USA wins USVI Optimist Team Race

Published on June 16th, 2017

Staying focused, putting new start tactics into practice and accurately sizing up the shifty wind conditions were the skills junior sailors on Team USA Worlds used to win the TOTE Maritime Team Racing Championship in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

The competition is one of a trio of events this week for 119 sailors from 5 nations at St. Thomas Yacht Club (STYC), and was prefaced by the three-day TOTE Maritime Clinic and followed by the 25th International Optimist Regatta, presented by Electronic Merchant Systems (EMS) Virgin Islands on June 16-18.

Team USA (L to R): Liam O’Keefe, Justin Callahan, Stephan Baker, Mitchell Callahan and Charlie Leigh. Credit: Dean Barnes.

Sixteen teams of five sailors each participated in the TOTE Maritime Team Racing Championships. In extremely close racing, the champion title came down to a best of three contest between Team USA Worlds and Team ISV 4.

Team ISV 4, composed of the Virgin Islands’ Mia Nicolosi, Rayne Duff, Julian van den Driessche and Mathieu Dale, took the initial lead by winning the first race. Then, Team USA Worlds, made up of Mitchell Callahan, Justin Callahan, Charlie Leigh, Liam O’Keeffe and Stephan Baker, followed with a win to tie the score 1:1. An excellent start by Team USA Worlds in the third and final race proved key and enabled the team to achieve a second and title cinching win.

The TOTE Maritime Perpetual Trophy will be inscribed with the names of the Team USA Worlds’ sailors, who represent both the Lauderdale Yacht Club, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and the Coral Reef Yacht Club in Miami, Florida.

“Sure, we wanted to defend our title from last year,” says 14-year-old O’Keefe, who with fellow 14-year-old Baker were members of the team that won the TOTE Maritime Team Racing Championships last year. “But more importantly was just to win.”

Baker agrees and adds. “We really wanted to bring it (the trophy) back, but since there were three of us that weren’t on the team last year, we wanted to stay focused and see what worked since this is great training for team racing at the Worlds (Optimist World Championships) next month in Thailand.”

For Justin Callahan, also age 14 along with twin brother, Mitchell, it was all about gelling as a team for the future and reading the conditions correctly in the present. “We learned during the Clinic that it can be shifty towards the shore. So, tactics and boat handling skills really helped and that’s what team racing is all about.”

Starts were a skill honed during the TOTE Maritime Clinic that Mitchell Callahan found beneficial to today’s team race win. “We tended to use one starting strategy 99 percent of the time. They (the coaches) made us come up with three others and that came in handy today, especially in the last race.”

Finally, it was the tactics of team racing that Charlie Leigh enjoyed and excelled. “Team racing is different than the fleet racing we’ll be doing this weekend because you have to think and work together as a team. That’s the fun part.”

Some 91 8- to 15-year-old sailors, both beginning and advanced and representing five nations – the U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Antigua and USA –started off the week by training in the three-day TOTE Maritime Clinic held June 12 to 14. The Clinic was run by top local and international coaches.

Puerto Rico’s Arturo Diaz finished 14th overall in the 2016 IOR/EMS and his goal this year is top 10. “It’s supposed to be windy and I do well in big wind. I’m looking forward to the racing,” says Diaz.

It was practicing starts on a line with many more boats than she’s use to at her home California Yacht Club, in Long Beach, California, that Katharine Doble believes will serve her well in this weekend’s regatta. “We did a lot of starting drills on a bigger line than I’m used to and that really helped,” Doble says.

Antigua’s Maria Eldridge, who sailed in the 2016 IOR/EMS, is glad to be back. “We don’t have as many other sailors to sail against as we do here or at bigger competitions like the North Americans. It’s a whole different experience and I really enjoy it.”

The 25th IOR/EMS gets underway Friday, June 16. The near-record 119 junior sailors, divided into a Green or Beginner Fleet with 24 sailors and an 86-member Advanced Fleet separated into age groups, White (age 10 and under), Blue (ages 11 and 12), and Red (ages 13 to 15), are expected to complete more than a dozen races over the three days.

Trophies will be awarded to the top five sailors in each fleet and top three overall. Additional trophies include the top female sailor, Peter Ives’ Perpetual Trophy and the Chuck Fuller Sportsmanship Award.

Ives, the IOR/EMS’s first PRO (principal race officer) and thereafter longtime member of the event’s International Jury, handmade the first wooden trophies, Optimist replicas complete with sails. Fuller, also an International Judge, was beloved by past competitors for his handing out of regatta hats, pins and T-shirts, that he acquired during his world travels and gave to IOR/EMS sailors regardless of their finishing place. Ives and Fuller valuably help to set the platform for the IOR/EMS high-caliber racing, judging and sportsmanship.

Event details:

Source: Carol Bareuther

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