Top sailors stake claims on penultimate day of Opti Worlds

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Optimist dinghies line up at the start line on the penultimate day of racing at the Optimist World Championship 2017 in Pattaya, Wednesday, July 19. (Photo/Matias Capizzano)
Optimist dinghies line up at the start line on the penultimate day of racing at the Optimist World Championship 2017 in Pattaya, Wednesday, July 19. (Photo/Matias Capizzano)

Pattaya – Three races in medium wind on Wednesday saw some shuffling of positions on the leaderboard at the Optimist World Championship 2017, the top of the pack distinguishing themselves, although final results could still change with three more races hoped for on Thursday in slightly windier conditions.

Italy’s Marco Gradoni did not have had the perfect day but his consistent top five placements earlier have him holding onto first place overall with a significant points advantage on challenger Muhammad Fauzi Bin Kaman Shah of Malaysia who slammed home two second place finishes to climb from seventh into second place overall. Interestingly, Malaysia’s star sailor already has a bronze from the 2016 event, at which he bumped the Italian into fourth.

Holding onto third place overall is Costa Rica’s Mic Sig Kos Mohr. Still in contention for medals are the USA’s Stephan Baker, China’s Haoze Fang, and Israel’s Roy Levy. Coming up on their heels are four sailors who made significant gains on the penultimate day of racing, including Thailand’s Panwa Boonnak who slipped into tenth overall with an impressive first place finish in the last race of the day.

“The team did very well today,” said Thai coach Somkiat Poonpat. “All managed to improve their positions.” His hopes are for similar conditions tomorrow as trophies are awarded not only to the top three sailors overall, but the best females and the best overall nation.

Currently in the top female position is Spain’s Maria Perello who said, “I am happy I got good positions today. Tomorrow, I will try to do better.”

American Stephan Baker, the current North American regional champion, who climbed into fourth overall, said, “I feel good going into the final day. I had a pretty bad first race today but the other two were much better so I am happy about that and hopefully will get some momentum going into tomorrow.”

The morning began with some tension on shore as sailors prayed for wind following a post storm calm yesterday which forced the abandonment of all racing. They arrived at the host venue, the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, to find it drizzling, wind almost nonexistent. Within an hour or two, however, the breeze began building, starting at 6 knots when the first races launched and climbing to 10 knots for the last set of races.

“It was good racing today,” said Dutch team leader Jean-Bart Jaquet. “We had 10 knots, there was sun, and we had three races. We want the same tomorrow.”

Swiss coach Antonis Drosopoulos felt conditions had improved. “The wind today was not so extreme. I think it was easier than the first two days,” he said, referring to strong current and unpredictable wind in the regatta’s earliest days.

The final day of the record-breaking event, which has 281 sailors from 62 countries competing, will see trophies awarded in the evening on Thursday after what organizers hope will be three more races per fleet in great sailing conditions.