The curtains have already closed on a successful 2019 Optimist North American Championships (OPTINAM) on October 4 but The Bahamas has been given high praises for being the host of the event.
Vice-President of the International Optimist Dinghy (IODA) Americas Sigrid Beckman raved about the organization of the event.
“I don’t know how you did it but it is an amazing event considering everything that you have gone through and it has been very well-organized. The organization was expected but it is the heart that people have put into this… It is very touching,” Beckman said.
She continued, “The Bahamas is a phenomenal place to have an event like this because there is perfect weather conditions and water, wind and venue. More than anything else, it is very important for us and given what happened to the islands.”
The championship saw some 164 junior sailors from 20 different countries including countries from Japan, New Zealand, Ireland and Brazil.
“This is a high-level event,” she said.
“You have to take into consideration that for these kids to be here they had to beat many kids back home. This is not them saying, ‘Oh I want to go.’
“They had to qualify and had to beat many kids in their own countries to get here. You have seen a high level with the best of the best. Some are very young and small in size and have beaten hundreds of kids in some countries. The level of competition has been very good.”
Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard said hosting the event was a dream for any country.
“This is an incredible event for The Bahamas and an incredible opportunity with 20 countries and 164 athletes from around the world,” he said.
“This is a dream for any country to receive this amount of publicity because every one of these young people when they return home will be posting photographs and videos of their experience in The Bahamas that will travel around the world.”
He applauded the local organizing committee who hosted a great event and let the world know that The Bahamas is still open for business despite the catastrophic Hurricane Dorian.
Robert Dunkley, one of the main local organizers of the event, said it was well over a year of planning.
“This was the largest sailing event we ever had,” he said.
“We had 164 sailors from 20 countries on the water. It was absolutely amazing. A lot of work went into it with well over a year of planning. It is so great to see it come off like this. I have to tell you, setting the courses and running the races. If it was not for Gavin Mckinney, Jimmy Lowe, Peter Wasich, Annalisa Wasich, Karen Goodfellow, Lucy Burrows and so many others who have been out there for so many years helping us run races. They were out there and that was what made it run so smoothly.”
Dunkley continued, “I think we impressed every country who was here. I don’t think they realize the kind of sailing talent from a race administration standpoint, running races like this – I think they were in awe. We had the biggest compliment from the IODA. The head said, ‘So smooth, so well done and all of us that were out there should be very proud of what we accomplished.’”
Pintard knows that there is a gap between the younger ones and the likes of the late Sir Durward Knowles.
“We have had a storied history with Sir Durward Knowles, Cecil Cooke and obviously Gavin McKinney, who is about to travel and compete in the world championship and we wish him and his team well,” Pintard said.
“There has been a gal in terms of younger Bahamians following in that powerful tradition on the international scene. I am confident that many of the young people here that will eventually have that kind of success on the global scene and I think that these kinds of events pave the way for them to accomplish that.”
As for recommending The Bahamas to host it again, Beckman said absolutely.
She also spoke about how great the weather conditions were for the five days of competition. She added that it is difficult to find a place that allows races to go according to schedule.
This is her first time in The Bahamas, although she lived in Miami, Florida.
As for Hurricane Dorian relief, Beckman said that the member countries in the IODA Americas contacted the office about how they can help. Persons brought money, clothes, gear and gifts. They have left some boats and will be looking forward to inviting Bahamians to sail in the USA or the Caribbean islands.
Next year’s edition of OPTINAM will be held in Cancun, Mexico.