Weech wins at Bahamas Optimistic Championships
The weekend of June 22 and 23 was an exciting one for junior sailors in The Bahamas as a total of 92 youngsters from the different islands, and some from foreign countries, gathered at Montagu Bay for the 15th Annual Bahamas Optimist National Championships, hosted by the Royal Nassau Sailing Club.
Young sailors, from ages eight to 14, from Eleuthera, Abaco, Exuma, Grand Bahama, Long Island, New Providence, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Cayman Islands, gathered at Montagu Bay for a chance to compete and have a fun-filled weekend.
There was much speculation on whether or not weather conditions would enable the optimist regatta to start, as a minimum of four knots is required, but as conditions improved on Saturday morning, the young sailors launched their boats and headed to sea.
Once in the water the group then divided into two separate fleets – 37 sailors were a part of the Green Fleet, sailing as beginners in the sport; and 54 sailors were in the Championship Fleet, sailing near Dick’s Point and competing for the title of National Champion and the Geoffrey Holowesko Memorial Floating Trophy for their respective clubs.
A total of six races was held between Saturday and Sunday. With unfortunate interruptions for better winds and a heat index of 108 degrees Fahrenheit, this regatta proved to be one of the most enduring, both physically and mentally, as most of the sailors are accustomed to higher winds and cooler conditions.
In the end, two-time defending National Champion Joshua Weech of the Bahamas National Sailing School won the regatta, with a total of five points, 15-point advantage over the nearest competitor, Kaemen Floyd, also of the Bahamas National Sailing School. Finishing in third place was Clara Murphy of the Cayman Islands Sailing Club.
In the Green Fleet, Rory Murphy finished first followed by his brother William Murphy, both of the Cayman Islands Sailing Club. In third place was Felipe Souza of the Lyford Cay Sailing Club.
The awards ceremony took place on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. at the Royal Nassau Sailing Club, and the presentation of medals to all competitors was done by Director of Sports in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture Tim Munnings.
For the Green Fleet, competitors had the honor to receive their trophies from Barry Wilmott, director of the regatta desk at the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources, which ensures funding for this event every year.
The Championship Fleet top finishers were greeted by Marnie Reid, representing John Bull Ltd., which donated the embellished trophies, together with the Commodore of the Royal Nassau Sailing Club Toby Saddleton.
Finally, the Geoffrey Holowesko Memorial Trophy was presented to Weech by Lynn Holowesko, mother of the late Geoffrey Holowesko. Geoffrey was a young promising sailor who started in the sport from the early age of seven. He joined the junior sailing activities at the Royal Nassau Sailing Club, where a junior program has first created in 1963. By the age of nine, Geoffrey had grown to became an inspiration to many other youngsters who took sailing with the same passion, but tragically was killed while riding his bicycle, devastating young sailors who looked at him as a mentor. The Geoffrey Holowesko Trophy was created in memory of this young role model and as a means to always remember that sailing is a fun, happy sport.
In all, the regatta was a tremendous success and to all involved, between sailors, parents, coaches and race committee members, various authorities and associations, the consensus is that with further incentives, these young athletes can excel without boundaries.
This regatta is the culmination of one year’s work done by Bahamian optimist dinghy sailors and was the final and most prestigious national event they took part in this year. Additionally, this event counts for 50 percent of the sailors qualifying points to represent The Bahamas at the Optimist North American Championships, which will host approximately 180 junior sailors from 20 different countries. The 2019 Optimist North American Championships is set for September 27 to October 4, right here in New Providence and the top 10 boys and top four girls from The Bahamas will compete.
The 2019 Bahamas Optimist National Championships operated under the organizing authority of the Royal Nassau Sailing Club, the Bahamas Optimist Class Association and the Bahamas Sailing Association.