It was a slow start for Team Bahamas at the 2019 Optimist North American Championship (OPTINAM) at the Montagu foreshore on day one of competition yesterday. The team is looking to perform better today and as the championships continue throughout the week.
The championship features 164 sailors from 20 countries. Some of the countries participating come from as far as Japan, Ireland and Italy.
The event began on Friday, September 27, with practices and will run all week until Friday, October 4.
Keir Clarke, head coach of the 16-member team, said he is proud of the team.
“The team did well today. We are super proud of them. Coming in, we are the home country but we are the underdogs on the international scene. We have been training hard and some of our kids are in a very good position like Joshua Weech on the edge of the gold fleet, the top third and a couple of sailors on the edge of the silver fleet – the middle of the pack. A lot of nine and 10-year-olds [are] fighting hard,” Clarke said.
Weech, the captain of the team, was the highest-ranked Bahamian on the water yesterday after the preliminary results. He has 89 points. He sailed in the yellow fleet. He finished 14th in the first race. In the second race, he was U-Flagged because he prematurely started the race. In the final race, Weech finished in 19th position. If he was not penalized with the maximum points, Weech was going to be placed higher in the standings.
“It was a good day, I sailed very hard. I was over on one race which wasn’t too good for me but I came back in the other two. I feel like I am up there with the top guys,” Weech said.
The three-time defending national champion said the winds were unusually windy for the Montagu Bay area and there was a squall that came through the area.
For his races today, he is hoping to build on yesterday’s performance and get into the gold fleet.
He hopes to get a good night’s rest and to eat properly so he can be ready for action today.
The closest member of Team Bahamas to Weech is Kaemon Floyd with 117 points. He is in the 122nd position and sailed in the same fleet as Weech. Floyd placed 42nd in the first race; 40th in the second race and 32nd in the third and final race. It was a great improvement along the way.
Maison Koepke is third-highest ranked sailor for the Bahamian team. He sailed with the blue fleet and was ranked at the 126th position overall at the end of yesterday.
Koepke finished 41st in the first race, 25th in the second race and 51st in the third race.
Clarke said that for most of the Bahamian sailors, their nerves got the best of them.
“Nerves got the better of most of the team today, to be honest. We have been training hard to the lead-up and the starts is one big concern that we have been working on. In the training, it has been going very well. We have been working with start lines with 100 boats and managing to get that front row. Today, they threw a lot of new things in the mix – flags, hand signals, different flight, different fleets of boats racing at different times. I think it was very easy for the kids to lose their focus on their pre-start routine and worry about the other things. The only thing that will improve that is more regattas, travel and competitions against these internationals,” Clarke said.
For 12-year-old Craig Ferguson, this was his first international event. He said, “I did pretty good in my races, I think I did good for my first international event.” Ferguson added: “I hope to set my sails more evenly to get it perfect and try to do my best.”
Rhiannon Thomas, leader of Team Bahamas said, “They all stayed in the game. None of them gave up. A few capsized and took on water but they are still smiling. That is the most important right now.”
Thomas added, “The team spirit has been amazing. They really have been good and positive. Like I said they kept going today and they are excited. I am hoping that the nerves will settle now that they have gotten their first international regatta under their belt.”
Looking forward to tomorrow, Clarke said, “For tomorrow, unfortunately for most of our team is super windy. It is going to blow over 25 knots. On a plus, what I am looking forward to is amazing racing by these athletes. There is a huge learning curve by the young ones and had good wind today by the North Americans.”
The team members are Weech, Floyd and Ferguson all from the Bahamas National Sailing School and the Nassau Yacht Club; female sailors Saoirse Duffy and Amy McSweeney, Cameron Eldon and Finley Lambert-McKinney from the Bahamas National Sailing School and the Royal Nassau Sailing Club; female sailor Jasmine Aberle and Koepke from the Hope Town Sailing Club; female sailor Mary Jacqueline Nash, David Huber and Patrick Tomlinson from the Lyford Cay Sailing Club; and female sailor Scarlett McCarroll, Zane Munro, Matthew Reid and Conry Raine from the Royal Nassau Sailing Club.
This is the largest team ever to represent The Bahamas at OPTINAM.
At the end of the first day, Bermuda’s Christian Ebbin is in first place overall with seven points. James Dwyer Matthews from Ireland is in a close second place with eight points. Argentinian Guido Van Avermaete is in third place with 13 points.