The Optimist World Championship 2017 ended successfully last week with all 281 young sailors from 62 countries contributing to make the event a resounding international success. Marco Gradoni of Italy was named World Champion 2017, Team USA was crowned Best Nation and Best Team Racing champions, China took 2nd place and host country Thailand won 3rd place. In the Team Racing category, China achieved second place with Malaysia coming third.
The regatta was held from 11-21 July at the Royal Varuna Yacht Club (RVYC) in Pattaya and served as an inspiration for young Thais to take up sailing, and also help stimulate the development of Optimist sailing in Thailand to international standards.
On the morning of the final day’s racing, sailors prepared to launch in listless conditions, hopeful of getting three more races written up on the scoreboard. For the select few at the top of the fleet leaderboards, there was a sense of anticipation, a determination to hold on to (or improve) their result, and hope that the last day of racing would be a great one. Unfortunately the wind failed to show up and the final day’s racing was cut short at 2pm, thereby closing out all races and confirming the current leaders as winners.
Consequently, Malaysia’s Muhammad Fauzi Bin Kaman Shah won silver in the individual series, a step up from his bronze last year, while Costa Rica’s Mic Sig Kos Mohr, who spent months training in Thailand, won bronze. Thai sailors Panwa Boonnak and Jedtavee Yongyuennarm finished 10th and 13th overall, an impressive feat in the huge fleet of 281 sailors.
In the top female category, Spain’s Maria Perello took gold at just 12 years of age. Thailand’s Palika Poonpat, a cousin of 2010 World Champion and two time top female Nopakkao Poonpat, took silver in the female ranks, and graduates out of the class this year. USA’s Charlotte Leigh won bronze.
The Optimist dinghy has proven to be the ideal boat for introducing young children to the sport of sailing, the object of the class being to provide an affordable racing boat for young people. Optimist dinghy sailing typically starts at the age of 7 or 8 and continues to 15 years of age. More than 85% of all sailors who participated in the Rio Olympics sailed in Optimist dinghies when they were young.
Thomas Whitcraft, President of the Optimist World Championship 2017 Thailand, commented during the regatta closing ceremony held at the Grand Heritage Hotel, “I wish to express my gratitude for the dedication and great support shown by everyone involved in this prestigious event. Thailand has hosted a truly memorable program, as befits its reputation as one of the world’s great sailing nations. Our hope is that this competition will inspire young sailors from all countries and all backgrounds to continue with sailing and raising their game to one day compete in Olympic competition.”
Thailand has made massive progress as a sailing nation over the last almost four decades since the championships were last hosted here. The Kingdom became a member of IODA under the Junior Sailing Squadron of Thailand in 1977 and produced several world-class top Optimist sailors. In 2009, Noppakao Poonpat took the honor as first female in Brazil. She went on to do even better in 2010, winning the first female event and the first overall championship at the event in Malaysia – a year when Thailand won all four trophies available, breaking the record in the history of the Optimist World Championships.
(Photos courtesy Matias Capizzano)