In October 2022, I travelled with the Australian Optimist Development Squad (AODS) and the Australian Optimist Girls Team to Noumea for the Allianz 2022 New Caledonia Optimist Championships.
There were 69 sailors from Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti and New Caledonia. We arrived with two training days to familiarise ourselves with the local conditions of Bay of St Marie. After two training days with our coaches, Jack Lewis and Shelley White, we discovered at what time the sea breeze would usually come in and how to tell whether it would come in at all!
On the second training day we had some friendly practice races with the local, Tahitian and Kiwi sailors participating in the regatta. We had a rest day before the regatta started and we went to an island offshore from Noumea for some snorkelling to look at the corals and reef fish – it was a great way to get to know my other team mates.
Day 1 of the regatta saw conditions that were quite windy thanks to the trade winds coming in at 18-20+ knots. This was a good opportunity to practice sailing and bailing techniques. For Day 2, the winds eased off to 15 knots requiring us to review and reset our sail settings. Days 3 and 4 became quite shifty with lots of opportunity for places to be gained (or lost) around the course.
We aimed to complete five races each day, and with 69 sailors on a crowded start line, the RO was forced to use the U flag and the black flag on many occasions to keep sailors behind the line.
Overall, my key learnings and new experiences were:
Starting on a congested start line can be tricky. Positioning yourself on the front row is critical to avoid being spat out the back and chewing dirty air!
Always have your eye out to pick the shifts – they can make or break a good race.
Don’t sweat a bad race – the best you can do is learn from it.
It was great to sail with the other kids from around Australia, and I hope to get an opportunity to see them all again at the Nationals.
Bring local sailing gear to trade at the end of the regatta with sailors from other countries. It’s a great way to bring home a souvenir!
Thanks to Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club and the Ron Tough Yachting Foundation for supporting my travel to New Caledonia.
Reported by Thomas Cooper AUS1751 RFBYC / FSC