2020 Musto Optimist Australian & Open Championship
More than 230 of sailing’s future stars descended on the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria (RYCV) in January for the 2020 Musto Optimist Australian and Open Championship, which saw a range of weather conditions and some top racing across all the fleets.
New South Wales youngster Joel Beashel, at just 11 years of age, was good enough to come away with the overall victory, holding off the exceptionally talented Victorian Matty Goss who finished fourth, as well as some overseas stars in Irishman Rocco Wright in second and American Samara Walshe in third.
It continues a strong family legacy for Joel, who will be one to watch on the youth circuit in the coming years.
These young stars battled it out for the podium places in the Open Gold fleet, while the event also saw competitive racing in the Open Silver, Intermediate and Green fleets that help accommodate for the wide range of skill levels across the class.
What was firmly on display to the sailors and their families at this regatta was RYCV’s capability at running major events, which has gone from strength to strength this season after a hugely successful and rejuvenated Lipton Cup Regatta in November 2019, and ahead of the next International Cadet Worlds that will happen at the club in December 2020.
The Optimist Championships was not a walk in the park to organise though, with a huge logistical effort being undertaken by General Manager Michael Neumann and the wider RYCV team to ensure things ran off without a hitch.
Michael said taking on the Optimist regatta on short notice was always going to be a challenge, however it was a really important step towards growing and enhancing the off-the-beach component of sailing at the club.
“A lot of these sailors will go onto other sailing and potentially in the years to come they will become Olympic sailors, or go onto America’s Cup and other parts of the world circuit,” Michael said.
“So the Optimist class is a major division of off-the-beach sailing in the world and it’s really going to help us grow our club and build the off-the-beach sailing here.”
The regatta kicked off with the teams racing component, which saw the home state team from Victoria clinch the overall victory against other interstate and international teams, with racing held close to the club’s marina creating an ideal spectator experience.
Australian Optimist Coach Grant Alderson said teams racing was a great aspect of the Optimist class as it taught the sailors new skills and provided them with a thorough understanding of racing rules and tactics.
“The kids love it, it’s good fun, teaches them some good skills as far as rules, tactical stuff on the race course, so the kids really enjoy it,” he said.
Grant said beginning the regatta with team sailing was the best way to encourage greater camaraderie and friendship throughout the rest of the event, with some sailors that are rivals in their training fleets teaming up to represent their states.
The home state team from Victoria came away with a comprehensive victory with youngsters Matty Goss and Philip Cripsey from Royal Brighton Yacht Club among the top performers.
Later that day, the club worked closely with the Hobsons Bay City Council to host a successful opening ceremony in Commonwealth Reserve adjacent to the club and kick off the rest of the championships.
The major part of the regatta had some challenges with weather conditions as Melbourne was plagued by smoke haze from the devastating bushfires across eastern Victoria, however to their credit managed to run safe and successful racing throughout the week.
Sailors in the Green fleet developed fundamental skills across the seven days of sailing, the Intermediate sailors continued to improve and learn more about racing, while the Open sailors battled it out for the opportunity to be crowned champion – all in nearby waters off Williamstown with a stunning view of the Melbourne skyline as a backdrop.
It was also fantastic to have so many international competitors make the effort to compete, with a total of eight countries represented at the event – providing the club with an opportunity to showcase its stellar handling of shipping containers and international logistics to make it a hassle-free experience for these visitors.
The club now sets its sights on the International Cadet Class National and World Championships that come to RYCV in December and January next season, which will be another step in the right direction towards building a stronger off-the-beach sailing element and securing the future of the club for years to come.
The event was well supported by major naming rights partner Musto, the Hobsons Bay City Council, the Victorian State Government, Parks Victoria, Aussie Boat Sales and Care Monkey, with media support provided by Down Under Sail.
Story by Harry Fisher, Down Under Sail
A huge thanks to volunteer Peter Withiel for the great pics. All photos by Peter Withiel, unless otherwise credited.