Bahamas earn high marks for Optimist sailing


Tribune Sports Reporter

THE Bahamas came away highly regarded in their role as hosts and for their competition in the water at the biggest sailing event the country has hosted to date.

The Nassau Yacht Club and Bahamas National Sailing School hosted the 2019 Optimist North American Championships which concluded yesterday in Montagu Bay.

National team head coach Keir Clarke said the Bahamas’ 16-member team exceeded expectations for a group relatively new to an elite level of international competition.

“I think the team performed brilliantly this week, it was a very tough regatta, there was a lot of wind, massive competitive fleets, huge long races, much more than our sailors are used to.

“We started slow, Joshua was the only one to qualify for the gold fleet, the rest of us were in the bronze fleet, which was completely expected considering this was the first international competition and you need a few under your belt to really get into the swing of things in terms of the level of competition and how these events are,” he said.

“Once we were in that bronze fleet the results were getting better and better and as the wind dropped those performances improved.

“Young Finley won the day for us with a win. We also had a few top 10s so they definitely ended the event on a high note.”

The team was led by three-time national champion Joshua Weech, who qualified for the gold fleet and finished No.47 among the 164 sailors in competition.

On the final race day, Weech finished 38th and 42nd. He produced a final net score of 209. On day one he began the competition 14th in race one, went unflagged in race two and finished 19th in race three.

On day two, Weech rebounded with two of his top three outings at the championships. He sailed to a 10th place finish in race four, 20th place in race five and capped off the day with a seventh place in race six. He finished 21st in race seven and 40th in race eight.

“Joshua did incredibly well, Gold Fleet was a bonus and he did very well in that group. He made Bahamian history with that one at this caliber of event. Top 30 was a realistic goal, but he should be really happy,” Clarke said, “He has to work on his starts a little bit, his starts really let him down the whole event and he constantly had to make comebacks. His character is very good, he’s always relaxed, he doesn’t stress, he doesn’t complain he’s just a solid competitor, gets his head down, he doesn’t complain, he just faces what is front of him and gets to work. He just has to continue to train and do more international events.”

The 16 member team of student athletes includes products of the Bahamas Nassau Sailing School (BNSS), Nassau Yacht Club (NYC), Royal Nassau Sailing Club (RNSC), Lyford Cay Sailing Club (LCSC) and the Hope Town Sailing Club.

“Our sailors from the Royal Nassau Sailing Club did very well. They are quite an inexperienced bunch, just started their programme just over a year ago and to end up here in that space of time is quite an achievement so I think they have done really well. They stepped up to the challenge pretty well. The younger members of our team, the nine and 10 year olds, they just exceeded all expectations, staying at the Atlantis all week, exhausted, missing their parents, but they made it through,” Clarke said, “I think this event was run brilliantly, certainly on the water. All of the coaches and team leaders made a point to say how great the racing and organisation was so hopefully we will be asked to host it again.”

The remaining members of team Bahamas sailed in the Bronze Group.

Matthew Reid was the next best finisher at No.130. He concluded the event with a ninth place finish in race nine and sixth place in race 10 for a total net score of 281. Kaemen Floyd finished at No.141 with his 41st place finish in race nine and a ninth place in the final event of the championships for his net score of 333. Patrick Tomlinson also finished with a score of 333, No.142 overall. He finished 21st and 24th respectively on the final day. Zane Munro was ranked No. 143 with his score of 334, 22nd and 26th on day four. Jasmin Aberle was The Bahamas’ top finisher among girls at No.144 and a net score of 337, 28th and 17th yesterday. Cameron Eldon was ranked No.145 and finished 11th in race nine but suffered a black flag disqualification in the finale for a score of 346.

Finley McKinney-Lambert highlighted the day for team Bahamas with a pair of top five finishes. He finished fifth in race nine and concluded the event with a third place finish in race 10. His final score of 349 was ranked No.146 in the field. Maison Koepke was ranked No.148 with a score of 355. Craig Ferguson highlighted his championship appearance with a fourth place finish in race nine and produced a score of 370 for a finish of 150 in the field.

Mary Jacqueline Nash was No.154 (392 points), David Huber finished at No. 155 with a score of 392, Conry Raine was No. 157 and Amy McSweeney was No.158, both with scores of 414, Saoirise Duffy was No.159 with her score of 428 and Scarlett McCarroll was No. 163 with a score of 447.

Gustavo Campos of Brazil took first place with his score of 55, followed by Rocco Wright of Italy with 57 and Lucas de Freitas of Brazil at 58.

The International Optimist Dinghy Association (IODA) event showcases the International Optimist Dinghy, largest sailing fleet, and the number one junior class in the world.

The 164 sailors ranged between the ages 12 to 15, from more than 20 countries, participating in what has become the largest youth regatta in North America and the Caribbean.