The recent Renaissance Re Junior Gold Cup International Optimist Dinghy regatta brought together some of the world's top young sailors to showcase their talent in Hamilton, Bermuda during the King Edward VII Gold Cup.
The regatta wrapped up on Sunday with 15 year old Balder TOBIASEN of Denmark in first place with 54 points, 15 year old Chris WILLFORD of the USA second with 55 points and 12 year old Olivia MCKAY of New Zealand third on a tiebreaker with 55 points.
MCKAY came to accompany her brother Sam who was the NZL designate for the regatta. Sam finished tenth. It was the first time she has beaten him.
Fifteen of the fleet of 39 young sailors, all from 12-15 years old, came from 12 countries to compete over the past week in 12 races. They sailed the 12th and final race in Hamilton Harbour on Sunday during an intermission in the finals of the King Edward VII Gold Cup presented by Argo Group, The Gold Cup was the World Match Racing Tour's penultimate event.
Bermuda sailors performed well in the Jr Gold Cup as they tacked and gibed and mixed and mingled with these young Optimist sailors from as far away as New Zealand, Argentina and Sweden. Of the 15 international Opti sailors, 12 are national champions in their home countries. Top Bermuda sailor, Dimitri STEVENS, finished sixth. Next locals were Owen SIESE in seventh, Brian BULHOES in ninth. Kalin HILLIER finished in 11th place.
The King Edward VII Gold Cup remains the only event on the World Match Racing Tour that is open to 24 teams. Many of these are young, up and coming match racers who do not have top ISAF Rankings. In this same spirit, the Junior Gold Cup sponsor, Renaissance Re, flies young sailors from around the world into Bermuda to compete. This Jr Gold Cup format gives those up and coming young Opti sailors in Bermuda an opportunity to sail against the international stars in their home waters.
Some of these sailors will meet again in the Olympic Games or match racing events in the years to come. Many Bermudians believe that the country's next Olympic medal will be in sailing. Sailing is a strong part of Bermuda's heritage and is quickly becoming a major national sport.
The country of Bermuda itself now offers sailing to every middle school student in the country. "When a child is naturally competitive and we begin to teach them to sail, we don't just teach them for one week, we try and nurture them along and give them all the opportunities we can,"
said Paul DOUGHTY the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club sailing coach and coach for the WaterWize Program that teaches sailing to all middle school children of Bermuda.
An educational plan that is now three years old, the WaterWise Program offers sailing instruction and on the water race training to all 11 year old students throughout Bermuda. What this means is that every child here not only gets exposed to sailing and being on the water, they also get the coaching, training and support to continue racing and learning as long as they can. The initiative started with the Bermuda Sailing Association and was introduced via Malcolm KIRKLAND in the early planning stages of the Bermuda Sloop Foundation and the exploratory learning concept.
"It is amazing what sailing can teach a young person and we feel that getting to expose kids to sailing at age 11 is key,"
DOUGHTY said. "Sailing can teach you so many things. It helps make them make decisions and gain leadership skills. We just feel that this programme can turn potential wall sitters into sailors. They gain tremendous confidence within themselves."
"In every way, we are not only trying to create world class sailors but we are creating world class citizens,"
said Somers COOPER. This was the sixth Jr Gold Cup sponsored by Renaissance Re.
Results - click here