The 2018 NZ Optimist Nationals were held at Queen Charlotte Yacht Club in Picton, New Zealand over the Easter break. A team of 9 sailors from Victoria travelled to Picton to represent Australia. The weather was fantastic with warm sunny days each day and many of us found we had packed for much colder weather. Picton is on the picturesque waters of the Marlborough Sounds which was simply breathtaking and the pictures don't even start to capture the beauty of the region.
On the first day we arrived to set-up our charter boats and the process of registration was really straight forward and our New Zealand hosts were incredible helpful. The breeze was very light and so training on this day was quite limited however the kids did have some excitement as whilst out training there was a sleeping seal in the middle of the harbour with its flipper in the air. Fast asleep enjoying the sunshine it took the seal sometime to realise there was a small group of sailors using him as a bottom mark rounding in their practice!
The first day of competition was Team Racing and Australia had two teams entered to compete. Both teams raced extremely well in the light conditions and Team AUS1 with sailors Linus Talacko, Finn McMahon, Will McKenzie & Matty Goss were succesful in making the final series however they were narrowly defeated 2-1 placing them 2nd overall in the Open division.
The 137 competitors were divided between three flights over a two day qualifying series after which the fleets were divided into Gold, Silver and Bronze. The venue is very challenging and coach Sam Mackay recalls that it was one of the harder places to sail due to the geographical effect on the wind, ferries, tide and changeable / shifty conditions. The breeze was fluctuation between 3-18 knots within races and was shifting between 30-40 degrees so it took the steady hand of the Race Management team to get the races away and the constant need to re-set the course.
The Australian sailors all represented our country extremely well and many were able to take on some great learning opportunities from the event. Congratulations to Victorians Claudia McMahon placing 1st girl in Silver fleet and Matty Goss winning Silver fleet overall.
Congratulations to Queen Charlotte Yacht Club for running a very high quality event with such a warm welcome.
The 2019 NZ Nationals will be near Auckland, if you would like to join a Victorian Team on tour please email vioda [at] vioda.org.au