A gorgeous day, sunny and windy, greeted this morning the 784 young sailors competing in the 22nd edition of the International Optimist Class Meeting, hosted by the Fraglia Vela Riva from 8 to 11 April 2004.
Snow-capped mountains and the bright blue waters of Lake Garda provided the perfect backdrop for this incredible festival of sailing. More than 3000 people - competitors, parents, coaches, relatives - are in Riva del Garda for this annual event. The regatta that has already been listed in past Guinness World Records, this year has reached a new record of entries: 784.
The following nations are represented: Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lituania, Norway, Poland, Republic of San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia and USA.
The southerly breeze typical of this part of Lake Garda, known as "Ora", kicked in at midday. The Race Committee, with a steady breeze of 15-20 knots, was able to start two Divisions A and B (divided by age groups). However, by 2pm dark clouds moved in and violent rain and wind squalls up to 35 knots (locally known as "Ponale") swept over the racing course.
Only Division A (sailors born in 1994-1995) were able to complete one race. Kristian KIRKETERP from Denmark won this race, followed by Maria OTTAVIA RAGGIO (ITA) and Alexandros NTASSIS (GRE). The Race Committee was forced to abandon racing for Division B and send everybody back to shore. With the aid of the many support boats, red cross patrols and organisers, all the competitors were able to return safely to shore, where hot chocolate was promptly delivered.
Quite a few boats suffered damage of some kind, but the competitors still have plenty of time to fix everything before racing resumes tomorrow morning. The event will continue tomorrow with racing scheduled until Sunday when the prize giving and closing ceremony will place at 16.00.