Matilda Nicholls
Matilda Nicholls

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22: Optimist Sailing for Juniors in Bermuda is enjoying popularity never seen before. After a dramatic fall off in the number of Optimist sailors on the water, the BER Optimist sailing community was moved to try to reinvigorate BODA in 2010.

Fortunately there has been a dramatic turn-around in the amount of sailors not only learning at the Clubs but also progressing into Racing. The last 12 months has seen a 100 per cent increase in the number of young sailors competing.

Every indication is that this is set to continue; the most recent race days saw the Gold, Silver and Green Fleets have seen over 70 sailors racing, up from 36 in the Fall of 2010.

 All signs are this dramatic turnaround is set to continue. The Bermuda Optimist Nationals Championships (11-13 November) are this year hosted by Sandys Boat Club, Event Chairman Martin Siese said “the deadline is fast approaching for registration for our National Championships. This is shaping up to be the largest Opti regatta Bermuda has seen in a long time. We are expecting approximately 55-60 sailors on the start line for the Championship fleet and the Green fleet could easily take us up to 80 sailors registered for the event.

"There will be 5 countries represented in the Bermuda Championships. Already confirmed is the current USA Team Trials winner who placed 2nd in the UK Nationals to Leonard Fry who was here for Jr. Gold Cup, plus the current Finnish National Champion and his sister who was 3rd overall at a recent regatta in Finland. Like Gold Cup there are some other impressive girl sailors coming. The top girl from the South American Championships is coming along with the US National Girls Champion. We are looking forward to welcoming the young sailors to Sandys Boat Club next month.”

BODA is a Charity that is there to promote Optimist Sailing, not necessarily run racing. The Clubs like RBYC, RHADC, SBC etc run the racing and the RBYC Autumn Series sponsored by Hardy is approaching the halfway stage. The Series was also joined one day by some of the World’s leading Optimist sailors as they prepared for the Junior Gold Cup.  The No.1 sailors from Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and the Dutch Antilles all come out to compete with the Bermuda Racing Groups.

The Gold Fleet is for the most advanced sailors and is currently lead by 14 year old Rory Caslin who is level on points with Chase Cooper aged 13. Rory enjoyed significant success in the UK this summer, finishing 14th in the British Championships. '

Chase was equally successful in the US competing in New England. In third place and first female is Ceci Wollmann, also proving her efforts through the summer have resulted in better results this Autumn. The level of competition at the Hardy Autumn Series is high with the recent 1st placed BER boat in the Junior Gold Cup, Antonio Bailey currently lying in fourth place, followed by Mikey Wollmann (11), fresh from his successes in Canada this summer. A total of 12 BER sailors have competed in the Gold Fleet this Autumn.

The intermediate sailors race in the Silver Fleet and after her success in the British Championships this summer, nine-year-old Matilda Nicholls has a commanding lead over the rest of her peers counting 12 first Places in her series so far. second is 10 year old George Buckley, third Kieran Swann (13) with Yannick Hillier (10) and Joe Arrowsmith (10) rounding out the top five. The young age of these sailors bodes very well for a bright future of Junior Sailing in Bermuda. During the course of Series 1 of the Hardy Autumn Series, the Gold and Silver Fleets have often sailed together. This serves as a good benchmark to see how well some of the younger sailors are progressing. Some of the Silver Fleet sailors have caused a few upsets in some earlier lighter wind days, with the Combined Series currently lead by Chase Cooper.

Newly Qualified World’s Team sailors Rory Caslin, Antonio Bailey and Ceci Wollmann lie in second, third and fourth, with Silver Fleet leader Matilda Nicholls currently lying in 5th place overall. The Combined Series will run for the duration of the Autumn Series, counting both Series 1 & 2 results when the Fleets combine for a race.

The Bermuda Optimist Dinghy Association (BODA)  Sailor Development Team will be announcing promotions to several sailors from one Fleet to the next at the Prize Giving for the Hardy Autumn Series 1 this Sunday evening .

Several Green Fleet Sailors will be promoted to now race in the Silver Fleet, including Tre Maxwell, Aaron Kuhn, Daniel Excel, Sean Tucker and Taj Maxwell.
Green Fleet sailors promoted to the Green/Silver Fleet include:-  Aiden Young, Christian Oatley, Paige Brutin, Aaron Jacobs, Charis Todd, Jusai Williams, Lauren Way, Roberto Ausenda, Isabelle Dutranoit, Sage Morris, Jay Consolino, Luke Madeiros, Mackenzie Caslin, Briana Yound and Jason Comber.

Even with all these sailors being promoted to the new fleets leaves over 50 Green Fleet sailors learning the basics and taking their first steps into racing with the BODA sailor progression plan. BODA will be giving a Presentation to it’s Membership after the half-term break to explain how the Sailor Progression Plan can help their children progress in what looks like becoming Bermuda’s next National Sport.

The coaches at RBYC and RHADC are particularly proud of their younger sailors that are exhibiting such well learnt skills after their long summer of training. Jorge Chiapparro, Head Coach at RHADC said “we have to work hard with our beginners in order to have them ready for racing, finally we are achieving the goal”.

RBYC Sailing Director Tom Herbert-Evans said “I mentioned the Silver Fleet promotions to the kids at RBYC and their eyes lit up, significant progression is taking place and we are thrilled our hard work is now being realized in the sailor’s performance”.

The final day of racing for the first Series of the RBYC Optimist Autumn Racing sponsored by Hardy is this Sunday. With such close racing having taken place so far, the sailors will be taking the day very seriously.

Managing Director of Hardy Bermuda Ltd, Paul Baillie said: "It is great to see the young sailors competing so well in Bermuda. Good luck to all the competitors as they close in on the end of Series 1".

The Prize Giving will take place at RBYC as soon as possible after sailing on Sunday, BODA President Anthony Bailey will be also be congratulating the Bermuda Team for the Optimist World Championships and awards will be presented to the Team by their main sponsors Aspen and Kitson.