Tait one to watch after Malta win
In a notable grand finale to the sailing season, the current national Optimist champion Lisa Tait (13) has added another scalp to her belt following a major event in Malta this week. Competing against 60 other competitors from 10 nations, the single-hander took first overall in the Euromed Championship.
At this early stage in her sailing career, Tait has moved into fifth overall in the European Optimist rankings. Throughout the series, the Irish girl's principal threat came from the Israeli national champion Ben Eshel though her winning margin came to just six points over the 10 races. Three other Irish sailors were in action including Geoff Tait who came sixth and Martin McGonagle who took 23rd overall.
The win in Malta, and in particular against Eshel, bodes well for next season's European Championship which will be held in the Israeli's home port of Haifa. Meanwhile, the Maltese event is typical of the creative efforts being poured into developing junior and youth talent for the international circuit.
The Euromed event is part of a phased approach following the development of the Malta Young Sailors Club which started with 50 boats in its first year. The establishment of an international event rounds off the development plan and its success can be measured by the increase in government funding announced this week.
Closer to home, the Irish Optimist class thrives on the efforts of parents and willing young sailors. Few classes can match the resources and level of organisation that goes into the domestic racing programme. Apart from more than 12 weekends required for a competitive campaign, entries at national level championships exceed 200 boats demanding considerable event management resources.
Hailed by the organisers as a success, the scheme looks set to be repeated at other venues around Ireland next year. With Irish Olympic team officials suggesting that future Olympians can be seen among the current crop of Optimist sailors, the spread of the field seems certain to grow while Lisa Tait must also be a candidate for greater achievements.