A number of Bahamian junior sailors were on the waters at Montagu Bay this past weekend, competing in the 2022 Fidelity Optimist National Championships.
Emerging with the top finish among the local sailors was Patrick Tomlinson. He sailed for the Lyford Cay Sailing Club and finished with 53 net points in the Championship Fleet, placing sixth overall, but first among the local sailors. Tomlinson’s highest finish was third place in the second race on Saturday.
There were 64 entries in that fleet as they sailed six races. Sailors from the United States of America and Puerto Rico were also on the water.
American Isabel Veiga, who sailed for the Lauderdale Yacht Club, was the overall winner with 30 points.
Placing as the second-highest Bahamian sailor was Craig Ferguson II from the Nassau Yacht Club. He finished with 60 net points, placing ninth overall. He won the fifth race which was yesterday.
Zane Munro finished as the third-highest local sailor with 71 net points, finishing 13th overall. His best finish was a seventh-place finish in the third race which was the first race on Sunday. Munro will be traveling to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this week, for the Optimist South American Championships that start on Saturday.
In the Green Fleet, which were for the novices, Tyreese McKenzie from the Exuma Sailing Club won with eight net points. He won three of the six races. Hope Town’s Preston Thompson, of Abaco, was second with 19 points. Finishing third in that fleet was the Nassau Yacht Club’s Mateo Theberge with 20 net points.
Chairperson of the regatta Emma Tinkler said they were able to pull through despite inclement weather.
“Saturday saw very little wind,” Tinkler said. “We had postponements but we were able to have two races in the championship fleet and three races in the green fleet. Sunday saw a little bit more wind and a total of six races completed over the two days.”
She added, “Any large-scale regatta is a great experience for all of our sailors when you compare them with the American kids who are used to sailing in a huge fleet on a weekly basis. This is a great experience for Bahamians. We are five weeks away from the OPTINAMs (Optimist North American Championships) that takes place in November, so this is a great training ground for the OPTINAMs. That will see about 160 sailors from around the world competing.”
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Fidelity Bank Bahamas, the title sponsor, Gowon Bowe, said it is key to have young persons involved in sports and they are glad to be a part of it.
“We need to encourage the younger generation to start to be a part of sports, so this is a part of our heritage and it is a part of what we are as an identity as a country. When we see this opportunity here, not only for Bahamian participants, we have participants coming from all across the region; it is a huge thing. They were just recently proud that they had Grand Bahama and Abaco again along with Exuma and Eleuthera. When we talk about national events having all islands participating in that regard, it is a proud moment and we are happy to be a part of it,” Bowe said.
Bowe was out on the water on Sunday watching the races and was impressed with how the sailors performed. He is hoping more corporate sponsors get on board to support the junior athletes and sports in general.
“Going out and having an opportunity to be up close and personal with them – I can tell you the agility of these young kids, I wish I had that again. Seeing them spiral underneath the sails and pull up and have tactics to tackle the wind is a good thing. The discipline, training and instructions are aspects we do not appreciate as to why sports is so important to youth development,” Bowe said.
There were 101 registered sailors and 98 who raced overall. Tinkler said she was happy to see sailors from Grand Bahama and Abaco sailing, particularly after Hurricane Dorian destroyed their equipment three years ago, and the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their participation in competitions.
The Bahamas Sailing Association (BSA) will host the 2022 Optimist North American Championships (OPTINAMs) from November 13-20. It was also hosted in The Bahamas in 2019.