Optimist news and reviews from around the UK and abroad.

Welcome to Op-eNews

Issue 1: December 2012

Welcome to the first issue of Op-eNews.  The new bi-monthly, newsletter from IOCA (UK). 

Hopefully, you won't have minded the new Op-eNews dropping in your inbox, and you'll be able to read it easily in your browser on whatever device you choose. However, If you do not wish to receive the newsletter in future, please use the unsubscribe option at the bottom of this email.  Any feedback on browser/device issues would be very welcome.
From the Committee

Chairman’s Update

We are approaching Christmas fast and the year has just disappeared! It is at this time of year that we tend to reflect on the past season, take a break and plan for next year.

This year the IOCA committee has been focused on developing our 5 Year Plan, delivering our major events, delivering top quality training nationally and regionally and selecting and sending teams to numerous international events. If this was not enough, we have added a comprehensive development plan for our flotillas and regional training and have introduced a new full time Regional Coaching Manager (Clare Hall) and full time Administration and Events Manager (Sharon). All these events and activities require an army of volunteers and I would like to thank everyone for your involvement in what ever capacity. The Main Committee shoulder a great deal and we are fortunate to have such a close team, all driving in the same direction making the Optimist experience fun and allowing the sailors to make new friends and develop a love for sailing.......and hopefully become accomplished racing sailors too!

Since my last email we have changed the format of OpNews and we now plan an online version every 2 months which will include the Chairman’s Update. Additionally, we are planning a hard copy version of OpNews which will be delivered in February just prior to the Dinghy Show. We will continually be looking for interesting stories both at home and abroad, technical articles, flotilla stories and just about anything that you feel will be of interest to the membership. We want to make OpNews much more dynamic and it will only be as good as the information/stories we have. Please forward articles & photos to Sharon (admin@optimist.org.uk).

On the International stage, since my last update, we have had some fantastic results with our first ever win at Vigo, spectularly won by David La Brouche. Many congratulations to him and also to Milo Gill-Tayor 12th, Robbie King 42nd and Alex King 72nd. Vita Heathcote has been out in Bermuda for their Nationals and finished just outside the top 10. We have also recently had a group of sailors in Palma and we will have many other IOCA sailors in Miami and Naples over the Christmas break. So much for taking it easy over Christmas!!

The big focus this year has been on developing the regional training and this has been led by Michelle Gent and now supported by Clare Hall. I am very pleased to report that we are now seeing a significant upturn in activity in existing and new flotillas in the North, the East and South West. The future of our class is at grass root level and it is very encouraging to see such a quick response and with the miles that Clare is doing up and down the country I am sure she is pleased too. Earlier this year we won a grant from Sport England to purchase several 6 boat trailers for IOCA and we now have two delivered and positioned with developing flotillas and we hope to have 1-2 more in the new year. If anyone has any thoughts on how we can further improve our regional training I am sure Michelle (development@optimist.org.uk) and Clare (coach@optimist.org.uk) would be pleased to hear from you!

So, looking forward, we will be starting the new season with the Springs at West Mersea & Dabchicks (East coast) as we are keen to try new venues and supply new challenges closely followed by the Selections in Weymouth, the Inlands at Grafham, the Nationals in Largs, the End of Seasons (tbc) and the Winters (we are looking at a selection of new venues). Add the training, International events and regional events and I believe we are going to have a fantastic season.

It just remains for me to wish you all a very Happy Xmas and New Year.......and don’t eat too many mince pies!

Seasons Greetings!

IOCA Chairman

The Annual

Along with your new bi-monthly Op-eNews, we will also be publishing an OpNews Annual.

The Annual will carry all the best articles from Op-eNews, plus lots of information about flotillas & all things optimist.  It will be ready for distribution at the Dinghy Show.

If you would like to advertise in the OpNews Annual, please contact development@optimist.org.uk or admin@optimist.org.uk for additional details & prices

Dates for Your Diary

Buttons below take you straight to the event website (opens new window)

Issue 2: Op-eNews
Deadline for Articles & Photos:
31st Jan 2013
Spring Championships ... 9/10 March 2013
National Championships .... 27 Jul - 2 Aug 2013
2-3 March 2013, Alexandra Palace
IOCA (UK) will be on Stand E10

Why not come and visit us?
Want to find out more about the class? 
Interested in helping on the committee or one of the sub-committees?
We'd love to here from you!

Current vacancies:
Treasurer, Training Officer-Teams
Calling Regatta Fleet Parents

I am looking for Regatta Fleet parents who would be prepared to help me encourage new sailors to try out the regatta fleet for the first time.

It won't take up much of your time, and would just involve talking to parents of new sailors at your club about the regatta fleet events and passing on information. These are sailors/parents who are not yet members of IOCA, so we need you to help us reach them. Any offers of help with the preparation for the Nationals would also be warmly welcomed. If you are interested, please get in touch.

Gillian Schonrock
News and Reviews
My First Oppie Nationals

I was on the beach at Pufwelly as it was the Oppie Nationals 2012. I was really frightened on the beach because the sound of the sails flapping makes it sound really windy when its not. When I was out racing I found it was not windy but the waves were big. It felt like lots of blue soggy sea monsters trying to leap into my oppie. I enjoyed plaining down the waves it felt like tobogganing down a hill. The waves were about 2  meters tall with fluffy white froth on the top [white horses]!
When I was back at the beach I was really pleased that I sailed. I felt like a super hero! Now I love sailing in a strong breeze. I love my oppie, Dougal.

Caitlin Morley (age 8)

Decisions, Decisions...

When I first started sailing, like most children at our club, I hated it!

However, when I started racing, I realised I was actually quite good and especially when I came first at our cadet week. 

Sailing at my club is challenging because of the lack of tide therefore making it hard to get any training in.
So we found the Corinthian Otters in Burnham. Unfortunately, being an 11 year old girl, just starting secondary school I thought seeing my friends would be a better option for me than sailing every saturday (one of the worst decisions of my life!)

My brother, on the other hand, who is two years younger than me, crept up behind me getting better and better every time he went to Burnham. I started to sail a Feva with my friend and last year when we did another cadet week, I realised that I should go back into Oppies. Fortunately, I did this just in time to get into Zone Squad. I am now having a lot of training and I'm very happy I went back into Oppies.

Bethany Taylor
TAXI !!!

Everyone who went to the Volvo Welsh Zone Championships in New Quay would know that Niki Birrell the Paralympic sailor was there with his medal. One of the Regatta fleet  sailors wanted come back in from the massive swell so Niki  Birrell sailed them to the beach in their Optimist.

Niki needed to get back out somehow so they asked me to give him a lift.

At first I wasn’t sure what I had to do because it wasvery windy and I got the news rather suddenly but Sarah Williams soon explained what I had to do.
At New Quay there is a really weird sand bank that you have to get over before launching. It’s so shallow there that if you tried sail over it you would get your dagger board smashed. Niki helped me by putting me in my Optimist and pulling it over the sand bank. On the way back out to the safety launch he had to sit on the opposite side to me so that my boat would balance out correctly . He was very chatty and friendly but he couldn’t really fit under the boom so we avoided tacking as much as possible. Sadly the time came to drop him off on the rib with Kate Williams the North Wales Regional Squad Coach.

As I said earlier the swell was monstrous. Well done to everyone who stayed out because it took something to stay out in the main fleet. The waves added an extra degree of difficulty to the starts. At one point there was a 11 foot wave going down the start line and there were loads of crashes. Sailors couldn’t see over the wave so they couldn’t see each other flying about and by the time they could it was too late! It was really exciting to sail along the waves with stinging salt water flying up into my eyes and dolphins popping up everywhere not to mention the sea sickness. Even I was sick once but it turned out to be my best race!

It was great to meet Niki and to wear the very heavy medal!

William Jukes-Bennett
Welsh Sailors Experience the thrill of Extreme 40s Sailing
Cardiff bay was host to one of the most exciting events in the sailing calendar over the Summer, the UK leg of the Extreme 40s series which attracts some of the best professional sailors in the world battling it out on super fast catamarans. 

Linked to the event was an optimist class competition involving 20 local young sailors. Nick Sawyer, Welsh National squad coach, managed to persuade silver Olympic medallists Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark to kick off the optimist competition on the Friday morning with some on the water coaching for an hour before racing began.  The races took place right inside Mermaid Quay with some fluky winds especially round the huge orange mark buoy for the Extremes which was taller than the Optimist mast. The top 9 sailors of day 1 were given a sail from each of the 9 competing Extreme 40s boats bearing their logos which they then used for the remaining races.

The prize for the top optimist sailor each day was the chance to not only go on the Team Wales Extreme 40 catamaran but to also actually helm one of these amazing boats.  Day one saw Jemma Viney take to the helm with Hannah Roberts-Straw helming and crewing on day 2. Hannah won the event overall with 2 other Cardiff Bay Yacht Club sailors (Mila Monaghan and Jamie Cook) taking 2nd and 3rd positions on the Extreme 40s podium down the bay.

Hannah R-S commented that ‘it was such a fantastic opportunity to get coaching from Hannah and Saskia and to experience the thrill of taking the helm on the Team Wales boat was an amazing prize’.

Nick managed to work his magic again on the last day by getting all the optimist sailors out on the Team Wales boat and even managed to bag himself a ride on the French ZouLou Extreme boat during the penultimate race of the Cardiff leg.

Many of the Extreme 40s sailors started sailing in the optimist, Dave Evans, Hannah Mills, Kate Macgregor, Ed Powys, Luke Patience to name but a few and the kids were thrilled to get the chance to speak to them about what they have achieved over their sailing careers.  Cardiff will host the event for another 2 years and at a guess there will be far more than 20 boats entering the optimist linked competition next year (provided Nick can continue to work his magic of course!)

Catherine Roberts-Straw
Making it into the North Wales Regional Squad!

I found out that I’d been selected for the regional squad when my Dad phoned. I was spending the day with my Nain (Grandmother) when the phone rang. Nain handed me the phone, which was suspicious – I had no idea what was going on. Dad told me straight away that I’d been selected for the North Wales Regional Squad.

I felt shocked and delighted and I couldn’t wait to tell all my friends. I really wanted to get home to start planning the next steps with my Dad.

As my first squad training approached I felt nervous, but just getting on the squad really boosted my confidence. On the first day of training I realised that I already knew most of the sailors on the squad; most were form my sailing club PDSC.

I met Kate Williams WYA coach at Plas Menai. We went through drills and rules.
We had to rig our Oppies ourselves (without help from Dad) before practicing launching. Once we were on the water we practiced starting races and learnt a new tack called a Singapore Tack – this technique gives you a boost as you come out of the tack.

The wind conditions were perfect, but the temperature was very cold. This is my first winter training season and I was really glad to have my drysuit on.

The debrief was better than school as we analysed our skills and talked about ideas to improve. Using video analysis really helped and I realised I needed to practice my tacks and gybes because this was slowing me down.

I enjoyed my first weekend squad training I couldn’t wait to try out my new skills I’m looking forward to the next training event.

The squad is fun and friendly; each member has different talents and we learn a lot from each other.

Luc Sharrock (age 11)
Fleets and Flotillas
Optimist Fleet Grows at Llangorse

Llangorse SC in mid Wales has become a new addition to the Optimist flotillas at the end of 2012 - and through 2013 will be offering a full season of training and activities for Optimist sailors…! 
2012 was something of a busy year at this Club in mid Wales.  The Club is based on a natural lake of 330 acres, situated in the Brecon Beacons National Park, sandwiched between the Brecon Beacons to the west and Black Mountains to the east. They’ve been no strangers to the class over the years (in fact the current National Champion was a member there in former years) but numbers of junior sailors there had been small and for many years an Optimist ‘flotilla’ looked far from likely.  But how quickly things change!  Things have been turned on their heads in 2012 there thanks to a number of members and RYA qualified instructors at the Club.
For many years the Club has run a Cadet Week each summer half term where between 40 and 60 children work through the RYA ‘Start Sailing’ Youth Scheme and in recent years have hosted the Welsh Yachting Association On-Board Youth Regatta. Through 2012 a lot of effort was put into the weeks between those events to try to rejuvenate junior sailing and the Optimist Class in particular.  A programme of training was put in at weekends to continue the learning from Cadet Week and the Club’s own fleet of Opti-bats were dusted off and put to more use than ever before.  The outcome is that in one season the Optimist fleet has grown from a handful of boats to a dozen Optimists being sailed regularly – with a number of families aiming to participate in 2013 and the Optimist now being the Club’s second largest class in terms of numbers.
Cadet Week last year (June 2012) saw 48 participants and the WYA Acorn On-Board Youth regatta had a record entry of 110 sailors, 63 of those being Optimists – from Opti-bats, through a Training fleet and up to Silver & Gold fleet sailors.  “What is striking is that many of our junior sailors are from non-sailing families.  Children are going afloat at Cadet Week, leaving their parents ashore and they come back in delighted with the new skills,
independence and excitement they’d been given. 

They want to keep it going – but it’s understandable that parents are reluctant without proper supervision - and we can provide it” said Nigel Taylor – Optimist parent and RYA Senior Instructor at the Club. “For a family wanting their children to get involved in the sport, you want to see proper structure and the right levels of supervision. I got back involved at the Club last year as both my boys have an Optimist, and I want them to have fun and learn and have the opportunity to race, and move on up if they wish…” added Will Willett – another Optimist parent and participating RYA Assistant Instructor at the Club.

Nigel continued to explain that “at Llangorse we run our programme as a RYA Training Centre and began our own “Oppie Squad” last year. Now, with the support that IOCA can give us with training materials and other guidance we’re providing a lot more for our members and are keen to see our junior fleet grow”.

With the efforts continuing at the Club, Llangorse SC is sure that the fleet will continue to grow and they want to see new members. The Club is in easy reach of south and mid Wales, Bristol, and the England / Wales border counties of Herefordshire and Worcestershire. The Club is a RYA Training Centre and has a fleet of Opti-bats that members can use. Through 2013 there will be a season-long programme of training and racing for members. Cadet Week will continue to be the mainstay of the Club training and from there the ‘Oppie-Squad’ training days take over and progress things. With IOCA now supporting the Club through ‘flotilla’ status the training follows the IOCA levels of competence and the RYA instructors on site would love to have more budding Optimist sailors to work with. If you wish to learn more about joining the Club, sailing your Optimists there, or want to try sailing for the first time – the Club caters for all of this. The Club also hopes that in future more of its members will be seen at other Optimist events around the region. The Club’s website gives more information ( www.llangorsesailing.com ) and they would love to hear from you.

Will Willett

Llangorse Opi Squad Entrants at WYA Regatta Sep 12

A New Oppie Fleet at Parkstone

Parkstone is a large and very active dinghy club on Poole Harbour.  With a youth fleet of over 300 sailors, the optimist was conspicuous by its absence.  So when we arrived in the summer of 2011 with our 3 oppies in tow, we were greeted by surprised looks and “We don't have optimists here”.  Little did they know that this was about to change!
We needed 6 optimists in order to apply to become a recognised class.  With a bit of help from the Holloways and the Gordons to make up the numbers, we applied in March this year.  One of the Club's main concerns was that we would just dilute their existing fleets, predominantly the AB, a local boat sailed by children with their parents. So the hunt was on to recruit new sailors and parents to the Club.
We teamed up with the headmaster of our children's school to run an Oppie Academy on Friday afternoons. 13 new sailors signed up and training began. Despite some bad weather, by mid summer we had 12 new junior members of the Club and the Oppie fleet was born. From there, the fleet has kept on growing.  We have teamed up with Poole Yacht Club to run winter training on the harbour.  A proposal is in with the Club to build a 50 boat rack for the oppies and discussions are on for maybe running an Oppie Academy with a number of the local schools next year (if we can persuade them that sailing is much more important than lessons on a Friday afternoon).  Whilst our fleet are all still quite new to sailing, they are learning fast and you will get to meet them on the oppie circuit soon.
Gillian Schonrock

A Good Year for the East

There are two sets of winter training programmes organised, each with carefully selected, high calibre coaches.

Places in the Zone squad were hotly competed for,  and having done the first weekend, it is obvious it is going to be brilliant for all the sailors involved.
And, the icing on the cake, is having a National Event in our area, perfect timing to pull all the training together and utilise the new skills, hopefully with stunning results!!

Last winter was the first time for several years that any winter training was organised for sailors in the East. Unfortunately turnouts were low, so for this winter, these initial ideas were used as a starting point to come up with a new, and hopefully more appealing programme. It was decided to hold all the IOCA training at one club, and do one day per weekend rather than both. Central to the area, and with both a lake and tidal river, the Blackwater SC was an ideal venue. (It also helped that it is my home club!!)

The winter kicked of with three days of training during half term. The hope was that some less experienced sailors may find 'early winter training', more appealing. It worked. Many had never sailed so late in the year, and for some, it was the first time they had sailed outside their home clubs. On Monday morning, all 20 children went out on the lake and were soon going through some exercises and having lots of fun. The weather on Tuesday morning was perfect and having been divided into 3 groups, they all went out onto the briney stuff, another 'first' for several. A change in the weather heralded the arrival of Clare Halls on Wednesday.

Whilst the sailors were in their briefing, a nasty squall passed over, when it cleared the wind eased to 22-25 knots! By now the adrenalin was flowing, so the more experienced sailors launched onto the river, with others going straight to the lake to play in the breeze, leaving some deliberating over the level of their challenge. In the end it was a 50/50 split. On the river a reach to reach was extended to include a windward mark, and although challenging, -there were many spectacular capsizes!, all became quite proficient. After a quick break for lunch, 7 sailors returned to the river for some 'more intensive' training with Clare, as the pace was picked up, they soon became 5. On returning to shore one of the 5 was heard to say ...'that was torture!' (with a big grin!!) By the end of the day, the sailors had been challenged by the conditions and all went home tired and happy, having increased in confidence and learned a huge amount, but most importantly.....wanting more.

On the 1st December, we had the first of four IOCA training days scheduled for throughout the winter. This has appealed to a different set of children with 22 signing up, including 10 fresh faces. In total around 30 sailors will have accessed some training through IOCA this winter. The lead coach was again Ewan Harris aka 'Monkey', but with a new crew around him. They made a formidable trio, and despite the 'Baltic', or was it 'Siberian'? conditions, the sailors all had a brilliant day.

The Corinthian Otters at Burnham on Crouch have organised four Open training days to complement the IOCA days, the first was on Sunday 9th. Iain Patience, former Toper National Coach, led the team. Again strong winds greeted the sailors, but by taking it in turns,they all had a short play in the wind and waves, with some going back for more,- including one or two who originally hadn't wanted to venture out at all! After lunch the breeze had subsided a little allowing all to go out and do some serious training, rounding off with a race in the sunset.

The buoyant air of excitement and enthusiasm amongst parents, children and coaches is both wonderful and contagious.

Thank you to all who have contributed and helped bring this about.

Nicky Johnson, East IOCA rep.
Tips and Tricks

How to keep the Little Darlings Warm!

I cannot be the only mother who gets strange looks from her non sailing friends or relatives at the mention of taking the children sailing when there is thick frost or even snow on the ground, despite my protests of ‘there is no such thing as the wrong weather just the wrong clothing’ I am safe in the knowledge that they think we are completely mad!  But then there is the subject of the correct clothing. How do we keep them warm? It is especially hard when it is maybe their first winter so I have gathered together the thoughts from a few mothers years of experience at this mad thing we do in the hope that some of our sailors can benefit!
A drysuit is essential however the suit in itself doesn’t keep the sailors warm, it is essential to have layers and lots of them. The base layer should not be of cotton as this attracts moisture and keeps it next to the skin which in turn cools the sailor down thus defeating the object!  From the many mothers I have spoken to it is not unusual for sailors to go out with three or four layers under their teddies and for my sailors their squad fleeces are a favourite.
Different sailors prefer different thermals with 100% Merino wool being a favourite for one, with Millets skiing thermals being another.

Two pairs of socks, one being thick ski socks seems to be fairly common. Many mothers recommend sending each sailor out with two or three hats in a dry bag in case they get wet. Hands seem to be the biggest problem with the following ideas being the most popular: try latex gloves (available from all good chemists, check for allergies) under sailing gloves or woolly gloves followed by washing up gloves followed by sailing gloves, giving the sailors mittens at lunch time to warm their fingers thoroughly, making sure the sailors core is warm enough.

This list is by no means comprehensive and if you have any ‘hot tips’ of your own please do share them with us and we can add them to the February newsletter. In the meantime keep warm and enjoy some of the best sailing there is to be had!

With thanks to the following yummy mummies: Mel Atherton, Sam Moyles, Reb Rogers.

Michelle Gent
For all the latest information check out:

Wishing sailors, parents, supporters and sponsors a very Happy Christmas and Fair Winds for 2013.

Issue 2 : February 2013
Please send articles, photos etc to admin@optimist.org.uk or development@optimist.org.uk by
31st January 2013
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