Bermuda’s sailing contingent at the Canadian Optimist Championships in Halifax, Nova Scotia shone brightly after producing a superb podium display in the team racing event yesterday.
The team of Sebastian Kempe, Rachael Betschart, Millie Lewis, Laura Hupman and Leyli Walker — all products of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club’s youth academy — finished runners-up among the 16 competing nations after losing to hosts Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron’s A team in the best-of-three final sail-off.
Bermuda’s youth sailors placed themselves on the verge of securing the title after winning the opening sail-off. However, their hosts came storming back, winning the next two races to clinch the series in the light air conditions in Halifax harbour. Bay of Quinte Yacht Club finished third.
“I’m sure they would have liked to have won, but I think it was a really good achievement,” Nathan Bailey, the RBYC Academy sailing coach said. “I think the team did really well. They had a few new sailors involved in the team racing event, with Sebastian Kempe being the real leader of the team. He took a lot of strain on for the team and tried to fend the other sailors off.”
With the team racing event now done and dusted, attention shifts back to the fleet racing championship, which resumes today with Bermuda’s Kempe leading the overall fleet of 129 entries.
The 12-year-old Saltus student holds a five-point advantage over second-placed Andreas Steinitz, with fellow Canadian Jack Gogan a further point back.
Kempe, who warmed up for the ongoing championships in Canada with a superb fifth-place showing at last week’s at the United States Optimist National Championship in Norfolk, Virginia, has won two of the five races contested to date and finished no lower than fourth.
All eight sailors on Bermuda’s team, which also includes Christian Ebbin, Skye Oliveira and Genevieve Lau, have qualified for the gold fleet, with Kempe, Ebbin and Walker thick in the hunt for honours.
Ebbin, who also competed at last week’s US Optimist Championships where he finished 35th, is fifth overall and Walker — granddaughter of late RBYC commodore Jordy Walker — ninth. Betschart sits in 19th, Lau 20th and Hupman in 48th. Oliveira is in 64th and Lewis one point behind in 65th.
Accompanying the team is coach and Bermuda Red Bull Youth America’s Cup sailor Owen Siese.
The Canadian Optimist Championships conclude tomorrow.