Stephen Baker named top overall sailor in 2018 Optimist National Championship
Going into today’s championship round, Baker was in first place, but only one point ahead of Malthe Ebdrup of Denmark who was effectively now match racing against Baker, and Laura Hamilton who was only four points out in third.
In today’s single race Baker led the gold fleet with some nifty sailing in a duel with against Ebdrup. He ended the championship in first place with nine points. Ebdrup of Denmark took an early lead today with Baker a solid fifteen boat lengths behind in fourth as they rounded the first mark.
Baker turned on the jets, passed two of the four and closed the difference with Ebdrup and took the lead. Baker explained, “I kept up the pressure on him and then on the second upwind leg I got out of him covering me with a lee bow tack. Then I got the advantage, getting a little leftie.”
Standing on the beach with the majority of the fleet streaming in from Pensacola Bay, Baker describes a bit of his future goals, “I want to win a gold medal.” That’s where the passion comes in.
Baker was awarded his trophies early so he could catch a flight home. He is leaving immediately for Opti racing on Lake Garda in Italy, the German Championship. Then he goes to the Optimist world championship in Cyprus as a strong favorite, especially with his four U.S. teammates.
In spite of a black flag today, Ebdrub hung on to second place with 12 points. Cort Snyder of Coral Gables came fourth today and moved into third with 18 points. Top girl was Laura Hamilton with 27 points after finishing 17th today.
With the entire 283 boat fleet divided into Gold, the top 33%, and two Silver Fleets, the remainder, for medal racing, these young sailors waited along with Race Committee for an elusive and shifting early breeze to solidify for a possible early race. As the clock ticked down towards a cut-off time of 3:00pm the entire fleet was treated to the unexpected spectacle of the U.S. Navy’s legendary Blue Angels flight demonstration team streaking low and in formation directly overhead – while likely to be unrelated, the breeze settled immediately afterwards on a direction and the sea breeze pressure filled in. Hal Smith, PYC Fleet Captain and fleet racing Principal Race Officer (PRO), set the course.
Race Committee Chairman Tom Pace, Jr. stated, “We had a lot of hope and patience to hit our goal of getting a good championship race off and the weather finally cooperated. The wind shifted around out of the south and the Race Committee made a great decision and got the course set just as the wind solidified and came in.”
The 2018 Optimist National Championship is also a 2019 USODA Team Trials Qualifying event. The top 50% of Championship Fleet's team trial eligible competitors based on the final results and using the total number of boats registered in both the Championship and Green Fleets, may receive invitations to compete in the 2019 USODA Optimist Team Trials.
Racing in the four-day Optimist Nationals continues Thursday with the 2018 Optimist Girls National Championship and the 2018 Optimist Team Race National Championship will run Friday through Sunday.