Against a backdrop of rising Covid-19 cases and tightening travel restrictions across Europe it was the turn of the IOCA GBR Worlds Team 2021 to head off to the Optimist World Championships in Garda starting on the 30th June.
The team, who had earned their places as the top 5 competitors at the 4-day Selections Trials held back in May, consisted of 1 girl and 4 boys. They were accompanied by Coach, Ollie Hill, experienced with taking teams internationally having coached the European team in 2020, and Team Leader (and parent), Richard Edwards.
Two team mates had left for Garda a couple of weeks earlier to tow the team’s boats out and to train. For the remaining team mates the announcement of newly imposed 5-day quarantine rules in Italy led to a swift decision to fly them out a week early. This meant a frantic 24 hours of booking flights and accommodation, packing and PCR Tests – and the team were re-united in beautiful Riva Del Garda on the 20th July.
This early arrival at the event meant the team had additional time to train together and get used to the unusual winds and relentless chop of Lake Garda. They also competed in the ‘43rd Optimist D’Argento’ a regatta used by many world teams as a warm-up to the main event.
Full results of which can be found here: https://www.circolovelatorbole.com/clientfiles/regatta/attachments/20210626183227_default.htm
One week in, the team finally moved to their Worlds accommodation, and began their time eating, sleeping, training and competing together. A fantastic 2 weeks followed with the team learning much together and experiencing all the highs and lows of a long competition. As ever there is so much more to a regatta than just the results, but huge congratulation to Archie for winning Silver Fleet! Full results of the event can be found here: results
Please read on to hear what the team have to say about their Worlds Experience:
My journey started mid-May in Weymouth harbour at the UK optimist selections event when I qualified amongst the five highest place sailors to attend the Optimist Worlds. From then the heady whirlwind of preparations began. I had sailed against my team mates since I was eight years old but as the only girl I did wonder how I would manage for two weeks without any female companionship!
Having carefully planned transport of boats to the sailing venue, Riva Del Garda, Italy, and flights for the team we could not have predicted what would happen next. Or maybe we could in this new world with Covid. It had definitely made the logistics of travel and organisation more complex. Just ten days before our planned departure, the Italian government imposed quarantine regulations on arrivals into Italy from the UK. Well, this set fire to our plans, almost burnt them to the ground, as it seemed we may miss the start of the event we had worked so hard to qualify for. The parents convened an emergency meeting and it was decided, on the Friday that on that very Sunday we would leave early for Garda. Well, the remaining arrangements, including covid testing, had to be completed at light speed.
On our arrival a blast of blistering heat and sunshine greeted us at the airport. As we journeyed towards Riva, we were awestruck with the stunning scenery of Lake Garda in which we would spend the next three weeks sailing.
After unloading and rigging our boats the GBR Worlds team was ready to start training. The unplanned early arrival may’ve been a blessing in disguise. It enabled the team to do the Argento Cup event, which provided incredible pre-worlds training and gave us a chance to become accustomed to the quirky gain features of the lake. As the lightest in the team, I wasn’t unfamiliar with the reputation of Lake Garda being a windy Mecca! We learned so much at the event, particularly as due to Covid, UK big fleet sailing had been seriously curtailed for a year. Along with having a great time on the water, we sampled the delights of Italian cuisine. Pizza and gelato galore!
Onto the worlds! After a few additional days training with our coach Ollie Hill, and a very thorough day of boat measurement, it was lift off! A spectacle of world flags paraded ceremoniously through the cobbled streets of Riva. It felt magical to be a part of this experience .You couldn’t fail but be in awe of all the boats from all corners of the world that had all descended on Lake Garda to do this immense regatta. It was all the more of a celebration as it hadn’t been possible to host the event the previous year due to Covid-19.
The first three days were taken up with qualification races. The start lines were jam packed and like no other. You were fighting for every inch of acceleration room and then battling onwards after the start to keep the lane you had worked so hard to obtain. The southerly Ora wind blew its might, on average around 20 knots daily. I learnt so much on the start line, a rapid lesson how competitive the worlds fleet actually was. I loved every minute!
We mixed up the top quality sailing with a little sightseeing and more gelato. We all had great fun visiting the crisp cold waterfall. It was a rite of passage every team member had an icy, if brief, dunk in the glacial water. There was a lot of laughter and a lot of shivering.
After our brief foray into team racing (a learning experience in itself!) it was back to more fleet racing. Every lay-line, every mark rounding, every leg was a jostle for position. Even when it didn’t go so well, it was so much fun trying!
The closing ceremony was incredible. I made so many new friends of different nationalities and hope they may want to come to visit at our national championships. I feel incredibly proud of our team all making silver or bronze fleet. Overall we were eighteenth best country in the world which made me really proud, but most importantly we had all had learnt so much and had an experience that I’m sure I will remember for ever!
Competing in the world championships in Lake Garda, Italy, was an amazing experience. Not only did I learn heaps of new things but I also made many foreign friends.
For the first few days we did some training and also went through measurement which went smoothly. The day before the start of the event we had a rest day and cycled up the mountain to a cafe which had an amazing view.
In the event there were 3 days of qualifying, 2 days of team racing and 3 days of finals. I ended up at the front of bronze fleet so I wasn’t very happy with that result but I learned so many skills which I couldn’t have learned at any other event. On the last day there was the closing ceremony and the trading of team kit.
The next day we began our long journey home in the car. Thank you so much to Richard for being the house parent and Ollie for coaching us.
It was a dramatic start to the Optimist Worlds 2021 as we had to fly a week early to Lake Garda to avoid having to do a 5-day covid isolation! This meant we had an extra week to train out there which was fantastic.
I had never been to an international sailing competition before, and Lake Garda was beautiful. All the restaurants were lovely with amazing pasta and pizza, and the hotel we stayed in had a pool, so we went swimming a lot which was great because it was so hot!
The sailing on Lake Garda was really good, but difficult because it was very choppy and hard to find rhythm with the wind bends and gusty conditions. The wind comes at different angles over the many mountains, and from different directions depending on what time of the day it is. There was a lot to learn!
The highlight of the trip for me was the amazing thunderstorm we had one night. We went on to our balcony and the rain was so nice and heavy, it was like having a shower! We messed around for about 30 minutes before coming in because the power went out. We thought it was the lightning, it was amazing!
Thanks to all the world’s team sailors for being great team mates, I loved having so much fun and some amazing experiences together! Thanks also to Richard, our house parent, for being there and helping us whenever we needed it and finally thanks to Ollie for being a brilliant coach and teaching me to sail very well and quickly through the chop.
This was one of the best experiences of my life and I will never forget it.
Garda is known for its picturesque mountains, scorching weather and being a great place for high level sailing events, so when I heard the worlds was there I was overjoyed.
The pre-training for the worlds was a great experience getting used to the swell-like chop and the Ora wind; thanks to Ollie I was ready to go into the event prepared for all that could be thrown at me, or so I thought.
The first day of the event was exciting a new start for all. An even playing field, no winners no losers, all ready to go out and preform the best we could. I came in from that day with a 43 and a UFD, this was not what I was aiming for and before the second beat that 43 had been a 15. But what had been sailed had been sailed. And from when I heard my 20 was a UFD I knew in that instance my hopes of gold fleet were gone. Though I wanted to get as close as I possibly could.
Day two: I went in to this day with the attitude that anything was possible so I sailed hard and came out with two top 15s. This proved to me that I could do it – that I was good enough and that I could claw myself back up the rankings.
Day three: though there were two races scheduled this was cut short by a thunderstorm a massive force of nature with 65 knot winds, I would have to have got a first in the only race to get gold fleet but I fell short with a 17th
I went into silver fleet 16 points behind the leader, though I knew that if I sailed my best anything was possible with speed and determination. For the first 4 races I chipped away with all top tens and two top fives. Going into the last race I had butterflies in my stomach, I was one point behind the leader so all was to play for. That race was the toughest race of my life as I tried to stay in front while not risking losing too much by going too far away from the fleet. As I finished I knew I had done it, I had won the silver fleet.
At worlds I made a load of great friends from all over the globe, notably Hong Kong, Thailand, Ireland and Malta. These friends helped me and made the whole experience much more enjoyable.
Things to take away
1. If you think it is over it is not though you may not get what you intended, try to get as close as possible and focus on the process not the result.
2. It’s all to learn so if you cannot achieve your goals learn from what you can learn, to start better or improve your tactical awareness.
3. And most of all have fun.
Many thanks to Richard Edwards for being a great house parent and to Ollie for his help on the water and his insights into my sailing. I hope to see you all again next year for another wonderful event.
I had a great time at the Worlds in Garda, spending time with the team and meeting sailors from other countries was tons of fun and the racing was brilliant.
We had to fly out early because Italy was going to put a quarantine in so we took part in a regatta before the event and spent several days training, getting through measurement and setting up our boats. Luckily, everything went smoothly and we were able to spend lots of time on the water getting used to the conditions.
The race committee were great, running as many fair races as possible which were all challenging but enjoyable. The first beats were always very tricky because the quality of the fleet was so high. Also, if you were not able to execute the perfect start it would be almost impossible to find a clear lane and choose where you wanted to go.
The wind in Garda was lovely for most of the event. We had around fifteen knots of breeze on all the days except the last two. Sadly, though we only really got one day of the full Ora (the type of wind Garda is known for).
I loved all the Italian food that I ate in Garda although by the end of it I was a little sick of pizza and pasta. The weather in Garda was beautiful with temperatures of 30 degrees every day and sunny skies although we once got caught in a huge thunderstorm whilst watching football in town and got completely drenched running back to the hotel.
Overall, I completely loved my time in Garda and have left the event with many memories I will cherish for the rest of my life. I hope I get another chance to return to there in the future.
Thanks to Richard and Ollie for looking after us in Garda and enabling us to have such a great time and to Sara for getting us there despite the tightening Covid restrictions.