A number of our local sailors made the long trip to Largs in Scotland for the 2009 Optimist Nationals and were greeted with a variety of sun (a bit), rain, no wind, strong wind and all culminating on the final Friday when the winds blew 20+ knots and three inches of rain fell!
Over 350 sailors from the UK and teams from Ireland, USA, Spain, France, UAE and the Netherlands battled it out in three fleets - Regatta, Junior (children up to 12) and Senior (children 13 - 15). We had sailors in each fleet and each fleet was fiercely competitive.
After two days Kathryn Hutton-Penman led Regatta fleet finally ending up an excellent fifth with a string of top ten finishes and two bullets. Arthur Brown (still so young) as usual sailed brilliantly to finish 12th, getting one bullet and a number of top tens. Little Matthew Braybrook (BSC) finished 48th and won the shield for the highest placed under 9 year old - a stunning performance given the conditions. Louis Brand was also sailing very well however he decided the weather on Friday was not for him and he stayed ashore (missing three races) - given the conditions, even I can forgive him for that. Angus Eckstein had a great time, his father and I are still trying to figure out his motivation for the week - I have decided it was to drive his father mad...
The Junior fleet was sailed in flights because of numbers and then split into Gold and Silver fleets after six races. Thomas Johnson and Hamish Eckstein sailed consistently well finishing 32nd and 36th respectively in Gold fleet in what was a very competitive fleet. Chay Taylor and Isabella Minks battled it out in Silver fleet, Chay managing to get an excellent 20th place even though he pretty much took the "Louis" approach on the final Friday. Isabella worked hard all week, sailed every race with a smile and finished 61st. She will definitely shine next year.
The senior fleet was sailed as one fleet of 110 boats with Callum Airlie from Lothian Yacht Club being crowned National Champion. James Hutton-Penman was consistent all week though the final Friday slightly got the better of him and he finished a very creditable 45th, closely followed by Jake Braybrook (BSC), who clearly preferred the Friday weather, in 48th. Sterling Taylor worked hard, finished all the races and came 85th.
I think it is fair to say that unless you have attended a National Oppie event you just do not realise the length of the courses, the competitiveness of the children and the size of the fleets. If you add to this the Scottish weather it makes for extremely demanding conditions - often beating against the tide towards a buoy you cannot see because it is over a mile away and it is pouring with rain.
A huge well done to all our sailors who competed, you did our Burnham clubs and your trainers proud.