Optimist interview


The spring’s warmth and humidity brought days of rain and muggy air but did not stop the busy Optimist season. There was another ranking regatta — the Hong Kong Race Week (HKRW), a race to qualify for the European Optimist Championship. The top four sailors get to go to Bulgaria in August to represent Hong Kong. Let’s hear from one of our qualified Optimist sailor, Kala Davies:

“I’ve been sailing Optimist dinghies since I was 6 years old, coming up through the RHKYC sail training programme and then Silver Squad. I took a short break because I wasn’t convinced sailing was for me, but then, with family encouragement, joined the RHKYC Gold Squad. My first big regatta was Hong Kong Race Week 2015 — I was in the Green Fleet. I did well enough to be noticed by Sharks’ Coach, Rob Partridge, who offered me a place in the Sharks Squad. I worked my way up through the individual groups within the squad with help from coaches Clement Lam and Alex Dyet and joined the top group with coach Christos Atzemian in September 2016.

“My next goal was to make it into the HK National Optimist Team, but as I had to miss the HK Nationals (I was on a compulsory school trip to Mongolia!), this didn’t happen. So I set my sights on representing HK in my first ever IODA event. This meant I had to do well at ABC Southside Regatta, Hong Kong Race Week, the HKSF Festival of Sport and the HKSSA Tai Mei Tuk Regatta. My results improved with each regatta showing my determination and dedication towards my sail training.

“I also took part in the ASAF Youth Sailing Cup Finals in the UAE and the Optimist Worlds Test Event at Royal Varuna Yacht Club, Thailand, both in April 2017. This experience of sailing in top international Optimist fleets and with the constant guidance from Coach Christos, really accelerated my racing abilities! This showed at the Festival of Sport Regatta where I placed 10th. Going into Tai Mei Tuk, I was fighting for a spot in the HK Optimist Europeans team. The forecast was for light southerly winds so I knew that my tactical skills would be paramount. I realised that the pin was favoured in most races so I started there and played the shifts to lay the top mark in a couple of tacks. Using these tactics, I was consistently in the top 10 positions throughout the regatta (except for one race where I messed up my start). My result — 8th overall — secured me a place in the Hong Kong Optimist Europeans Team.

"I am so proud of my achievement and would like to thank my coach Christos and my family for their continued support. Through Opti sailing, I have met people that I would never have had the opportunity to meet before and have formed close friendships with some. I am also travelling the world!”

While Kala is busy preparing for her journey to Bulgaria, let us capture some of the exciting regattas over the last few months. Pictured here is our champion, Duncan Gregor, from Festival of Sports, which was held over two days in April. It was typical Hong Kong tropical Spring weather, thus lots of rain and light wind. The other pictures give views of sailors rounding marks.

With HKRW, HKSF Festival of Sports, and Tai Mei Tuk Regattas, there was much excitement to mark the first half of 2017, not to mention Hebe Haven Open Dinghy Regatta on the 27th and 28th of May and the HKODA Team Racing Nationals on the 10th and 11th of June — reports on both of these events in the next issue.

Our next major optimist regatta after summer will be the IODA 2017 Optimist Asian & Oceanic Championship in September- October, followed by the HKODA National & Open Championship in November. The Notice of Race for the 2017 Optimist Asian & Oceanian Championships was released in the middle of May as well as the Online Entry Registration. Eligible skippers are invited to apply for entry to this premier event online. Race Chairman for the 2017 Asian & Oceanian Championship, Gregoire Bourrut Lacouture, is enthusiastic about the early interest in the build-up to the event: “We are very excited to host the 2017 Asian & Oceanian Championship. At the time of writing (end of May), teams from New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and Australia had already registered. Hong Kong’s world-class sailing venue will provide a challenge for the top 180 sailors from around Asia and Oceania, expected to compete at the event.”

Preparations are well underway with the help of a strong committee willing to stage the ‘event of the year’ for the Optimist sailors. This championship is well supported thanks to its numerous sponsors — HKSF, Home Affairs Bureau, LCSD, HK Asia World City, Far East Boats, Neil Pryde, Volvo Ocean Race, Magic Marine, Watson’s Water, Mr Juicy, Valrhona Chocolate, Fragrant Harbour and Dessert Duet. We also would like to thanks the Hebe Haven Yacht Club, the Hong Kong Sailing School Association, the Aberdeen Boat Club, HK Sailability for allowing us to use some of their equipment. Last but not least, thanks for the huge work of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club sailing centre for all their hard work and help.

Stay tuned as we will update you with news from Thailand and Bulgaria after summer, while looking forward to another exciting regatta season for our Optimist sailors in the fall.

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