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Optimist team selected for IODA Worlds in China

Optimist team selected for IODA Worlds in China

Story and photos by Peter Cummins

Rear Admiral Sunan Monthardpalin, president of the Junior Sailing Squadron of Thailand, has just released the names of the Thai team of five children who will represent the Kingdom at the forthcoming International Optimist Dinghy Association (IODA) World Championships, to be held at Qingdao, China, from July 12 to 23, 2001.

A perfect start on the Gulf: the winners for China

Following the results of the Admiral’s Cup and the Optimist National Championships of Thailand, held off the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, Pattaya and the Royal Thai Navy Base, Sattahip, respectively, R. Adm. Sunan announced that the team will comprise Nara Yusawat (age 14), Paradon Chusa-Nga (13), Anupong Chaisitnavin (14) and Pontep Sookudom (15), all from Sattahip, as well as Ariya Hongtiang (14), from the Phatra Yacht Club at Pranburi.

Team Leader is Damrongsak Vongtim, himself a graduate of Optimist dinghy sailing who has moved on to win yachting Gold Medals in regional championships and has been many times a Thai national champion in a variety of classes. R. Adm. Sunan will also join as the Thailand Country Representative to IODA.

A ‘forest’ of Opti masts

Best placed Varuna skipper at the Admiral’s Cup was Norman Lentsch who was sixth overall on 15 points and, at Sattahip, young Norman finished in 11th place, with 62 points - a very good performance, given the record participation of 45 competitors from around the Kingdom.

Placings of other Varuna juniors at the Admiral’s Cup were Will Hamilton (167), in 31st placing overall, Joe Connelly (170), 33rd, Chris Kelly (177), 34th, Nick Timmerman (179), Antoine De Cuyper (190) and Ludi Lacrosse (190), in 35th to 37th placings, respectively. Joe Connelly, who also competed at Sattahip, finished 32nd there, on 190 points.

The Ubiquitous Optimist

The Optimist dinghy, now the world’s largest one-design class with some 200,000 registered at almost 100 national associations world-wide, was designed and built 54 years ago by Clark Mills in Clearwater, Florida. Mills, observing local children hurtling down the hills of Clearwater, in what many of us can remember from our own childhoods, was known as the “soap-box derby”, came up with a better idea. “Why not transfer all this action and kinetic energy to the sea?” he mused. “At least, if they crash out, the water is much more forgiving than concrete and asphalt,” he concluded.

New Optimist national champion Nara Yusawat on Dongtan Bay, Sattahip (Linden Phanpho photo)

Retaining the “soap-box” design, Mills launched the little (2.4m) trainer for under sixteen-year-olds. By 1954, Axel Damsgaard had brought the prototype to Denmark from where its popularity rapidly spread to Europe and, subsequently, the rest of the world, being featured at the opening ceremony of the Kiel Olympics in 1972.

Thailand hosted the IODA World Championships at Jomtien Beach in 1979, with 16 countries, and now the IODA governing body expects upwards of 60 countries to be competing in China - basing the estimation of the 59 countries which participated in the IODA Worlds in Spain last year.

A young lady sailor beaches at Sattahip

It is worth noting that, since its inception, the Optimist has been the “crucible” for moulding hundreds of thousands of young sailors, many of whom have progressed to Olympic honours - the sport’s apogee. In fact, at the 2000 Sydney Olympiad, 11 graduates from Optimist sailing won Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals in Lasers, the Europe, Soling, Finn, Tornado, the 470 and the 49er classes. Ben Ainslee, Robert Scheidt (Laser), Thomas Johanson (49-er), Iain Percy, Frederik Loof (Finn) and Margriet Matthijsse (Europe) were all former IODA World champions.

First worlds in a decade

Although none of the Pattaya sailors from Royal Varuna qualified for the IODA Worlds, the participation of a Thai team represents the first time that Thailand will have competed in an IODA world championship for well over a decade, due principally to the enormous cost of sending a team overseas. Now, with the venue “next door’ so to speak, it has greatly reduced the outlay.

Paradon Cheusa-nga beaches at Sattahip: soon off to the IODA Worlds

Nevertheless, Al Chandler, the motivating force behind Optimist and youth sailing in Thailand - and world-wide as an International and Olympic Judge in the bigger boat arena - is seeking funding to send these young people to represent Thailand - and, by extension, all of us - in China. “Each skipper requires 100,000 baht for the total package and we are looking for sponsors,” Al pointed out. Al is the only Thai-based person to accede to the presidency of the International Association - which is now headquartered in Dublin, Ireland - and he is now a ‘Member of Honour’ of this highly-prestigious international dinghy federation.

Al Chandler: the driving force

By press time, donations totalling some 220,000 baht had been received from Royal Varuna life members, namely: Lawnin Crawford, Dr. Paul DeMinico, Peter Feddersen, Peter Hudde, Sompob Intraprasong, Neil Semple, Charn Sophonpanich, Ralph Tye and Harold Vickery Jnr.

Anyone wishing to help the Optimist team can direct their donations to the Junior Sailing Squadron of Thailand, c/- Seventh Floor, Bubhajit Building, 20 North Sathorn Road, Bangkok, 10500. Attn: Al Chandler. Tel: 266-6485-99; fax: 266-6483; 266-6484; e-mail: [email protected]

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Updated by Chinnaporn Sungwanlek, assisted by Boonsiri Suansuk.
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