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Welcome to Op-eNews

Issue 19: June 2016


From The Committee

Chairman's Update

Welcome to another great newsletter produced by our hard working volunteers. As we reach the height of the sailing season, there is so much going on in flotillas, with local club training and racing, Oppy camps and open regional meetings. It shows the strength of our class with the great number of parents involved in making sailing happen. In this newsletter you can read excellent tips on how to grow your flotilla, and hear more about the work we do as a class to support parents and clubs in getting new sailors afloat.

At the regional level, our invaluable reps are being replaced by teams of parents in the South and East zones, a sure sign that region-level sailing is becoming the place to be, combining the enthusiasm of local clubs to create great racing conditions for more experienced sailors.

The forthcoming IOCA AGM in Largs will provide an opportunity to hear about all the work the class does in a year, and how you can get involved. Did you know that last year 6 different volunteer event co-ordinators oversaw 167 races at our events? Across our winter training, our squads, teams and events there is a lot to organise and a role for everyone - if you feel unsure about taking something on, you can shadow a current volunteer, finds others to share the work with, and generally relax when you find out that everyone had to learn the ropes too - Oppies teach our kids to sail and racing teaches parents how to run a sailing class!

I look forward to seeing many of you at the British Nationals in Largs in July.

Enjoy your summer sailing!


Dates For Your Diary

2016 Volvo Gill Optimist British National & Open Championships
Largs Sailing Club
30/07/2016 - 05/08/2016
Late fee applies from 6 July
For the full list of events in all regions please click here to check the IOCA website

Nationals News

Lots of exciting developments are being organized for the 2016 British Nationals, to be held in Largs, Scotland. The news roundup includes:
Regatta Racing!
It is now possible to sign up for Regatta Racing at the Nationals. You will race both morning and afternoon with coach support, coming in at lunchtime. This change was made following careful consideration of the development path in the class. There had also been requests from members indicating that with Regatta Racing in place, more families would be able to sign up for the Nationals. The Nationals team has therefore implemented the Regatta Racing fleet with some rescheduling of resources and an extension of regatta fleet race management. This is likely to be quite a small fleet. It is now possible to sign up for this at the Nationals website.
As ever, many volunteers will be needed to run the Nationals. Anthony Gifford is the volunteer coordinator. A volunteer rota will go up on the Nationals website shortly [Andy: could you add the url with page id, ta] . Please sign up so that the organisation of our biggest event of the year can get fully under way.

STOP PRESS: the Nationals Ranking will be published in the IOCA annual once again. Come along and get yourself listed on the ranking! And if that wasn’t enough incentive, see below for all the prizes the RYA is giving away at Largs! See you in Scotland!
RYA Prizes at the Optimist Nationals 2016
As a pilot project the RYA is looking to support the Optimist Nationals Largs 2016 by offering the following prizes:
  • Nardini’s Ice Cream Vouchers.
  • A weekend with a National Squad coach for the most improved flotilla in regatta fleet.
  • The top placed 14yr, 13yr and 12 & under yrs girl and boy plus two discretionary places for the sailors with the greatest attitude in main fleet to win a travel grant to attend the 10th Torrevieja International Optimist Trophy, Spain in January 2017 with Alan Williams coaching.
  • Three transition days with a Youth Squad coach plus Youth squad sailor
(For more details please contact Michelle Gent)
Enter The Nationals HERE

IOCA Office News

John Perham – Administrator and Events Manager
What a difference a year makes! I feel that I am in the middle of my work at present. As a class we have achieved a lot this year so far and we are already starting to think and plan for 2017.
Looking back, the Springs, Selections and Inlands have been held, the IOCA GBR Teams have been selected and are about to go off to competitions. Over four hundred sailors have joined IOCA for this year so far.
Looking forward to the next major event, the Nationals at Largs. I am working with Jelle Stokroos, who is the Nationals Event Coordinator and the work for the Nationals is going well. I am busy processing entries for GBR and International sailors and I am about to upload to the Nationals page the all-important Sign-up sheet for the Event Team. When the Sign-up sheet appears please sign up for duties as we need lots of parents to assist in running the event.
If there are any parents who would like to consider volunteering to be the Event Coordinator for the Nationals 2017 in Weymouth and Portland and you are going to Largs – come and talk to me - it’s a great opportunity to work alongside Jelle and his team to find out what is involved. The National 2017 team has started to take shape, with Valeria Sesto-Cosby taking on promotion.  Contact me to express you interest in either being the Event Coordinator or being a member of the organising team.
Looking ahead after the Nationals, I am working with the Jennifer Lance the Training Officer, and the squad coaches, Alan Williams, Will Burdall and Duncan West to plan the Winter Squad Training programme 2016 – 17  for the National, Intermediate and Development squads and the Invitational Squad training programme.  As soon as information is available on these programmes, they will be published on the squad pages. So keep looking out for updates.  The full plan for the Winter Squads should be published after the Nationals.
My job is to support the parents who take on IOCA year-round jobs, as well as projects and duties at events. So I would just like to say a big thanks to everyone who has worked for the class in any way this year so far and all of you who are about the sign-up for the Nationals, future major events, the committee at the AGM and for squads later in the year. I look forward to working with you.

Parents in Action

Building a New Flotilla - The Optimist Dolphins at West Kirby Sailing Club

Mark Creasy

Summer 2014 was a great summer for sailing at WKSC, and towards the end of it I was asked to be the Optimist Class Captain at West Kirby Sailing Club.

This season 2016 we have 41 helms in the Optimist Dolphins at WKSC.  Last year we took 6 boats to the zone championships in Ullswater  and this season we aim to take 9 boats to Derwent.

Here are some thoughts and observations after 20 months that new flotilla leaders might find amusing or even helpful.

WKSC is a large active sailing club on the Wirral peninsula that has seen Optimist flotillas come and go. It was clear anything that we did needed to become entrenched so that we could avoid future boom and bust cycles. 

Many of the key parts were in place already:
  • An RYA Champion Club that realizes that sailing families are at the heart of a thriving Club.
  • A supportive Class association that has held my hand and talked me through the early foundation steps for the Flotilla. Thank you Michelle Gent and IOCA.
  • Other Club Members and the WKSC training team; our strong coaching team are the bedrock of the flotilla.
Here are 8 key tips that I have learnt, most of which are obvious but should not be ignored.

The Kids are Busy
Todays young helms have multiple commitments that begin before they are seven. At this age it is about building positive sailing experiences and a familiarity with the activity. Yes there are very talented younger helms out there but the real deliverable for the flotilla is smiles and exposure to the sport. Many of our helms have just turned seven. It is never too late to start sailing, however if the kids are already maxed with other activities sailing will be a distraction not a focus.

Busy Parents
The parents are even busier than the children. Today’s parents are constantly moving their children from one activity to the next.  Their ability to focus on your activity is limited.  Give them a regular timeslot with as little to remember or bring as possible.  Communicate as much and frequently as you can but do not assume anything in an email is read. They are able and willing to volunteer but will need to be given discrete doable tasks with as much notice as possible.  Once their child has expressed a preference for sailing they will do all they can, however with no exposure to the flotilla a preference cannot be expressed. Keep communications as fluid as possible. Many helms will not come from sailing families, and they will need lots of information and help to get on the water in safety and comfort.

Successful programmes need hot food. This was not obvious to me, but after being told it for the fifth time even I cottoned on. Make sure that after the helms come off the water they are able to get a hot meal in a communal setting. This more than anything will build the camaraderie and team work that will be needed on those cold winter training mornings. 

It is important that the programme costs and start-up costs remain under control. We have managed to do this with volunteers and using existing resources. There is no reason why sailing an Optimist has to be any more expensive than other children’s activities. The goal here is time on the water not shiny equipment that gets rarely used.

Keep it simple. Rinse Repeat Rinse Repeat Again
The most successful programmes succeed because they keep it simple and repeat. We avoid actions that cannot be repeated. 

The flotilla will grow from the beginner level up, no one starts with a flotilla of intermediate helms ready for race training.  We have 4 levels/fleets currently:  Green, Blue, Red and Silver. Each fleet has a Captain who manages the syllabus and communications for their fleet. 
Training Training Training
It is daunting for parents and beginners just to get out there and sail in an unstructured way. There are folks who will do this and they will succeed, however to form a group you need to offer training. The flotilla will only succeed if regular training is given and a syllabus is used to help the helms understand where they are and what the next level is.

Sailing is a social activity, it is important that if the helm is going to spend any time on the water that they do it with friends. They will make lifelong friendships on the water but starting out it’s never a bad idea to learn to sail with an existing friendly face. It is also important to give the helms time to socialize and become part of the Club fabric that will keep them on the water.


Event Reports

RYA Eric Twiname Championships

Sam Edwards, GBR 5919, HISC, South/South East Regions.

The 30th RYA Eric Twiname Championships were held on a sunny and warm weekend at Rutland SC with light wind conditions. The racing was close for all the sailors with Joey Taylor from Blackwater SC, East claiming the overall Optimist winners trophy.

There were many sailors from all different regions. The sailing was close and competitive and was well organised. The light winds proved challenging but very good, and pushed all the sailors hard. The Optimists and Fevas sailed the same course (inner and outer loop). We sailed 6 races over the 2 days; the first race on day 1 was not counted, due to a problem with the start. This was my best race, which I finished 2nd, so I was disappointed when we arrived on day 2 to hear it had been abandoned. Despite a mixed set of results over the 2 days, I finished 9th overall and 1st girl.

Rutland were great hosts and laid on a variety of activities with the human table football definitely the most popular, with the adults even taking the opportunity to have a quick game. However almost pipping the football to the post was the surfboard buckaroo. I had a yummy pizza in the evening, with a number of south-east zone sailors in the photo, and had a really nice time.

Thank you to everyone that organised the event I had a fabulous time.

Optimist Inlands 2016

Abi Cowley, GBR 6339, Kielder Water Sailing Club, North Zone
I’m shattered, broken and eating chips in Wetherby, after my first proper national Oppie event (Inlands 2016).

It was extremely windy when we arrived on the Friday night. I was quite apprehensive because I’m not very good in winds that strong. I knew I would have a hard weekend if it stayed that windy. The boats tied to the buoys in the bay were crashing over the waves and the tent kept flying away as we tried to pitch it.

We hadn’t been to Grafham Sailing Club before so we explored and found our way around. Everyone there was really friendly and helpful.
The next day I was delighted to wake up to sunshine and lighter winds. I was glad to find that all of the sailors I knew, from zone squad training had all put their boats in the same place, for rigging.

I was in the second start for the first two races, so I got a good chance to check over my boat and watch the other groups start.  The wind was really quite light and I spent most of the day sitting in. 

On Sunday the wind was really shifty and changeable.  My fleet’s final race finished before the other fleet had even started. This helped to shorten the queues to wash our boats down well, so we don’t spread killer shrimps.

I wasn’t sure that I was going to go to the Inlands. I only decided that I really did want to go, having enjoyed the Eric Twiname event, the previous weekend. I’m really glad that I did go because I enjoyed it a lot and it’s good to get the experience of bigger events.

I wish I had known about the flights and the starts before I arrived, but it didn’t really effect anything. My tally number was 157, weirdly the same place that I came!!

I would definitely recommend it to everyone who isn’t sure to go, as you can go in the Regatta Fleet. It is a really good experience and you can learn so much from just being there.

News from the Regions

South West  

Chew Valley Lake Sailing Club are hosting this year’s South West Champs over the weekend of 25th/26th June. As always there will be two fleets, Main and Regatta - all invited whether you are a SW sailor or not - but only those from the SW are eligible to win the championship.
Entry is the good old-fashioned way, via a form which can be downloaded from the IOCA website  along with the NORs.
Alternatively request these from me Tony Martin  direct and I can email them. Entry fee is £45, including a BBQ on the Saturday. The closing date is 17th June, after which a late entry fee of £60 apply.

Unfortunately camping is not available at Chew Valley Lake due to local water board regulations; please visit click here for alternative options for camping, bed & breakfast and/or hotels.

We look forward to seeing you all there.


The Traveller Series is well underway with two events sailed already. Coming up are Eastern Areas (Burnham 25th& 26th June), Dabchicks (2nd July), Aldeburgh (July 17th), Blackwater (Sept 3rd) and WOBYC (November 5th). Taking the best four positions from these eight events we will calculate a winner (members of national IOCA squads are not eligible to win).  Unfortunately it is almost impossible to create a Regatta Fleet version of this series.
Antony Gifford, who has overseen the expansion and success of Oppie sailing in the east is moving to Scotland in July. He will be replaced by the dream team of Mel Hacker, Sophie Kelley, Heidi Means and Ian Patience, who have all agreed to take on the role of running IOCA in the East as a team. They are all hoping to build on Antony’s work enthusing sailors to get into their Oppies and take activity in the region to new highs.


The South region has a fabulous new website, where you can find out all about what they are planning and get up to.
For the last year, IOCA South has not had an Area Rep. So to reduce the amount that any one person needs to do, we have split the role up into 4.  Ian Cole has kindly agreed to run the Spinnaker training again next year.  Gillian Schonrock is taking on the role of Treasurer.  We are looking for 2 more people to join us to be in charge of Newsletters and Events. Events include the Southern Traveller Series and Area Champs.  You don't need to run the events themselves, just co-ordinate with the event organisers and sponsor, and work out series prizes.

Tips and Tricks

Parkstone Optimists Team Up

The Parkstone YC optimist team

If you have been to an International event, you will have seen the huge trailers piled high with oppies and RIBs.    Many clubs on the continent roam across Europe in the Summer months from event to event, with a coach and group of sailors.  The biggest juggernaut we've seen had 2 RIBs topped by 24 optimists!
Well, we didn't go quite that far, but we do now have a smart new “RIB and 6 optimists” trailer for the fleet.  The idea is to make travelling to events more of a team affair.  It's fun going all together, costs less and means that not as many adults need to go to every event.   Squeezing a few extra sailors in is no big deal, so we can take along sailors that might not have otherwise been able to go. 

The trailer was built by Mersea Trailers, and cost £3,360 (inc VAT).  It took a couple of attempts to get it right.  So, if you are thinking that you might want one for your fleet, feel free to come and chat to us at one of the events.  We're easy to spot in the trailer park!

Club Mentoring Programme

Michelle Gent, IOCA Development
Over the last 18 months IOCA has been running a pilot project called the ‘Club Mentoring Programme’. Clubs with a supportive volunteer environment have been selected and a coach has been contracted to work with those volunteers to support their activities and help provide structure and direction for the training they offer. IOCA(UK) has seed funded the coach for the first season with the ambition that the clubs charge for the training  going forward. The idea is to encourage commitment from the participants with a view that any surplus generated is reinvested into the programme in following years. One club selected was West Kirby SC (see above) under the expert volunteer flotilla leader Mark Creasy.

Such was the success of the original pilot that in 2016 the programme has been rolled out to Penine SC, Kielder Water SC, Derwent Reservoir SC, Tees & Hartlepool YC, Shustoke SC & Lyme Regis YC. On average participation numbers have increased by about 50%, with all clubs reporting a welcome increase in activity and swift improvement of the sailors participating.

Dave Shilling from Derwent Reservoir Sailing Club, who has seen numbers increase from 9 to 20 sailors over the summer reports: “The great thing about having Pete (coach) supporting us is that it has given us the confidence to take sailors out in challenging conditions when ordinarily we would have played it safe and cancelled the training. When it hasn’t been possible to sail Pete always has a stash of ideas to entertain the kids with sailing related activities. We have seen a great improvement in the kids’ sailing as the sailors attending on a far more regular basis.”

Meanwhile, Jess Cowley of Kielder says: “Whilst as a club we have successfully run regular RYA Level 1 & 2 courses we have struggled to get the kids to participate in regular activities. Having IOCA involved has helped to provide the structure and expertise whilst still allowing us as parents to be fully involved. The atmosphere at the club is really vibrant with all of the activity and the result is our numbers have increased from 9 to 15 regular participants.”

And as Jonny Hatch of Tees & Hartlepool YC sums up, the success of these initiatives is that “the kids were grinning from ear to ear”.

Why has the programme been so successful?
  • Having a coach working regularly with the club allows the volunteers and coach to work together as a team to allow an organised structure to evolve.  This regular activity is seen and talked about amongst club members and visitors which in itself encourages others to attend.
  • The coach is employed to primarily support the volunteers in their activities. This can be through helping bring a structured programme to the training, to the volunteers watching the coach work with sailors and learn new skills themselves as well as understanding the importance of teaching the correct techniques in order to ensure that the sailor’s learning curve is as swift as possible.
  • By having an experienced coach at the training it allows the training to happen ‘no matter the weather’.
  • Volunteers learn coaching techniques from the coach which are then applied when the coach is not attending a session thus improving the learning experience over the whole summer.
  • It takes the pressure off the volunteers to be able to conjure up a training session on their own.
How much does this cost?
  • IOCA(UK) has the resources to seed fund four clubs every year. Priority has been given to clubs in regions with low activity levels (North East, South West and North West).
  • Each coach attends their assigned club once per month over the 6 month summer period.
  • On average the cost of the coach is £1,250.
  • All sailors who participate are expected to make a financial contribution - the amount is decided by the club - but with the goal that the training can be replicated on a self-funding basis.
Future plans
  • IOCA is planning on taking on another four clubs in 2017. Clubs will be selected according to the knowledge and experience of the volunteers, their enthusiasm and their location, with areas of little sailing activity taking priority. Due to IOCA’s limited resources clubs that have already benefited from the programme will unfortunately not be able to re-apply.
  • What can I do if my club doesn’t make it into the Club Mentoring programme next year? IOCA is able to provide help and support to all clubs. This can include knowledge of how running the programme increases activity and club membership. It is possible for the clubs to employ a coach directly and IOCA would be delighted to work with these clubs to help them achieve similar great results.
Richard Baker from Weir Wood has been setting up a programme along the same lines: “We decided to create more structure within our club environment and have worked hard with our coach to create a programme which is consistent. Going forward we expect our coach will be able to help us as volunteers with the correct techniques as well as providing a sounding board for our development plans.”
For more information please contact Michelle Gent

A Volvo for the weekend

Clive Wright, father of Drew Wright
The Wright family were really excited to receive an email offering 'a Volvo for the weekend', which we quickly accepted. Everyone could see the appeal of 'Volvo driving British Sailing' livery on the side of the vehicle - how cool!

The Volvo representatives were really friendly and all the arrangements were made easily by email, including some automated checks that I will use at work - thanks Volvo.

The car arrived, exactly as planned on Thursday, and Skye enjoyed being picked up from school in the new car, complete with its own built in booster seats. It's amazing how at such a tender age kids know how to connect devices into the bluetooth of the in-car entertainment - which in old fashioned money used to be the radio. So we were soon motoring in a new car with the right kind of music, but don't ask me what it was.

On Friday we put the seats of the V60 estate flat and loaded up, remembering to take out the really snazzy tow bar beforehand, which just snapped easily into place. We hitched the RIB on and set off shortly after putting the postcode for Grafham Water Sailing Club into the satnav - I let Drew do that bit and it was absolutely no challenge to a teenager.

The car ran perfectly, moving the RIB and Oppy with no problem. You could hardly tell we were towing. The automatic gearbox is very relaxing and they have come on quite a lot since I last drove one.

Sadly this was our last Oppy event but we went out in style. I'm now under pressure to upgrade my old reliable Volvo as there is nothing quite like the smell of a new car and I have to say the new one did everything considerably better.

We were very sorry to part with the car when Volvo came, right on time, to pick it up on Tuesday and with no fuss it disappeared into the distance.

Thank you Volvo and Catriona for the very kind loan of the car which we thoroughly enjoyed. If you ever get the chance of a 'Volvo for the weekend' you should definitely accept.

Gill sponsorship of Jamie Cook

Technical sailing clothing brand and partner of grassroots sailing Gill have added a new sponsored sailor to their Gill Race Team - Optimist sailor Jamie Cook. Jamie started sailing around the age of 6 at Cardiff Bay Yacht Club. Following a number of regatta events his first major main fleet event was at the British Nationals when he was 9. Since then he has progressed up the fleet and finished in first place overall in the 2015 ranking series at age 12. Jamie's current target is to compete for team GBR in an Optimist Worlds Championship. Jamie is now one of the youngest members of the Gill Race Team.
Follow the discount ticket link below if you are purchasing tickets.  You will need to use the special password included. The offer is valid until 100 tickets are purchased.
Password: OPTIMIST2016

Provisional Dates from the RYA

These are the provisional zone squad dates for the autumn.
Land Day               5/6 November
ZS 1                      12/13 November
ZS 2                      3/4 December
ZS 3                      21/22 January
ZS 4                      11/12 February
ZS 5                      11/12 March
ZS 6                      1/2 April
IOCA would love to hear your news to share with it's members.  Please continue to send your articles, photos, poems or news stories to us here

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