Henric Wigforss (SWE) crowned 2023 Optimist World Champion
Henric Wigforss from Sweden topped the fleet of 248 sailors from 57 countries at the 2023 Optimist World Championships held in Costa Brava, Spain from June 15 to 25th to be crowned the 2023 Optimist World Champion.
The venue of the World Championship was at the La Ballena Alegre camping resort near l’Escala, Spain on the Bay of Roses. Teams stayed in over 120 bungalows on the grounds with many flying their country flags proudly off each bungalow. It felt like a mini-United Nations summit. It was a perfect venue for the sailors to meet other sailors and make new friends. Most sailors rented bicycles or scooters to get around the venue.
In terms of racing – it was a challenging week. The World Championship format consists of 3 days of fleet racing in the qualification series, plus 2 days for the World Team Racing Championships, followed by three days of fleet racing for the Final Championship Series.
After three days of qualification were completed, unfortunately, 3 days of racing were lost due to dangerous surf conditions that prohibited the Optimist fleet from launching safely off the beach. A fourth day was lost to fleet racing due to changing sailing conditions on the water and the re-scheduling of the World Team Racing Championship.
However, the third and final day of fleet racing delivered perfect sailing conditions. An early start enabled three races to be completed on the final day so that 9 races were completed in total.
Henric Wigforss had consistent finishes all week long - with his worst finish a 9th place. His nearest competitor was Travis Greenberg (USA) who came out strong on the final day to get a 1st and 2nd place finishes to move within a spitting distance to Wigforss – but he was carrying a 22nd as his drop race. Wigforss did what any leader would do on the lasg race and that was to ensure that Travis would not drop his 22nd place and match raced him to push them both back well into the fleet. This strategy paid off enabling Wigforss to take the World Championship Title.
But throughout the championship, the entire Team USA was a force to be reckoned with. They had 4 sailors finish in the top 20 with two on the podium - Travis Greenburg (USA) took the silver and Wylder Smith (USA) took the bronze. David Coates (USA) finished 11th, and Miles Cundey finished 13th. As a result, Team USA won the Jacobsen Trophy for the best overall team (calculated on the top 4 sailors) at the World Championship. The second-best team was Italy followed by Croatia in third.
Following Wylder Smith (USA) were two Italians - Alberto Avanzini (ITA) in 4th and Tommaso Geiger (ITA) in 5th. Avanzini won the last race in the championship missing the podium by 1 point.
In 6th overall was Sviatoslav Madonich (UKR), who also finished 6th overall at the 2022 Optimist World Championship and has been at the top of the leaderboard of many Optimist Regattas over the past 2 years and was possibly a favourite to win the world championship title this year, but Madonich had a tough start on the first day of the championship that set him back at the onset.
Seventh overall was Iason Panagopoulos (GRE) followed by Chanatip Tongglum (THA) in 8th overall, with GRE teammate Ioannis Tournis in 9th, and Mathis Krauss (FRA) in 10th.
Of note in the top 20, in addition to the US Team with 4 sailors, strong team results were from UKR with 2 sailors, GRE with 2 sailors, ITA with 2 sailors and SUI with 3 sailors.
The top girl in the Championship was Blanca Ferrando (ESP) in 26th overall followed by Mariana Pinto (POR) in 28th and Ema Grabar (CRO) in 33rd overall.
Although two days of Team Racing were lost due to the launching conditions off the beach, a truncated version for the top 16 terms ranked after the qualification system completed a round robin. The top Team was ITA taking the 2023 Optimist World Team Racing Championship Title followed by Team ESP taking the silver medal and Team USA taking the bronze.
As part of the 50th Anniversary Celebrations of the Optimist Class, Marco Gradoni (ITA) 3-time Optimist World Champion, World Sailing’s Rolex Sailor of the Year in 2019, and current helmsman of the Luna Rossa Youth AC Team, made a special visit to the World Championship. He went out on the water to watch some racing and then talked to many sailors in the boat park as they came ashore.
The highlight was an evening Q & A session whereby Marco, although only 19 years of age, talked about his Optimist sailing journey and answered questions by many sailors. This was followed by an enthusiastic signing session by Marco. He was swarmed by sailors wanting their hero and idol to leave his signature on their clothing – giving them bragging rights with many of their friends.
IODA thanks Marco to take the time to come to the venue and to Luna Rossi for freeing his training schedule to attend the World Championship. His attendance was a highlight for many sailors and no doubt will inspire the next generation of Optimist sailors to continue in the sport.
Although, there were challenging conditions that effected the racing, the overall organization of the championship was excellent under the leadership of Pep Subirats and his team of volunteers, and the owners and staff at Le Ballena Alegra. Their focus on sustainability was central to the planning and success. This championship will be remembered always by the friends that were made and their experiences both on and off the water.
For the Overall Results, go here.
For additional information on the championship, go to the Event Microsite here.
For images go to the fac book page here