Hello, my name is Sterling Ott. I’m 14 years old, I live in Ontario, I train at Port Credit Yacht Club (PCYC) with Head Coach Fede on the High Performance Optimist Race Team and I’m on Team Canada. In preparation for the Optimist World Championship in Spain this June, I recently competed in Lake Garda, Italy at the 41st Annual Optimist Lake Garda Meeting representing Canada! It was my first time getting back into an Opti since NAMS in 2022. The scenery in Garda was incredible! The lake surrounded by the gigantic Italian Alps was a completely new and intimidating experience.
The first days of training were very cold and windy blowing over 20 knots, which took a few days to get used to. But once the racing days started, I was ready! My goal was to get Gold Fleet at this event. There were over 1200 sailors on the same lake. We were all split up into 6 fleets of 200. The first race of the event I was in Yellow Fleet, which meant I was in the fleet that was the first to start. This gave me a slight advantage, because I could pay closer attention to the best place to start. In my case, the pin was very favored and there weren’t many boats around me, which gave me the chance to have a great start to kick off the event. I was on the left side of the course staying with the fleet and I finished 27th out of 200 that race. To get to Gold Fleet I needed to get top 30/200 each race. Sadly, I didn’t stay consistent over the qualifying days and was short of my goal to compete in Gold Fleet.
I had to adjust my goals moving forward to achieve great starts in the Silver Fleet. I was ok with Silver Fleet, because I was using this event in preparation for the World Championship in Spain. My focus for the final days of racing was to have great starts and practice positioning myself in the first row with a big fleet. This was the last time I would be in a large fleet before Spain. On the 2nd last day, I had a bad day in general. I was sailing on the wrong side of the course and was overshooting the lay line too much. But on the last day I finished the regatta on a high note with 4th and 29th placements on the last day of the event! I had great starts that final day and I will take that momentum and bring it with me straight to the World Championship! However, I also had a different sailing experience that day.
“If in the process of winning you have lost the respect of your competitors you have won nothing.” –Winner Optimist
I saw this quote on Winner Optimist’s Instagram after the final day of racing in Garda. It was very relatable to me, because when I was competing in the Silver Fleet on the final day of racing in 15 knots, many boats broke the rules on the start line. I was on starboard fighting for my spot on the line and a boat tacked into me on port pushing me into another boat. They looked at me and did not care at all; this also messed up my start! Luckily the start was a general recall, so I had another chance to get a good start. The next race I started in a clear lane, and I was crossing the fleet on starboard approaching the upwind mark. There was a boat on port that
was going to collide with me even though I had right of way. I called starboard many times and I had to avoid them. I hailed protest and they completely ignored me, refusing to tack or duck me, simply not caring about the rules! I would have protested them, but I beat them that race anyways. This is the point where I lost the respect for some of my competitors. Some advice for young Opti sailors that I have is to keep your integrity on the racecourse and best represent Canada! In the end I finished 48th out of 200 in the Silver Fleet. I was satisfied with this result, because it was good training and an amazing way to start my sailing season of 2023!
Overall, I had an amazing time in Lake Garda, Italy. I enjoyed the delicious pizza, pasta, and gelato in the authentic small town in Trentino. The sight of palm trees in the street with the tall mountains in the close distance was something I will always remember. As a bonus I was lucky enough to drive over the Alps with my dad and his best friend to his house in Germany. The next day I was off to the airport to catch my flight back to Canada. We drove from 300m to 2087m that day with breathtaking views of the valleys filled with apple trees and grapes in Italy to the snow peaks in Austria with ski hills. There are more pictures of my experience in Italy on my Instagram @ster_ling1397.
This event was the perfect wake up call for me to work as hard as I can before the World Championship. I know I need to practice my boat handling for the start line and for the Team Racing event in Spain. This will involve physically and mentally training before I get back into my boat in Canada for spring training and before Spain! If you get the chance, I highly recommend going to the Lake Garda Meeting, because it is great training and a highly competitive experience with a huge fleet on the start line.