SA sailors tops at African champs
SOUTH Africa's young sailors dominated the Laser 4.7 African Championship with podium places in both the boys' and the girls' fleets.
The second edition of the continental championship took place in Algeria at the Beni-Haroune Dam and was contested by sailors from seven African nations, with Knysna's Georgou Divaris emerging as the pick of the South Africans.
The five-day event consisted of 10 races with two discards on races four and 10. The first day's racing saw South African Calvin Gibbs with a first in the second race and Algeria and Tunisia with a first each. James Hellstrom (George) did well with a second in the third race.
The SA girls pushed hard and Ashleigh Hellstrom, James's sister, started climbing the fleet, which was headed by the Algerian contestant, with Megan Robertson (Mossel Bay) a few points behind. Sarah-Jane Deary and Clara Holme hung in and also started to move up the fleet.
The next three races on day two saw all races bulleted by SA sailors, with Divaris, who is also a member of the Algoa Bay Yacht Club, claiming two first places and Dylan Long one.
South Africa had now convincingly stamped their dominance on first place in the boys' fleet, but Algeria and Tunisia were nipping at their heels from second place.
The girls' fleet was still dominated by Algeria, but SA's Hellstrom finished two races in the top 20.
After a rest day, day four had another three races. Angola came out fighting, along with Mozambique, as each took a first place and SA's Long the third first place of the day. This added excitement to the regatta, with the southern part of the continent showing their talent.
Although Divaris had secured his position in overall first place with a comfortable lead, there was still everything to sail for, for the remaining podium spots and the final race and discard still to come into play on the last day.
Day five saw the wind eventually coming through in the afternoon. Tunisia recorded their second first and Morocco a surprising third, but it was not enough to change the top order for the boys, with Divaris claiming top honours.
The SA girls also finished strongly, but could not do quite enough to topple first-placed Algeria.
"The SA sailors did extremely well to come home with so many podium positions in both boys' and girls' fleets and credit must go to coach Rudolph Holme for mentoring the team," Damian Gibbs, who travelled with the team to Algeria, said. "His professionalism and expertise are a huge asset to SA sailing."
The SA results were:
Overall and boys' overall: 1 Georgou Divaris, 2 Dylan Long, 4 Calvin Gibbs, 8 James Hellstrom.
Boys' U16: 1 Georgou Divaris, 2 Calvin Gibbs, 3 James Hellstrom.
Girls' overall: 2 Ashleigh Hellstrom, 3 Megan Robertson, 4 Sara-Jane Deary, 9 Clara Holme.
Girls' U16: 2 Megan Robertson, 3 Sarah-Jane Deary.