Italy wins Optimist Team Racing Worlds

Published on July 12th, 2019

English Harbour, Antigua (July 12, 2019) – Italy cemented their status as the team to watch at this year’s Optimist Worlds with a euphoric win over Thailand during today’s team racing finals.

The Italians sailed claimed the Optimist Team Racing World title in a nail-biting climax which saw their south-east Asian opponents battling to the end to defend their title as 2018 team champs.

It meant additional elation for Team Italy whose Marco Gradoni currently occupies the top spot out of 255 participating sailors in the fleet racing’s leader board.

“I think we did good work because we are now the top team,” Marco, 15, said. “I want to say congratulations to Thailand. It’s a good feeling to win but we want an even better feeling when the championships finish. I want to maintain my position and will try to keep a clear mind.”

The team racing is a popular midway feature of the annual Optimist World Championship, allowing the young competitors a chance to compete alongside their team mates in a series of quick-fire short sprints.

Of the 44 nations competing, 16 advanced from the elimination stage yesterday, with Team Peru coming in third place.

“We trained a lot in team racing in Peru. We also went to Uruguay to practice. I am happy with how we did but we really wanted to get to the final two,” said Sophie Zimmermann, 13.

Peru’s Alejandra Vega, 15, said the high winds had caused some difficulty.

“But we are planning to get a good start tomorrow and do what we trained for,” she added.

Meanwhile, competition is stiff at the top of the leader board. Gradoni – the two-time defending world champion – is just one point ahead of Malta’s Richard Schultheis who has seven points. South Africa’s Ian Walker March is currently in third position with eight points. Bermuda’s Sebastian Kempe is in fourth place with 17 points, followed by Spain’s Jaime Ayarza with 19.

The best performing girls so far are Spain’s Maria Perello, currently on 39 points and in 16th position. Team USA’s Samara Walshe is also going strong in 20th place with 42 points.

The top girl will be awarded the Helen Mary Wilkes Trophy and the top boy will receive the Peter Barclay Trophy, both named in tribute to veterans of the championship’s governing body, the International Optimist Dingy Association (IODA).

Former IODA president Wilkes has been a familiar face on the sailing scene for four decades after first becoming involved as an ‘Opti-mum’ in the 1970s. Her strenuous work has earned her a number of awards including the gold medal of World Sailing in 2017 following 34 years of service to the sport.

Barclay is also a former IODA president. He handed over the reins to Kevin Whitcraft in 2017 after a decade in the seat.

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After the qualifying stage of the Optimist World Championship on July 8-10, the fleet racing took a pause as the Optimist Team Racing World Championship was held July 11-12. The fleet racing championship resumes on July 13-15 with scores from the qualifying round being carried forward to determine the final results.

The 2019 Optimist World Championship has attracted 255 sailors aged 11 to 15 years from 65 nations, beating the previous record of 62 nations set at the 2017 Optimist Worlds in Thailand. Racing is scheduled on July 8-15.

Source: Gemma Handy

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