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Baker retains lead at Optimist US Nationals

Published on July 17th, 2018

Pensacola, FL (July 17, 2018) – Stephan Baker of Miami FL, the current 2018 Optimist National Championship leader and member of the U.S. World Team, pulled in a third and a first in today’s racing. With a drop after five races, he is still one point ahead of Denmark’s Maithe Ebdrup going into the Gold Fleet races.

At age 14, Baker recently returned from the North Americans in Mexico which he won by 40 points. “It’s been going good, not exactly the results I would have wanted here, but I’m still doing really well. So, I’m happy about that and I’m looking forward to the championship Gold Fleet racing tomorrow.”

With the six sets now complete, the championship group will be divided into Gold and Silver Fleets. The top 33% will reach Gold and sail in a single division for the regatta’s top prize. The remainder will sail in the Silver Fleet in two divisions.

Baker leads all sailors with 8 points (1,(4),2,1, 3, 1). Ebdrup is second with 9 points ( (3), 3, 1, 2,1,2) and Laura Hamilton has moved into third after dropping a 15. She is top girl now with 12 points (2, (15),1, 5, 2, 2).

With four sets of races completed on the first day and a complete weather postponement yesterday, the 2018 USODA National Championship race committee needed a minimum of one more set of races in order to divide the fleet into Gold and Silver fleets for the final day of racing tomorrow – the question was would the weather gods cooperate.

With a train of thunderstorms just offshore and streaming along the Gulf Coast from the west, it wasn’t looking promising. Sensing a small weather window in the early morning, Hal Smith, PYC Fleet Captain and fleet racing Principal Race Officer (PRO), and Tom Price, Jr., Race Committee Chairman, opted to move up the first warning signal by 30 minutes and the enormous flotilla of RC, judges, coaches, support boats, the 23 boat green fleet and 283 Optis were set in motion.

“We only needed one set today to split the fleet,” states Tom Pace, Jr., “but we will always err on the side of safety. We tried to take advantage of an early weather opportunity. Forecasts indicated there was a great chance at wind then and this is a National Championship with everyone coming from a long way away to compete, so every opportunity was made to be on the water as long as it was safe to be out.”

It wasn’t to be on the first try. The offshore storms with heavy lightning were merging and appearing to spin up and Race Committee issued a postponement and the fleet returned to shore. As the day progressed, the young sailors showed immense patience and did what they do best – be kids – with soccer balls and decks of cards coming out to while away the weather delay.

Around 2:30pm, the weather lifted enough that the Green Fleet of 23 opti novices under PRO Bert Rice, Jr., were allowed to head out just off the beach at Pensacola Yacht Club and two races were sailed with a third in sequence before lightning in a thunderstorm bubbled up and forced them to retire.

The day wore on until 4:30pm, when the storms had pushed further North and enough offshore. A nice westerly flow developed at about 260º at 4 to 6 knots. Race Committee seized the opportunity and the flotilla was again put into motion.

Pace describes the crucial turn of events, “Race Committee was able to set a proper course and then the wind picked up. The kids had good steady breeze at 12 to 13 knots and we got in two complete sets which enable the fleet to get good results plus a discard and now we can separate them into the Gold and Silver Fleets for the championship and that will happen tomorrow.”

Racing in the four-day Optimist Nationals concludes tomorrow. The 2018 Optimist Girls National Championship will be sailed Thursday July 19 and the 2018 Optimist Team Race National Championship will run on July 20-22.

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The championship week will be divided into three events with the largest, the Nationals on July 15-18. The focus then shifts to the Girls Nationals on July 19 and the Team Race Nationals on July 20-22.

Source: Pensacola Yacht Club

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