The team from Puerto Rico were jubilant after winning the Optimist Team event at the 46th Optimist World Championship in Cesme on the west coast of Turkey.
A new record 255 sailors from 54 countries are for the 46th Optimist Worlds, where 16 teams, selected on the first five races of the fleet Worlds, participated in the battle for the Team Racing World title. The event, held over a single day, uses a 'direct elimination with repechage' format familiar in other sports. It may look complicated but is based on the simple principle that two defeats eliminate a team.
Top seeds New Zealand had two victories over hosts Turkey and then Uruguay but lost out to Singapore and then Denmark. Puerto Rico, seeded second, overcame Japan but then had much harder matches against Denmark and the US Virgin Islands and in the fourth race lost to Singapore.
But in a repechage system you get a second chance and a victories over Bermuda and again the US Virgin Islands put Puerto Rico into the final. Their opponents Singapore had had a more direct route with successive wins over Italy, Sweden, New Zealand and, as noted, Puerto Rico.
In the 'best of three' final Puerto Rico started well in race 1 and went on to win by 13 points to 23. Singapore fought back: the second race was team racing at its most exciting with the young sailors demonstrating superb sailing skills and tactics as the points advantage changed time after time in the last 100 metres before the finish. Finally a jubilant Singapore was declared the winners, 15 points to 21.
As the boats manoeuvred on the line for the start of the final race, the wind increased slightly to a steady 15 knots. The slightly heavier Puerto Rican team seemed to have an advantage upwind and had a winning 1,2,3,7 combination as they rounded mark 1. They maintained their lead although Singapore challenged the third Puerto Rico boat without success. As the boats approached the finish line with Puerto Rico still ahead, they bunched and Puerto Rico was penalized by the umpires. As the boat took its turns penalty, it looked like Singapore might just surge ahead but Puerto Rico had done enough and crossed the line as well deserved World Champions.
The final ranking, with the US Virgin Islands taking bronze, shows the advantage held by small countries which can concentrate their talent in one or two clubs for training in this exciting discipline.
Detailed account and score-sheet at www.optiworld.org/08worldnews.html
Optimist World Championship - www.optiworld2008.com