The 2004 Optimist World Championship hosted at Salinas in Ecuador ended yesterday with a general feeling of huge satisfaction from competitors, coaches and officials alike.
In the final race held on Saturday nerves and match racing between rivals altered the minor medal placings while Wei NI, with no need to sail, calmly registered a second place.
Lukasz PRZYBYTEK (POL), in silver overnight, was black-flagged. Unfortunately he did not appear to be aware of this and understandably match-raced his main rival Daniel WILLCOX (NZL) leaving Eugenio DIAZ (ESP) to win that race and with it the bronze medal. In the final start Paul SNOW-HANSEN (NZL) had no close rivals to worry about and won with ease to secure silver.
Among the girls an OCS by Susannah PYATT (NZL) gave the remaining bronze medal to Stephanie ROBLE (USA) despite a late challenge by Griselda KHNG (SIN). Fourteen countries from five continents shared the top 20 places.
At time of writing an outstanding protest may determine the Miami Herald Trophy for the best team.
Coming to Ecuador was for many a leap into the unknown. Salinas is not one of the famous venues of the world like last year's Gran Canaria or next year's Silvaplana. No one knew much about the weather. What we got was a venue with utterly reliable 10-16 knot winds shifting subtly under 100% cloud cover to tax the most talented sailors.
Turnout was 75% up on the last time we visited South America in 1992, with a new record of 51 countries, and those Europeans who found the travel too expensive can console themselves in Sweden next month when eleven additional countries are expected to bring the European Championship fleet to over 40 nations.
The results confirmed some trends of recent years. Asian Optimist sailing has improved greatly and Wei Ni's comprehensive victory will not be the last from that continent. Poland, where Nivea sponsorship has helped an explosion in numbers, gained their first ever medal in the team racing and two top-ten individual places. New Zealand too has been expanding in recent years and has found the talent that always had to exist in that bastion of sailing.
Earlier than perhaps expected has come the fruit of the effort that has been put in to developing the Caribbean. Matthew SCOTT may have a natural talent that could have been found anywhere but his result was backed up by solid performances from other Caribbean sailors. Six countries were represented and it is forecast that when Tobago hosts the IODA North American Championship next year 15-20 teams from the continent will participate, a big change from the three countries of just ten years ago.
Some of the traditional Optimist countries are responding to the challenge of an expanded world. Italy, with silver in the team racing and three sailors in the top 20 can compete with the best.
Both afloat and ashore facilities and organisation were of the highest quality. The magnificent clubhouse was matched by an ever-smiling staff of over 200 under clear, calm direction of German LOPEZ. Hotels and food were both of appropriate standard and both the club and the supporters' Hotel Barceló gave opportunities for luxury treats. IODA, and the 228 sailors, are glad we came.
Full results are available on the event website at the address below.
Overall Top Ten
Pos Nation Name Tot
1 CHN WEI NI 47
2 NZL PAUL SNOW-HANSEN 78
3 ESP EUGENIO DÍAZ 89
4 NZL DANIEL WILLCOX 96
5 POL LUKASZ PRZYBYTEK 103
6 POL KACPER ZIEMINSKI 104
7 TRI MATTHEW SCOTT 105
8 CRO FILIP MATIKA 112
9 BRA BAEPI LACATIVA PINNA 119
10 TAH CORENTIN GUEGAN 119