Monday brought the beginning of the racing proper and the first race was set for 11:00 am. The conditions were perfect. Kilifi at its very best, glorious sunshine, crystal blue waters and for the sailors a steady wind of 12-15 knots.
The sight of those 69 boats sailing down Kilifi creek into the racing area will stay for me for years to come; truly spectacular. It must feel like a dream come true for Nicolas Granier who first mentioned some years ago “perhaps we should consider bidding for the All Africa Championships?” Nicolas and the now large team who have joined in working towards this event must today feel it was worth it all.
The sailors got away to a good start in the first race. We were trying to find a collective noun for a fleet of optimists eagerly poised for a start. A word that adequately describes the noise of 69 crisp new optimist sails as their helms hold them steady into wind. I am always amazed at the deftness of the children on the start lines; they handle their boats with such poise and ease, nipping in and out between each other, tacking round in an instant and then holding their boat almost suspended, waiting.
The first race was over in an hour and the children were back to the committee boat awaiting the next. With only one general recall in the second race, the third race also got away to a good start first time.
Also out on the water are the spectator boats, dhows festooned with flags, where parents, team leaders, family and friends can watch the excitement; coach boats each bearing their flags with country’s flags, carrying supplies of food, water and encouragement for the children between races. There are mark watchers recording the children round each mark, jury boats ensuring fair sailing, the measurer determining that all boats comply with sailing and safety requirements, safety boats, and race committee boats. The organisation and team work is impressive.