Op-eNews: the bi-monthly newsletter from IOCA (UK)

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Issue 5: December 2013

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From the Committee

Chairman’s Update

The season is almost over for most dinghy classes and yet in the Optimist class we are busier than ever.  We have concluded our 5 set championship events with the Winter Championships at Datchet Water last month, with 151 entries.  Well done everyone for making it such a success!  We now enter our next phase in the Optimist year which is largely club based training, National, Intermediate and Development Squads and of course the RYA Zone squads.  This is the time of year to take full advantages of the extensive training available, try some new equipment and get ready for the coming year.

Over the last few years the class has seen a number of positive changes and this continues with our ‘Grass Roots and Development training program’.  Michelle Gent is our Development Officer and considerable effort is being made to help flotillas deliver good quality training and ensure that all our members get fantastic value for their subscription.  We are currently supplying a coach for a day to any flotilla with six new family members so that we can ensure we are delivering the right information from day one.  We have 6 good regatta fleet boats available to loan, to help new flotilla’s get started and we have recently doubled the size of the development squad so that those who are normally 13 and above and have not made National or Intermediate squad receive first class coaching over the winter.  If you have any questions on these initiatives please contact Michelle.

Over the last three months IOCA has also introduced a new ‘supported’ International events circuit for the top end of the fleet and anyone that is looking for International events experience.  We have identified one good international event each month during the winter with Alan Williams coaching.  We have been to Roompot (Holland), Vigo (Northern Spain) and Palma (Majorca) on the last 3 trips with some fantastic competition and generally 200-400 strong fleets!  Our sailors have performed exceptionally well but the real benefit of these events is learning how to campaign overseas and learning how to deal with new environments.  All our GBR sailors have gained valuable experience this year and having Alan and Jen at the events has made a huge difference.  If you are interested in the next event in Palamos (Spain) please sign up HERE

We are the International Optimist Class (UK) and we should all be very proud of our class and the effort made by all our sailors!  What is most important is that we are living up to our name the International Optimist class.  Much of this would not be possible without the fantastic financial support we receive from the RYA, who are our largest supporters and our class sponsors, Volvo, Gill, Noble Marine Insurance, IBI Sailing and Peter Newton Photographers.  Thank you to you all for your continued support for this fantastic class!

Whilst we can as a class supply unparalleled opportunities for our sailors around the World, none of this is possible without the dedication of our volunteers, parents and coaches from around the UK.   Your IOCA committee has worked tirelessly to produce even more training this year and through your regional training officers and RYA High Performance managers we hope this will continue to improve and give great value.

Alan Williams, his team of coaches and the Selectors have done a fantastic job this year and all our thanks go to them for their dedication and continued support to the class.  These roles require a huge amount of commitment and time, and in my final year as Chairman I am now beginning to understand just how big these key roles are.  A very big thank you from me, the committee and the membership!

Finally to those of you that have left the class this year, good luck with your next class, we hope you have enjoyed your Optimist sailing and please stay in touch. For the next generation of Optimist sailors, work hard, have fun and we look forward to getting to know you all in the New Year, and have a very Happy Christmas!

Best wishes, Simon

Calling all ex-Oppie sailors and coaches

Have you ever coached optimist sailors, or do you know someone who has?

We have created an online sign-up list for anyone who is interested in coaching oppie sailors, at any level from beginners to national squad sailors.

Please click on the link below and let us know what you have done, and what kind of coaching you are interested in doing. When opportunities come up for coaching positions at national events or for local training, we can drop you an email to let you know about them. 
Sign Up HERE

Details for applying to coach at the Nationals will be going out shortly, so please sign up soon.  Please feel free to pass these details on to anyone you know who might be interested.
Membership Matters

The 2014 Membership will be available from 1st January 2014

Dates for Your Diary

Buttons below take you straight to the event website (opens new window)
Sign Up for details about Palamos (Coach supported international)
1-2 March 2014, Alexandra Palace
IOCA (UK) will be on Stand E10

Why not come and visit us?
Spring Championships... 29/30 Mar 2014
STOP PRESS - Springs Venue
Royal Torbay Yacht Club
Entry Opens Soon  - STOP PRESS

Inland Championships .... 17/18 May 2014
Area Championships..... 12/13 Jul 2014
National Championships...... 2-8 Aug 2014
Trophy Audit

Won anything lately?

In order to complete an audit of all the trophies IOCA owns, if you have any trophies at home, please could you send an email to Kim Hill (IOCA Trophy Co-ordinator) with your name, the name of the trophy,  the previous winner's name and a photo (smartphone quality is fine). 

If you could put each trophy's details in a separate email that would help enormously!
2014 Nationals

Committee Boat Appeal

We are already planning for the 2014 National Championships in Weymouth, which looks likely to be the biggest ever UK Optimist event - and therefore the UK's largest ever single-class event!

As well as a bumper regatta fleet, the numbers expected in main fleet mean that we are looking at running separate course areas for the senior and junior fleets so that we can limit the number of sailors in each start without excessively long days on the water.  But to do that requires extra race committee boats. Hiring them all in Weymouth is looking extremely expensive, and we would like to avoid a sharp increase in the entry fee.

So can you help?

If you or your club have a boat that might be suitable for any of the committee boat roles and that you could bring to Weymouth, we would like to hear from you, please. So any yacht or motorboat from about 25' upwards is of interest, and we need 10 in total. Roles are starting signal boat, start pin-end boat, finish, and mothership.

In return, we will look at paying some or all of your harbour dues, marina berthing fees and fuel, and of course you will be out on the course area to have a great view of the racing each day.

You may also wish to use your boat as accommodation for the week.

Please contact Jay Williamson 

If you would like further information or would like to be involved, please contact
David Baddeley, Optimist Euros 2015 Chairman

www.optimisteuros2015.com  Facebook: Optimisteuros2015  Twitter: @OptimistEuros15

Race Officers' Corner
This is the first is a series of short pieces which aim to demystify some of the signals we use and decisions which are made when running your racing.

These articles will be driven from the experiences at recent events and anticipation future events rather than being a logical progression through the start of a race.

If you have any specific questions or would like to suggest a topic for this series, please let us know.


So let’s jump straight in with a relatively new signal to most of you - the Z-flag. Anyone racing in the main fleet at the End of Seasons or Winters will have seen this when they might have been expecting to see a Blue
Peter or Black flag. So what does it mean and why have we started using it?

The Z-flag is one of the standard preparatory signals listed in the Racing Rules:

30.2 Z Flag Rule
If flag Z has been displayed, no part of a boat’s hull, crew or equipment shall be in the triangle formed by the ends of the starting line and the first mark during the last minute before her starting signal. If a boat breaks this rule and is identified, she shall receive, without a hearing, a 20% Scoring Penalty calculated as stated in rule 44.3(c). She shall be penalized even if the race is restarted or resailed, but not if it is postponed or abandoned before the starting signal. If she is similarly identified during a subsequent attempt to start the same race, she shall receive an additional 20% Scoring Penalty.

So, it is a bit like the black flag, in that it penalises any boats who are over the line in the last minute before the start but the penalty is not quite so harsh in that it is less than a full disqualification. 20% means a fifth of the number of boats in the flight, so if there are 75 boats in your flight (start), the penalty would be 15 points.

At the same time, it is a bit like the a normal blue peter start. If you are over the line at the start itself, you will be scored OCS unless you return to the pre-start side of the line and re-start.

If there is a general recall, the 20% penalty remains but at least you can still race. If you get caught over again in the next attempt to start the same race, you get another 20% penalty and so on - so you still need to be careful.

There has been some debate about whether this flag should be used. There is an argument that since it is unusual to see it at international events or in other classes, it is not a good preparation. However, there are some very practical benefits which mean that we felt it worth experimenting with:
  • After a black flag start is recalled, any boats caught over the line must sit out the re-start of the race. This does no one any good especially in the cold conditions at this time of year.
  • After a black flag start is recalled, sail numbers must be displayed on the committee boat before the next start. This is a time consuming process which has to be 100% accurate, during which the fleet has to wait. With a Z-flag the numbers can be checked against the recordings after the start.
  • It is simply a more measured response to the fleet being over on their first attempt and if it is enough to get a start away without having to disqualify any boats then that can only be a good thing.
  • It still penalises boats for being over the line in the last minute, just like a black flag, so the same skill and judgment is required and can be practiced.
So far, despite the fact that some sailors may not have had a full understanding of the rule, it appears to have been fairly successful. No one wants to lose 15 places right out of the blocks so start line discipline has been significantly improved. On a few occasions, it has not been enough and the black flag has still been available for the next attempt. By then, the fleet has usually settled down a little and fewer disqualifications have been necessary.
News and Reviews

Volunteer of The Quarter/Year

A new initiative to recognise the hard work and dedication by a number of volunteers.  If you think someone is worthy of a special mention, please contact Sharon or Michelle.
Nomination #1: Barbara Darling

After 55 years of tireless volunteering for grassroots sailing, Barbara Darling is finally ready to slow down and will stop the many junior activities she has been doing. Derwent Reservoir Sailing Club has been lucky to have had her for many years, but Barbara has had a national reach in her grassroots work for example through the National School Sailing Association. Barbara is a great friend of the Optimist class.  Barbara has promoted sailing, learning to sail and also to race to children and adults. Barbara’s inspirational teaching is all about learning the basics quickly and to start racing early on.
Barbara gets sailors from arriving at the club never have sailed before to racing at club, regional, or national events within one season. Many learned a lifelong love for sailing from her, some have even gone on to become world champions. Barbara is always there for the sport of sailing, clocking up 30 hours or more of volunteering every week. Whatever the weather Barbara is to be found up her neck in water encouraging and guiding the new sailor to take that maiden voyage. Ready to catch them again and remind them to pull up that centre board as they approach the shore. Barbara has understood the importance of involving the parents in supporting their children, teaching the novice parents about the intricacies of sailing alongside their children creating true partnerships. She leads the juniors by example on the water during racing, as soon as they can sail a triangle. She inspires; she empowers; she is kind; she is passionate; she is wise. Kids and adults are all great fans of both her methods and her as a person. She writes very successful grant applications; she writes press releases; she sorts out kit every week; she organises events; she nominates worthy pupils for awards; she organises training and brings the most inspirational coaches through her vast network; she works with the RYA; she rescues sad and forgotten boats from the boat park and gives them a new leash of life in the workshop at home with her husband David and finds them a new owner. It is impossible to estimate how many children over the years became sailors thanks to Barbara, but it will be very many. This year the time has come for Barbara Darling, put in her own words, ‘to move on’. Sailing and Optimist sailing in particular have a lot to thank her for.

Sailor of The Quarter/Year

We'd also like to recognise more regularly the sailors who give so much to the sport, not necessarily results driven, but also in volunteering at clubs, or doing something exceptional.  Please send nominations to Sharon or Michelle

Milo Meets Sir Ben Ainslie & Wins Junior Gold Cup

Milo Gill-Taylor, as winner of the GBR Optimist Selection Trials and British National Champion, was invited by the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club to take part in the Junior Gold Cup. Every year they invite the top sailors from around the world to compete in this Optimist event with local Bermuda sailors, which runs alongside the Match racing event, Argo Gold Cup. This year Milo and Hattie Rogers were also asked to coach at a clinic for disadvantaged Bermudan sailors. What they didn’t know was that not only was this clinic to be run by Sir Ben Ainslie and Ian Percy in aid of the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation, but that they would be staying with the same Bermudan family as them and their team!
“When we arrived in Bermuda, Ben Nicholls, whose house we were staying at, came to get us from the airport.

As we came out of the airport he said there was someone else in the car but it was just a reporter who was staying with us too.

Then Ben Ainslie stepped out of the car!

Ben Nicholls was laughing his head off and I was just stunned.

I was pretty quiet and a bit shy on the
 whole car journey. Ben Ainslie is a really, nice guy though and he was asking us lots of questions, it was incredible.

Winning the event was amazing but staying in the same team house as Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy and their team was beyond anything I could have imagined. Their whole team were amazing; they let us help them rig and de-rig their boat and were always happy to give us advice. Although I think they watched their language a bit more when we were around!

Some of their best advice came before the last race of the event.

We were racing in the harbour where they had just done their semi-final of the Bermuda Gold Cup. It was very shifty and I think they wanted a Brit to win the Junior Gold Cup! They told me what to expect, which side was favouring and what the wind was doing. When Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy tell you things like this you listen!

I was 10 points behind the Australian sailor Max Quirk going into the last day, and I think a lot of people thought I couldn’t do it, but I never give up.

At the 2011 Oppie Nationals I overturned a 20-point lead to win and I’ve always remembered that. If you sail your best race, someone else can always mess up and let you back in. You have to always just keep believing that you can do it.

This wasn’t the most pressure I’ve sailed under but it was quite a bit. In the pre-start Max was following me closely and at the first windward mark he was 13th but I was seventh and I knew that wasn’t enough of a lead to win.

I didn’t know it was definitely in the bag until the last run. I could see he was a long way back and as long as I didn’t do anything stupid and he stayed where he was I would win. I finished fourth, Max finished 37th. I was the Junior Gold Cup champion!

It was an amazing feeling to win it. Sometimes when you win it is a relief if you have been winning the whole event but this was something different as not many people expected me to be able to do it and I did. This event is like the Optimist Olympics so the excitement when I crossed the line was incredible!

Bermuda’s one of the nicest places I’ve sailed. It’s really, really hot, although a bit too hot for me when I’m not sailing, and the water’s warm. We got to explore the island too but the Pink Beaches aren’t pink! It’s just pink grains in the sand!

We’re already talking about what I might do next as I’m getting quite big, but I think I will definitely have another year in the Optimist. It’s one of the most competitive classes in the world so I want to have that level of racing for as long as possible before I move on to my next class, which will probably be a Laser.

There is still a lot of racing to be done this winter with the Winter Championships and events in Vigo, Palma, Palamos and Garda. The season doesn’t really stop I just go abroad to sail, and there is nothing like racing to stay sharp.”

Beyond Optimists - Cadets

2013 has been a brilliant year for me achieving almost everything I set out to do.

I finished sailing Optimists at the end of 2012 having stayed on against the trend to do the EOS’s and the Winter champs, partly to prove the competitiveness of the new Seldon spars but also to get some good racing in and go out on a high.

Back in September of last year I had started sailing the two crew three sail Cadet dinghy with Tom Smith from Notts county. Tom had previously crewed his farther to win the Mirror worlds and this along with us winning at only our second Cadet event probably masked what was destined to be a very steep learning curve. However with a lot of practicing together over the winter and an invitation to train alongside the National squad a couple of times we were by the spring something like ready for the new season.

My aim for 2013, sailing with Tom was to qualify for the 7 boat GBR team for the Cadet World championships and to win it. In the event Tom jumped ship after 2 of the 3 worlds team qualifying events and my brother Niall kindly stepped in with only a few days notice to help me to win the final event of the selections and the selection series overall.

In the lead up to the World championships I teamed up with the very talented Lucie Offord from Waldringfield (another steep learning curve as I didn't speak 13 year old girl) and together after a lot of practice we went on to win the Flanders international regatta, take 2nd place at the World championships in Belgium and become the UK National champions.

The top teams at the Cadet worlds tend to come from Argentina, Australia and the Ukraine and this year was no exception with a mix of these countries plus a Belarusian and ourselves making up the top six for most of the event. We could have easily finished the event in fifth or sixth as most of the top crews were technically better than us especially downwind but largely thanks to the skills I learnt in the Optimist, when the racing got tough in the last couple of days of racing we managed to hang on whilst most of the competition melted away. On the last day we did have a chance to win it but couldn’t quite take it, the world championships going very deservedly to the Ukraine although I did get to make the winners speech for him.

Cadets offer good competitive racing in a very friendly fleet, the boats are good value and the skills to be learned are all the ones you will need to be competitive in 420’s, Fireballs, Merlin’s or pretty much anything else. I thoroughly enjoyed my year in Cadet’s and my only regret was not starting earlier.

If you need any advice on Cadet sailing or you would like to buy my lovely BlueBlue Cadet that looks just like a 420 after a hot wash please feel free to contact my dad or me.

Meanwhile I’m off to join the 420’s
Cheers Arran Holman (an ex oppie sailor)

Windsor Castle provided a stunning back drop for sailors at the 2013 Winter Championships held at Datchet Water Sailing Club.
Thanks to Peter Newton
Goose-winged Oppies at Lymington Thanks to Andy Platt
Lunch on the water at the nationals ……..on the worlds biggest rib!
Left to right: Harvey, Callum Archie Dan Dotty Rachael Ellie
Thanks to Chris Leigh
IOCA (UK) National Squad training at Farmoor as the sun sets.
Thanks to Fiona Fry
Having Fun in Vigo
Thanks to Chris Fry
Fleets and Flotillas

RYA North Zone Optimist Squad back in the North!

After two years of the North Zone optimist squad being attached to the West Zone, the training is back in the north. Last year the nearest training weekend would have been 200 miles away, now it is on our doorstep!

This follows on from the success of the IOCA North East Optimist Development squad which started in October 2012. Thirteen sailors from Derwent Reservoir Sailing Club, Kielder Water Sailing Club and Scaling Dam Sailing Club took part in winter training last year. From this squad, eight of the sailors are now enjoying training in the RYA zone squad which has a total of ten sailors.

In recent years there have been few optimist sailors from the north and none from the north east. The optimist dinghy has been viewed only as a “learn to sail boat”. However with the advent of the North East Development squad, this is changing. Five sailors entered National events this year.

The first weekend of North Zone Squad training took place at Derwent Reservoir Sailing Club (pictured). Ice in the bottom of their boats on Sunday morning reminded everyone that this was indeed winter training! However the wind and later sun, allowed a full weekend of sailing. Much was learned from their coaches Dave Woodhead and Pete Clayton.

Many of the zone squad sailors are also training in the second year of the North East Development Squad with nine new optimist sailors. They are looking forward to being coached by Alan Williams, National Optimist coach on the first day at Kielder Water Sailing Club.

Back row; Harry Myers, Archie Dodd, Luke Stewart, Ben Russell, Oliver Lovell
Front row; Ed Coady, Seb Shilling, Oscar Shilling, Patrick Beukenholdt
( Ruben Stokroos missing from photo)

If any clubs in the north are interested in developing optimist dinghy sailing please contact Michelle Gent

IOCA's Pilot Scheme In North Wales is a resounding success

Throughout the 2013 Summer sailing season, IOCA and the WYA teamed up with Pwllheli SC and Llyn Brenig SC to introduce an eight-day race training pilot scheme to develop the racing skills of Optimist sailors throughout North Wales and neighbouring regions.

The training programme was led by WYA Welsh Optimist squad coach and IOCA racing coach,  Sarah
Williams, and has proved to be a tremendous success with 31 Optimist sailors having participated in the scheme from North Wales and the North West of England.  Sarah worked closely with Kate Williams, the Welsh National Squad head-coach, in creating a course syllabus that would complement the WYA squad training programmes in Wales and ease the transition for sailors into the North Wales regional squad.

A number of OnBoard sailors who learnt to sail at the beginning of the season have now developed confident racing skills enabling them to not only join in their club racing programmes, but also to compete in the regional competitions in North Wales (The CYRCs: Club Youth Racing Circuit) and Welsh National events.  One of these sailors, Tasmyn Green, an 8 year old from Port Dinorwic SC, was even confident enough to brave the main fleet at the Welsh Optimist Championships despite having less than 4 months sailing experience under her belt.  When asked how she faired against some of the top sailors in the country at this event Tasmyn said "I enjoyed Cardiff because Sarah's training days taught me how to race and gave me the confidence to sail at different places as well as at my home club, Port Dinorwic."

The training programme was specifically scheduled to run in the lead up to key IOCA events, and consequently many Welsh sailors have seen significant improvements in their National rankings this year, with a good number having progressed from North Wales regional squad to Welsh National squad this autumn.  Kai Wolgram, a 9 year old from Llyn Brenig SC, having just completed his first season competing in the main fleet at IOCA events, has received his first National ranking at a fantastic 65th position. Kai said "Sarah taught me all about wind shifts, headers and lifts during the training sessions.  This, together with lessons from Kate (Williams) at Regional squad winter training about lay lines and perfecting my tack, helped me get some great results and move up to Welsh National squad.  Thank you Sarah and Kate."

Alistair Dickson, the Welsh High Performance Manager, commented on the high-quality of the IOCA training offered in North Wales and the success of the scheme:

"The IOCA Pilot scheme in North Wales has produced some outstanding results in a very short time which has been fantastic to see.  Parents and sailors are coming into our North Wales Regional Squad much better prepared than ever before and it is also helping to spread expertise and development across clubs and through our network of volunteers in North Wales.  We look forward to this scheme developing and progressing into 2014 and the success it will undoubtedly bring."

IOCA now plans to roll out the scheme across North Wales during the 2014 summer season, sharing the associated financial and social benefits of the scheme with more Welsh clubs.  The training days will continue to offer both sea-water and lake-water racing skills at North Wales clubs from Denbighshire on the English border, the Llyn Peninsula and reaching as far as mid-Wales at Clywedog SC.  For further details of dates and venues where the training will be held during the 2014 season, please contact the IOCA North Wales Area Rep. - Justine Wolgram
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Wishing you all a
Very Merry Christmas
Happy Sailing in 2014

Issue 6 : Feb 2014

Post-Christmas, Squads, Pre-Springs, Winter Training

Please keep sending feedback, suggestions, articles, photos etc to
admin@optimist.org.uk or development@optimist.org.uk
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