On September 27, Ozani Lafond, junior sailor in the Optimist program of Antigua Yacht Club, travelled to Nassau Bahamas to represent Antigua at the prestigious 2019 Optimist North American Championship. This Optimist regatta is the annual IODA continental event and is open to countries of North America, the Caribbean and South America. This year additional spots were awarded to the international IODA Members of Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand and Ireland, bringing the total number of sailors to 164 from 20 countries.
The IODA standard format is two qualifying days and two days of finals. The racing conditions throughout the championship were excellent, with winds never blowing less than 10 knots and reaching as much as 22 -24 knots on the second day. Wind direction in Bahamas is varied, with strong current and tide that added as much as 4 knots of positive or negative force to the upwind or downwind leg. It is essential for junior sailors of Antigua to attend these events to continue development on adverse fields of play in big fleets. Ozani performed well, and stayed focused on his personal targets, finishing 46, 47 and 30 on the first day and 15, 43 and 42 on the second day of the qualifying races. The first day of finals was a light wind day with velocity not much over 10 knots. Ozani finished 4 and 5 in Bronze fleet putting him in contention for a podium finish before going into the final day. In the first race of the final day Ozani held onto 10th position. The last race he crossed the finish in 2nd. Unfortunately it was a black flag start, and Ozani was one of the 22 sailors who received a BFD penalty. This ended Ozani’s hopes for a second overall in Bronze fleet.
Regardless of the final finish, Ozani benefited as a sailor tremendously from this experience. He showed much improvement as the event commenced. Learning to win must be done in direct competition. When racing amongst sailors as competitive and skilled as those at an IODA event, it is important to establish obtainable goals and focus on one’s individual development. Accompanying Ozani was Coach Karl James from Antigua Yacht Club. Karl notes: “After the first couple of days Ozani became more comfortable with his fellow sailors and he was able to finish up with strong results in his fleet. This is always an objective and it is great to see that Ozani accomplished this. From this experience I am sure his sailing will only continue to improve. In fact, since he has returned, Ozani was the top Optimist qualified to represent the Antigua Yacht Club at the Caribbean Dinghy Championship to be held on Oct 18 – 20.”
A big thank you to the various personal sponsors who provided the financial funding in total of USD 4400 for the air flight, charter Optimist and support boats, and the Coach expenses. Ozani is also grateful to the Antigua Yacht Club for sponsoring the USD 800 entry fee.