2017 North American Opti Championship Coaches Report


The Aussie team at the North American Optimist Championships in Toronto Canada was well represented by Jamie Bougher, Linus Talacko, Quinn Auricht, Finn McMahon, Lachlan Grogan and Olivia Williams who all made an impressive sight at the opening ceremony where the team marched with their boxing kangaroos as mascots.

Our flag bearer - Olivia Williams led the team on a Grammy-like Opening Ceremony of music, dance, acrobatics and speeches all under the backdrop of the Toronto skyline - full credit to the beautiful Royal Canadian Yacht Club (RPYC) for hosting an unforgettable ceremony. Day 1 of qualifying series: The sailors were faced with a cold and wet day of shifty inconsistent winds where two races were completed. The Aussie Team made a real statement in race 1 with two out of three possible bullets achieved byJamie and Linus. Quinn and Lachie also started with a very solid performance placing third and eighth respectively.

In between both races the fleet of 178 boats the fleet saw the weather deteriorate and we were all faced with a squall of heavy rain and gusts of 20kts+ for around 30min which was topped by a 100 degrees from SSW to NNW, the second race was extremely challenging as we now had the wind hugely affected by the clouds, and became very inconsistent and slowly dying off.  The race-course ended up really skewed it was now paramount to gain awareness of this thus responding by taking the iitial advantage by positioning at the bias-end of the line and grabbing an early advantage. Our Team achieved mixed results not quite being able to fully keep their plans flexible in the pre-start and lost the valuable initial gain. This race offered a very valuable lesson particularly with ever changing weather and variant breezes in the races still to come.

The race committee attempted to start a third race of the day which saw the Aussies bouncing back with a pre-start plan perfectly executed and were placed around the top but with the wind dying to zero knots, this race was cancelled. After already having spent over 5 hours on the water the fleet was sent back ashore. Day 2 - the sun was out with more consistent winds ranging from 10-14knts. It was also a long day on the water with 3 races completed – considering that there was only one drop for the event and some of our members were already carrying a 40+ this meant there was no room for mistakes. Proudly, the team again kept their cool and displayed very consistent results to end the qualifying series with four of the team (Jamie, Finn, Quinn and Linus) making gold fleet, Lachie making silver and Olivia making bronze an outstanding feat by the whole team.

Special mention here to Finn who wasn’t scored any points on race 1 of the regatta (due to finishing in the midst of a heavy rain squall and drastic wind shift which had many boats scored DNC), luckily after 2 days sitting in the protest rooms with witnesses and photo evidence, his scoring enquiry was finally conceded. The lesson for Finn and the whole team was to always make sure we congratulate the boat that finishes in front of you every race as sometimes we had clusters of 20+ boats crossing the finish line within 10 seconds. 

With a hot representation from USA, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Peru currently the leader board had the USA holding all three podium positions - but still early days in the Regatta that has seen extremely close and competitive racing.  With qualifying races now completed the Aussies made their appearance as the third best qualified country behind Brazil and Peru for the Team Racing Nation Cup, with the final two days of the regatta restarting on Friday.

The team-racing saw a very light breeze with the race course was laid just in front of the spectator jetty. Australia had a by directly to quarter finals and didn’t have to race the first race as only 12 countries were entered. The extended wait and the light breeze force the race management to make the decision to go into a sudden-death elimination system, which meant, one loss – back to shore.

Australia had a fantastic performance in the first race against Peru 2 with an excellent team-racing move executed by Jamie in mark 3 which held 2 Peruvians and changed the lead into a comfortable 1-2-3 for Australia. The second race saw us going head to head with the top Peruvian team who was in top form and had just defeated Switzerland. The semi-final race was a very complicated one for the Australians who struggled to secure an early lead and made the change of tactics to stop 2 Peruvians to the 7-8 combination very late and was never able to regain control. Peru who had come down against Australia at last years Nam’s had its redemption obtaining victory and became the new Nam’s finalist. The long wait meant this would be the only two races for Australia on this day, Team Racing was now to be resumed on day 3 at the conclusion of fleet racing. Australia would go head to head against the top qualified Nation Brazil 1 who had just been defeated in a very close race against Argentina.  Day 3 was also another super long day that started with an over 2hr wait on the water while waiting for the heavy fog to dissipate, the race management didn’t want to run any risk with sailors getting lost and made the call for everyone to launch but to wait inside the harbour until the panorama was clearer. Only two races of the finals were completed in a very light sea breeze from the SW. Both Finn (9th and 3rd) and Jamie (22nd and 4th) had a solid performance scoring and climbed lots of places in the leader-board. With a more steadier building breeze and the fog burning off thanks to a  developing sunnier afternoon, the key now was to break the line-sack off the start and be able to sail quick into the pressurebands on the ends. This was only possible by sailing wider into the edges of the course to then come back and capitalise big gains. Olivia was able to perform her game-plan with a perfect start and really well positioning showing continuous improvement through the regatta finishing her best race yet crossing the line on 20th. Unfortunately for Silver and Bronze Fleet they were only able to complete 1 race for the day. The team-racing for bronze and fourth, was sailed in a more developed 10-12 kts SW breeze, the race was once again really tight and saw the Brazilians drawing first blood creating more situations that ended in penalties against Australia, they were able to round ahead in the first downwind, and held the lead throughout the race with a late-attack at the finish line by Australia that was fruitless. A well deserved win by the Brazilians. The grand-final saw outstanding sailing with Peru defeating Argentina 2-1.  Day 4 saw very heavy fog similar to the one of the previous day, this meant another long wait before the racing finally got underway. Unfortunately only the Gold and Silver fleets managed to race, this time due to a dangerous electrical storm that hit the Bronze fleet while they were 100m off the finish line. Jamie had a phenomenal performance sailing to a top 10 finish, which also saw him jumping into a formidable 9th place finish in his last ever Optimist regatta. As the Australian Coach in charge of this team I want to congratulate and thank the organisation of this 2017 North American Championships. After having sailed in two North American’s myself, finishing 1st in 2005 and 6th in 2006, it certainly was an honour to be on the sidelines coaching this very talented team.  I also want to thank our sailor’s parents and families who made this trip possible  and thank AIODA and it’s sponsors for all their on going support and efforts in making the Australian Optimist Class larger and stronger both domestically and internationally.

Alex Zimmerman-

All photos by Matias Cappizano