They might have been small in number and, for some of them, small in stature, but a handful of sailors from the Royal Akarana Yacht Club made an impression at last month’s Optimist national championships in Auckland.
It had been three years since a sailor from Akarana had competed at the Opti nationals and this year six competed in both the open and green fleets at the Murrays Bay Sailing Club.
Kelly Su, who was also competing under the Kohimarama Yacht Club banner, was 46th in silver fleet and Leo Brown was 14th, Logan Ross 27th and Louis Quere 39th in the bronze fleet.
Jonah Richardson and Nicholas Wong also competed in the green fleet regatta.
For all four in the open fleet it was their first Optimist national championships and, in the case of Wong, it was his first ever regatta.
Rob Nelson coached the three Ls – Leo, Logan and Louis – across the five days of racing and was impressed with the development of the sailors. Leo achieved two top-10 results in bronze fleet and Logan also posted a seventh on the final day.
“It was fantastic,” Nelson said. “It was like having my own kids out there. To see them come around the top mark in the top 10 was unbelievable.
“You could almost see them jumping out of the boat themselves. As a coach, that’s so rewarding to see them put everything they have learned into practice. It was just amazing.”
The trio were some of the youngest at the nationals, often competing against sailors four or five years older than them. They had all just graduated from the green fleet, where they had posted some good results (Leo won both the Auckland championships and Junior Sail Auckland).
“Overall, the guys did really well,” Nelson said. “They came out of green fleet and the plaster got ripped off. They realised they were in the big boy’s leagues.
“Initially, there were quite a lot of nerves on the start line and they weren’t used to that but as the regatta went on they grew and grew. By the end of the regatta, their starts were absolutely mind-blowing. They were doing the best starts out of their entire fleet. If they had been able to do that at the beginning we would have seen them a lot further up. What we saw by the end was fantastic.”
Kelly has re-joined Leo, Logan and Louis for winter training and Nelson is keen for them to compete at a handful of events before the end of the year including the Sir Peter Blake Regatta and North Island Optimist championships. Next year’s Optimist nationals will be at Wellington’s Worser Bay Boating Club.
The green fleet sailors will also look to develop their skills over the next few months and Nicholas, in particular, caught the eye of his fellow competitors. The 10-year-old was sailing in a club boat and, despite finishing near the back of the field, was named the hardest working green fleet sailor and was also given a sail by a fellow competitor.
A special thanks to Rob Nelson who worked with the open fleet sailors and Penny Linton who coached the green fleet duo.
Akarana results from the Optimist national championships at the Murrays Bay Sailing Club recently:
Kelly Su – 46th (silver fleet)
Leo Brown – 14th (bronze fleet)
Logan Ross – 27th (bronze fleet)
Louis Quere – 39th (bronze fleet)
Jonah Richardson – 56th (green fleet)
Nicholas Wong – 62nd (green fleet)