The Cartagena Trophy came to a close this afternoon. The TP52 and Soto 40 fleets took to the waters off the Spanish city and raced, once again, under magnificent conditions, with sunshine, a fresh breeze that topped 20 knots later in the afternoon and waves that have certainly produced some spectacular photos. The TP52′s had two windward-leeward races on schedule while the Soto40′s wrapped up the regatta with just one.
Bribón dominated the TP52 fleet this week and despite scoring a fifth in the very last race, they claimed the Cartagena Trophy, finishing 3 points ahead of Azzurra. In the Soto 40 class, Tony Buckingham’s Ngoni scored three bullets and five seconds in a total of eight races and was crowned winner of the Cartagena Trophy.
Nevertheless, today, for the first time ever since this website was created, I will not talk about the races. I will instead talk about Oliver. You can find exhaustive information, photos and videos from today’s racing on the official website, www.medcup.org
Who is Oliver and why do I think he’s so important to the sport of sailing, more important than the world’s top sailors that take part in the AUDI Medcup?
One of the five Soto 40 teams taking part in the Cartagena Trophy flies the Australian flag and is made up of seven young Australian sailors from Perth, one Welsh and a Malaysian female match racer. The average age onboard the first ever Australian entry in the AUDI Medcup is less than 25 years! Despite their age and their relative inexperience on those boats, the young Aussies didn’t finish last but will go back to their native Perth in fourth place.
Two days ago, early in the morning, while the fleet was docked and the crews were preparing their yachts, I went to the Australian boat to interview her skipper, Brent Fowler. He was busy showing around the yacht and explaining how things worked to a young boy, named Oliver.
Oliver is a 12-year old boy from Manchester, a sailor himself, that has been watching the live stream of the AUDI Medcup races on the internet since the beginning of the season. Whenever he could, he would turn on his computer and log on to the website to watch the TP52′s and Soto 40′s battling it out around the Mediterranean. He was in fact so thrilled that he asked his parents to spend one week in Cartagena just because he wanted to see the boats from close and have a chance to talk to the sailors!
It’s the first time in my life that I am told a 12-year old kid specifically chooses his holidays to visit the venue of a sailing event. So, Oliver came to Cartagena with his mother and was in the race village, every morning, to watch the crews prepare their yachts. After the boats docked out and went to the race course, Oliver would spend the day in front of the screen and would then go back to the dock to greet the teams and cheer for his favorites, the Australians.
I would never expect a kid to show the kind of admiration one usually expects towards a football team. He cheered for the Australians, helped them clean and tidy up the yacht every afternoon and even went to buy sweets on Sunday morning to bring them good luck for the final day of the regatta. Although he sails himself he doesn’t know any of the “rockstars” that sail on the leading teams of the circuit. He was cheering for the Australians because he thought they were “cool” and because they were the easiest to approach.
It’s encouraging to see kids like Oliver and maybe it shows that the internet can bring the sport of sailing to wider audiences. Even if Oliver is a sailor himself, he would have never known about this regatta or even this circuit hadn’t he watched the races online.
I also think it shows race organizers and teams the importance of portraying an image of openness. If we really want more young sailors we shouldn’t make the Olivers of the world feel intimidated. I don’t think there are thousands of 12-year olds that deliberately skip a week on the beach in order to see their role models! Oliver isn’t a VIP, he wasn’t flown in by the organization, he is just a kid that finds sailing teams as exciting as football or basketball teams.