#OPTIMIST – 140 Optimist sailors, aged 7 to 15 years, from all over the country, descended on the village of Baltimore last week for the opening 'Oppi' event of the year, the Spring Training week writes Joan O'Sullivan.
The week-long event, organised by IODAI, the International Optimist Dinghy Association of Ireland, is a fun training week, and caters for all levels up to members of the national Optimist squad. For many it is an introduction to sailing and the world of the Optimist dinghy.
With the sailors come the coaches, and for Spring training coaches came from Irish clubs, but also from Sweden, Argentina and Spain. The coaching team was headed by Maurice O'Connell from Cork, and by Lola Resano from Argentina.
And with the sailors and coaches come the parents; the holiday homes of Baltimore were packed to the gills for the week as mothers, fathers and siblings accompanied the sailors for the mid-term week, and all joined in as volunteers on rescue, slip duty and catering so that the sailors were launched, coached and fed every day.
Events were arranged on an off the water; in the evenings there were castle tours, pizza night with the coaches, and a disco. For parents there was a rib driving course, a cheese and wine reception, lunch for the ladies, and a demonstration of how to rig an Optimist.
A highlight of the week was the arrival of the new RNLI lifeboat, Alan Massey, on the Wednesday, and the fleet of Optimists were invited to join the guard of honour to escort the lifeboat into Baltimore harbour.
The event coincided with a laser training week in Baltimore, and a 420 training week in Schull which meant that families could take sailors from other classes with them on their trip.
The event was extremely lucky as the wet weather which swept over the rest of the country avoided Baltimore, and sailors needed to wear suncream every morning. It was a week of intensive training, racing, and fun for our youngest sailors.
Joan O'Sullivan interviewed five young sailors (below) about their experiences in Baltimore
Iseult, age 7, sails in the Royal St George Yacht Club as part of the Sea Squirts programme and has come to Baltimore with her Mam and Grandad to sail in the pre-Regatta fleet. She is the youngest child sailing in Baltimore this week. Her big brother Ben is also sailing; he is 9 and is in the Regatta fleet, and her little brother TP is only 5 so isn't sailing just yet.
It's been a fun week. Iseult fell out of her boat on the first day, and lost her glove on the third day but there is a lovely team spirit at the Spring training week and she got a temporary pair of gloves very quickly. Every day for the first three days the inside of Iseult's dry suit has got wet but she seems to have the hang of things now and is staying dry. It's all been part of the learning curve!
Iseult has been in Mary's group and they got their group photo on the Iodai website which was exciting. They were also part of the guard of honour for Baltimore's new lifeboat which arrived on Wednesday and there were news cameras around the place, and best of all, the Regatta fleet were back on shore in time to take a tour of the lifeboat.
Killian O'Regan age 8 sails in Royal Cork Yacht Club. He is in Baltimore for the week with his mum and dad and he is sailing in the Regatta Fleet. His brothers are Cathal who is 10 and is sailing in the Transition fleet, and his brother Eoghan who is 13 and in the Senior fleet.
Killian did Baltimore Spring training last year; he sailed in the Regatta fleet in the Munsters in Tralee in 2011, did his ISA Level 1 in Schull during Summer 2011,and is ready to do more events in 2012. He sails in RCYC with his friend Conor who is here in Baltimore. After sailing is over, Killian goes home, has dinner, and then goes out playing rugby with his brothers and friends to wind down!
Conor Lee turned 12 just before the Baltimore event. Conor sails in Galway Bay Sailing Club. Last year he won the first race of the Connacht regional championships in terrible weather and went on to win the Junior Silver trophy in that event. He also sailed in the Leinsters and the Nationals, and has made the 2012 Under 12 Squad which means he will be part of the Under 12 team participating in the UK Nationals in Pwllheli in August.
Conor has three brothers who also sail; Gavin and David are in the Regatta fleet this week in Baltimore, and his older brother Jack is sailing 420s in Schull this week, so Conor and his family are staying in Schull and driving to Baltimore every day.
When the Volvo Ocean Race came to Galway in 2010, the GBSC juniors did a 'sail parade' off the promenade in Salthill; Conor was part of that parade and it is one of the highlights of his sailing career. He is looking forward to the Ocean Race returning to Galway this year.
Cliodhna ní Shúilleabhán
Cliodhna ní Shúilleabhán began sailing when she was 9 years old. Her home club is Kinsale Yacht Club. She has an older Sorcha who sailed Optimists but is now sailing a Laser 4.7. Her brother Mícheal has just graduated from the Optimist Regatta fleet to the main fleet.
Cliodhna is part of the ISA Optimist squad who are sailing at the Baltimore clinic this year. Cliodhna had a great sailing year in 2011; she was third girl in the 2011 trials and earned a place on the Europeans team, competing in Tavira in Portugal. The sailing was great in Portugal, but so was the fun that Cliodhna had with the other Irish girls, Jil and Megan, and the girls from the New Zealand team.
Another highlight of last year was the Brassemermeer team event at Easter. A group of sailors travelled to the Netherlands to compete in the event, and Cliodhna had a great week with Alacoque, Chloe and Caitlin. It was hard to decide what was the best part of the event, the fantastic sunshine for the week, or the fact that Ireland won the team trophy!
Hugh age 12 has just gone into the Senior Fleet. Hugh sails in the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. His parents don't sail but Hugh went on holiday in 2007 to Adrigole in Cork, did a sailing course, and never looked back. Hugh sailed in the Regatta fleet in 2010 and last year sailed in the Junior fleet, winning a prize in the Junior Silver at the Munster championships in Fenit.
Hugh trains with the OPG, the Dublin Bay training group, during the winter and will compete in his first trials in April. He is on holiday for this week in Baltimore and spends his free time with friends Heather, Conor and Evie who are also from the National, but has also made friends on the circuit from all over the country.