Day 3 - Optimist World Championship
Pattaya, Thailand - Youth sailors in the Optimist World Championship 2017 enjoyed the perfect ending to a three day series of individual qualifying races on Saturday, the wind and waves providing one last final test before fleet splits separated sailors based on rankings.
Having proved themselves in both light wind and high wind, the regatta's top sailors had to demonstrate their mastery of big swell, choppy waves, a strong current, a significant change in wind direction, and tricky wind shifts to ensure places in the gold fleet, from which a new world champion will be named next week.
According to provisional results, leading the fleet is Italy's Marco Gradoni who finished fourth last year and has managed a perfect string of top five finishes this year. Israeli Roy Levy scored two first place finishes on Saturday, which puts him in second place overall, moving forward after a discard with only top five positions on his card. In third place is Costa Rica's Mic Sig Kos Mohr who has spent months training in local waters and has managed to make the top ten overall every day.
Among other notables on the top ten list are Haoze Fang of China, who has also been in the top ten daily and is one of two from China in the top ten overall; Stephan Baker, current North American champion; and Malaysia's Muhammad Fauzi Bin Kaman Shah who finished third last year.
Four of five Thai sailors have made the gold fleet, an impressive feat for any nation, with national Optimist champion Panwa Boonnak 25th overall with six more races to climb in the rankings.
According to on the water observers, starts were noisy, general recalls aplenty, mark roundings difficult as boats approached in large groups, and finishes very close. The list of sailors performing turns to redress potential protests was long. Premature starts resulted in 17 sailors disqualified with U-flags and 23 black flagged.
Among those over the start at least once was Irish sailor Leah Rickard, who is of Thai heritage but moved to Ireland when only two months old. "I got a UFD in the first race and in the second I was on the wrong side of the line, ending up behind everyone on my first upwind leg," she said. "But then on my second upwind leg, I guessed the wind shift right and gained on at least 20 boats that went the other way."
Wind shifts were very much a deciding factor on the third day of racing.
Peruvian sailor Stefano Viale Aguirre said, "I had a hard day because the wind went from 220 degrees to 475 or 480 degrees."
"It is really different here than back home in Norway," said Emil Forslund.
"There the wind is more stable, but I'm loving the great wind and waves here."
As Canadian team leader Dave Adler put it, "In Halifax, the wind is always at 280 degrees for all of the two months of our season before it ices over.
Here, it moves around, and the current is stronger than the wind. It is all new, but it is what they are here to learn and the truth is our sailors are having the time of their lives."
For Team Myanmar, the sentiment at the end of the day was similar. "We are super happy to be here," said Sone Nannthar who finished near the bottom of the overall fleet. The team has saved up for this event for two years and came well aware the top of the fleet would probably be out of reach.
New Zealand team leader Susannah Pyatt summed up her team's progress, saying, "Today was a solid day. Most of our team got more than one keeper, so we are hoping to see most of them climb in the fleets. We are under no illusion the team races are going to be competitive tomorrow."
Sunday sees the individual world championship races sidelined for two days of exciting team racing immediately offshore of the Royal Varuna Yacht Club in Pattaya as part of the world's most prestigious youth regatta which sees a record-breaking 281 entries from 62 countries this year.
The 2017 Optimist World Championship is organized by the Royal Varuna Yacht Club with the endorsement of the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand and the Junior Sailing Squadron of Thailand under the International Optimist Dinghy Association. It is supported by strategic partners including Pattaya City, the Sports Authority of Thailand and the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau. Co-sponsors include The Pizza Company, Apollo (Thailand), Thai Airways, and True Corporation.