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The nine-day Optimist Worlds currently under way on the marvellous Lake Garda have a programme which would be demanding for mature athletes at the peak of their career-developing stamina curve. But the young sailors seem game for it all, as the three days of initial qualifying races - which concluded yesterday (Sunday) with Ireland’s Rocco Wright comfortably into the Gold Division at 5th overall - have now seen the 58-nation fleet squaring up for two days of intensive team racing.

Not all of the 58 nations taking part have enough boats present to form a full team, but a remarkable 48 including Ireland have made the cut for participation in this novel aspect of the World Championshjp programme. However, although the Irish squad had their moments in initial racing against Peru and Norway, they aren’t into the final listings going into tomorrow (Tuesday’s) final Team Racing stages, in which Group A are providing Italy, Ukraine, Hungary, Turkey, Spain USA, Singapore and Finland, while Group B are sending forth Thailand, Belgium, Croatia, Brazil, France, Portugal, Argentina and Lithuania. And then on Wednesday, it’s straight back to the very serious business of the final three days of the Worlds proper.

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The Provident CRM Optimist Leinsters finished up on Sunday at Howth Yacht Club with three more great races in a fresh breeze, with both the Junior & Senior titles not being decided until the final race. The 60+ competitors were a model in focused restraint and control, with 6 clean starts in the series and not a U Flag or Black Flag in sight.

The Junior Fleet finished with a clean sweep of the prizes for RCYC, with Olin Bateman just pipping his clubmate Lucy Moynan by a single point, with Andrew O'Neill coming through into 3rd place just ahead of Conor Cronin from Malahide. Bateman really turned on the power on Sunday, winning all three races to add to another race win on Saturday.

The fleet approach the weather markThe fleet approach the weather mark

The Senior fleet was even closer, with Caoilinn Geraghty McDonnell from RStGYC storming through on the last day with 2 race wins to pip the overnight leader JP Curtin from RCYC on countback, both having scored an impressive 11 points in the 6 race series. Cillian Twomey from Howth was 2 points back from them, with a bit of a gap to the rest of the fleet. Joseph O'Leary from RCYC won the Senior Silver fleet from Patrick Foley (RStGYC) and Isha Duggan of RCYC. Optimist sailing is very much alive and well in Crosshaven.

Olin Bateman (RCYC) with Gary Cullen (Provident CRM) and Neil Murphy (Vice Commodore Howth Yacht Club)Olin Bateman (RCYC) with Gary Cullen (Provident CRM) and Neil Murphy (Vice Commodore Howth Yacht Club)

The racing was exciting and moved along briskly on both days under the expert leadership of David Lovegrove on the water, with an active and visible team of HYC volunteers ashore keeping the event running smoothly and safely.

Next stop is the Leinsters for the Regatta Fleet in Malahide next weekend, with the Connachts following on 17/18 July in Lough Ree Yacht Club. The Optimist scene is back up and running and very much alive and well.

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A steady performance with a second and third in races 4Q and 5Q in the mega-fleet 58-nation Optimist Worlds Day 3 on Lake Garda has enabled Howth's Rocco Wright to discard his blip of a 19th yesterday, and move into fifth place overall on 11 points to the 10 of the USA’s Gil Hackel at 4th, and Italy's Alex Demurtas in third. Thailand’s Weka Bhanubandh continues to lead clear overall with his score at 5 points after discarding a fifth, while Brazil’s Alex di Francesco Kuhl is second on 9 points.

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Rocco Wright of Howth’s impressive scoreline in the qualifying stages of the 58-nation Optimist Worlds on Lake Garda was dented yesterday when he logged a 19th in Race 3.

This was - when set against his recent performance standards - a significant glitch to put him back at 11th overall after four races on an otherwise strong performance of 1st in Race 1Q, 5th in Race 2Q, and 2nd in Race 4Q.

Current overall leader is Weka Bhanubanh of Thailand with Alex di Francesco Kuhl of Brazil second, Erik Scheidt of Lithuania third, and Gi Hackel of USA fourth.

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The Provident Optimist Leinsters got underway at Howth Yacht Club today, with 61 boats on the start line. There was lots of excitement and adrenaline running in the young sailors, delighted to be racing again. Three races were sailed, with remarkably a clean start in each of them under the expert and watchful eye of David Lovegrove and his team. The training during the pandemic must have included the price for being over the line at the start...

JP Curtin from RCYC got off to a fast start in the senior fleet, with a bullet in the first race followed by two seconds to take the lead after day 1. This was a fair reward for very consistent sailing. Seth Walker from RStGYC is hot on his heels though on 8 points, followed by Cillian Twomey from the host club back on 13 points. Caoilinn Geraghty McDonnell is only one more back, with her eyes focused on more than the prize for 1st girl.

Optimist racing for Leinster honours at Howth Yacht ClubOptimist racing for Leinster honours at Howth Yacht Club

In the junior fleet, Conor Cronin from Malahide YC has jumped into a halfway lead, with an impressive two wins and a second. The Cork contingent though are chasing hard, with Andrew O'Neill from RCYC and Matt Mapplebeck from Kinsale with eyes still very much on the Leinsters title tomorrow.

And then the fog really rolled in... and the sailors were quickly and safely brought ashore.

Three races tomorrow will decide the Leinster Championships - it's all to play for.

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The Optimist World championships 2021 started today in Fraglia Vela Riva in Lake Garda, Italy and Ireland has five sailors competing.

Over 60 countries are competing in this event with a total of 266 sailors at the freshwater Italian venue.

Lucia Cullen, RStGYC, Rocco Wright, HYC, William Walsh, HYC, Harry Moynan, RCYC and Eolann Hynes are competing in the event with coach, Simone Ricci and team leader, Emily Cullen.

Team Ireland at the Opening Ceremony in Riva del GardaTeam Ireland at the Opening Ceremony in Riva del Garda

Racing started today. The event can be followed on the Optimist world championship event microsite.

As Afloat reported previously, Rocco Wright has been on form and last weekend in a fleet of nearly 300 boats from 31 nations with Lake Garda in fine sailing form, he won overall by an astonishing nine points.

Meanwhile, on Irish waters, Howth Yacht Club is preparing for the Leinster Optimist Dinghy Championships as Afloat reports here.

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The flags are up for the Provident CRM Optimist Leinsters and the Howth Yacht Club boat park is being cleared of other boats, to make space for the 65 or so Optimists who will compete for the Leinster Championships this weekend. These young sailors are itching to get going with their first regional event of 2021.

In order to make the event happen, Howth YC came up with an innovative plan to split the club premises in two, with sailors, coaches and volunteers having exclusive access to the boat park area of the club. This has ensured the event stays within the 100 persons limit from a Covid perspective, while still enabling the members to enjoy the club too.

The reigning (2019) Senior Fleet champion, HYC's Rocco Wright has bigger prizes on his mind this weekend at the Optimist Worlds in Lake Garda, with the current Junior Fleet champion Cillian Twomey, also of the host club aiming to lift the Senior title this weekend. There will be lots of competition though, with the current Junior Fleet National Champion Caoilinn Geraghty McDonnell from RStGYC and Des Turvey from HYC among the favourites in their first year in the Senior fleet. There are a number of others too who plan to have their say on proceedings.

The scene at Howth with flags flying for the Provident CRM Optimist Leinster ChampionshipsThe scene at Howth with flags flying for the Provident CRM Optimist Leinster Championships

The Junior Fleet (Age 12 & under) is wide open, with a number of newer sailors in the fleet determined to make their mark.

International Race Officer David Lovegrove and his experienced team will oversee the racing, with both fleets sailing together to keep proceedings moving briskly along.

The Leinster Championships is being generously sponsored by Provident CRM.

A really important element of the Optimist scene is the Regatta Fleet, who enjoy coached racing at these events.

An early decision was taken by IODAI to move the Regatta Fleet Leinster Championships to Malahide YC on the weekend of 10/11 July. This allows numbers to be maximised in all fleets, and offers the mainly younger Regatta Fleet sailors the chance to enjoy the excellent and slightly more benign waters of the Broadmeadows in Malahide.

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The Optimist Worlds currently getting into their stride on Lake Garda (they conclude on July 10th) find Howth's Rocco Wright to be the target helm, as his countdown to the big one has been wellnigh perfect. In mid-June he took Bronze in the Meringa Cup series on the lake, and then last weekend in a fleet of nearly 300 boats from 31 nations with Lake Garda in fine sailing form, he won overall by an astonishing 9 points, convincingly making him Ireland's outstanding junior sailor in June.

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Howth’s Optimist ace Rocco Wright has built some strong foundations towards the up-coming Optimist Worlds at Lake Garda with third overall in the weekend’s preliminary Meringa Cup, which was sailed on the waters of big championship venue. Scheduled for June 30th to July 10th, the Optimist Worlds 2021 have overcome many obstacles to be staged at all in the pandemic emergent conditions, but the fleet in a week’s time shows every sign of being representative of most of the world’s best.

Keeping things under control - Rocco Wright ensuring that IRL is up there among the Garda leaders. Photo: Tristano VacondioKeeping things under control - Rocco Wright ensuring that IRL is up there among the Garda leaders. Photo: Tristano Vacondio

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Just over a month to go before the start of the most awaited youth sailing event in the international sailing scenario, the Optimist World Championship: after the postponement of the regatta in 2020, Riva del Garda, Italy is getting ready to welcome the best young sailors of the World.

A provisional entry list published by the organisers here shows Ireland with five sailors entered but 'details pending'.

With registrations still open, fifty nations have already confirmed their presence for the World Championship that will start on Wednesday 30 June in the waters of Lake Garda (Italy): considering qualifications, team races and finals, the participants will be engaged in an intense series of regattas that will end on July 10th, when the winner of the 2021 Optimist World Championship will be proclaimed, successor in the roll of honor to Marco Gradoni, record holder in the Optimist Class for having sealed three World Championships in a row.

The 2021 Optimist World Championship is organised by Fraglia Vela Riva, Riva del Garda Fierecongressi, Garda Trentino and AICO - the Italian Optimist Class Association.

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