YACHT CLASS n°36 (march-april-may 2024)

At the beginning of January, young sailors from all over the world gathered in the Principality for the Monaco Optimist Team Race, an event highly regarded by the world’s elite. 

Text : Aurore Teodoro – Photos : Mesi / Yacht Club de Monaco

It’s a powerful symbol of the club’s commitment to passing on its values and training the younger generation. Since 2010, the Yacht Club de Monaco has kicked off the New Year with the Monaco Optimist Team Race, a major world event for young sailors under the age of 14. “The Monaco Optimist Team Race is much more than a competition, it’s a celebration of camaraderie, discipline and surpassing yourself. It’s a unique opportunity for young sailors to develop their skills and make contacts with other young sailors from all over the world,” said YCM General Secretary Bernard d’Alessandri. 


A total of 72 sailors, divided into 18 teams from 16 clubs or countries (including five twinned clubs, see Yachting around the World, page 146), attended this major gathering. Some had even arrived ahead of the competition to take part in a three-day international Clinic led by Chris Atkins, a leading international referee and judge. “It was very interesting, they learned a lot of tips. Conditions were good, they were able to navigate during these three days, which allowed us to refine the strategy and benchmarks, and play down the scale of the event for the youngest. They also realised that the others were not necessarily untouchable and that everyone had a card to play”, explained Margaux Meslin, coach of the Monegasque team. 


During the four days of competition, a busy schedule awaited competitors in teams of four. In total, more than 150 matches were organised, with round-robin group stages and finals. Knowing that in team racing, winning a match is not about crossing the finish line first, but above all not finishing last, this promised close encounters where tactics, communication and team spirit were key. In this game, the Americans and the Turks were awaited. So were the Spaniards and the Croats, who were on the podium last year. From the first tacks, these favorites lived up to their reputation. The American team from J Carolina Yacht Club and the Turkish national team took the lead on a first day with ideal weather conditions and a sector breeze of ten knots. While the Americans eventually dropped a few places in the provisional standings over the following days, the Bosphorus sailors never left first place and were never beaten in the round robin, then the finals. Hot on their heels at the end of the qualifying phases, the Croatian and Spanish teams confirmed their good results from the previous year by completing the podium once again. 


This fleet, which came from all over the world, naturally included four youngsters from the Yacht Club de Monaco: Ludovica Bonelli, Alexandra Santelli, Océane Schroeder and Facundo Rubinelli, the youngest competitor at just 11-year-old. At home, the Monegasques were eager to compete. Margaux Meslin confirmed: “They are there to win, that’s for sure. But we are also realistic. We have two newcomers to team racing, we know there will be complicated moments, where we will lack experience in small details… But it is still quite open”. Chosen for their sailing qualities, it was team spirit that proved to be the young quartet’s greatest strength. “They are really united, which will make the difference between now and Sunday,” their coach said proudly. Even if they end up finishing in 11th place, this 14th Monaco Optimist Team Race has provided a great experience in real conditions for the sailors of the Principality, who are eyeing up the Optimist Team Racing European Championship, scheduled to take place at the Yacht Club de Monaco from October 15th to 20th 2024. 

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