do that you have to fight for your place on and off the water.”

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Published June 10, 2023 at 7:58 am (Updated June 10, 2023 at 7:50 am)

From being terrified by boats to a sailor at World Championships

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