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Victoria Schultheis 2016 Optimist World Champion

By: Wilfred Sultana. Photo: 15-year-old Victoria Schultheis winner of the girls’ Gold division and the 2016 Optimist World Championship.

02 August 2016

”The United States of America are the new Team Racing World Champions.
Switzerland’s Max Wallenberg, in the boys, and Malta’s Victoria Schultheis, in the girls, are the new Optimist World Champions.”

This was the final outcome of the 2016 Optimist World Championships (June 25-4 July) held at the Clube Internacional da Marina de Vilamoura, in Vilamoura, Portugal. A great event indeed contested by 255 sailors (209 boys/46 girls) from 58 countries.

Yes, it is so important to compete in such paramount international championships, and Malta had three sailors in Portugal - Lucas Le Gault (15 years), Jake Satariano (13) and Victoria Schultheis (15), all members of the Malta Young Sailors Club - yet it is so prestigious to savor success at such level.

In the first two days of the Worlds competitors raced 6 races as a result of which they were divided into 4 fleets - Gold - Silver - Bronze and Emerald in the final series.

Both Jake Satariano and Lucas Le Gault classified to the Bronze division where Satariano placed 3rd and Le Gault featured in 53rd place. The Worlds in Portugal were the second for Jake after he competed in the Worlds in Argentina while for Lucas he participated at the 2015 European Championship in Pwllheli Wales.

Victoria Schultheis had a bad start but managed to work her way up to the top of the Gold Fleet and eventually win the female World Championship on her first World’s experience.

The participation of the Malta team at the 2016 Optimist World Championships was sponsored by Crosscraft and Mapfre Middlesea Insurance.

The Optimist is a small, single-handed sailing dinghy recognised as the boat in which the young people of the works learn to sail. In fact it is intended for use by children up to the age of 15.

A few days after the Worlds, Club Velico Crotone, Italy hosted the 2016 Optimist European Championship (15-22 July), contested by 256 (159 boys/97 girls) sailors from 37 competing nations. Here again Malta was present with six youngsters, five boys, namely Craig Farrugia Vella (15), Matthew Micallef (14), Saul Vassallo (12), Richard Schultheis (11) and Patrice Pace (12), and one girl, Antonia Schultheis (13), again all members of the Malta Young Sailors Club.

The 8-day Europeans were characterised by unexpected high winds of 15 to 30 knots and with high waves which resulted in almost daily postponements. Richard Schultheis, the youngest and lightest sailor in the boy’s fleet, had a good qualifying series entering the finals in a leading position. For Saul Vassallo and Patrice Pace this was the first European Championships while Saul Vassallo qualified for the Gold fleet
Antonia Schultheis improved her position almost every day and on the last day she placed 1st in two races.

In the Gold fleet Richard Schultheis finished 2nd, Craig Farrugia Vella 7th, Matthew Micallef 35th and Saul Vassallo 48th. Patrice Pace placed 19th in the Bronze fleet. Antonia Schultheis finished 2nd in the girls’ Gold fleet.

Surely these results show the validity of the Malta Young Sailors Club in the enhancement of local young sailors. But how does such representations uplift Malta’s image in the world of sailing and does Malta’s Optimist international event - Euromed - benefit from such results?

“Yes I am sure it will …last year we had 200 sailors plus and I am sure that this year we will either match it or surpass it. In 2016 Malta was the most successful country with 3 medals in the top events organised by International Optimist Dinghy Association”, observed Anna Rossi, Secretary of the Malta Young Sailors Club.

Following this year’s Optimist Class Worlds and Europeans Andrea Schultheis is definitely proud. For, Andrea is the mother of Victoria, Richard and Antonia, three young sailors with great potential. How did this passion for sailing begin and what are the special ingredients for such success?

“Our kids got their first sailing experience when they were just a few months old by joining us on sailing boats. Later they couldn't await the moment to learn how to sail themselves. We moved to Malta in the summer of 2011. Shortly after, say in the beginning of 2012 they started sailing lessons at the Malta Young Sailors Club.

Regarding the special ingredients for success, it is dedication, hard and intense training on the water and on shore. The kids followed a two year program at the Malta Young Sailors Club supported by the Club’s coach Jean Paul Fleri Soler and the international coach Maurizio Bencic. A lot of traveling to top regattas provided the international experience, which is crucial for increasing the level of sailing”, remarked mamma Schultheis.

Jean Paul Fleri Soler, the Malta Young Sailors Club coach, believe that ”It has certainly been a great year so far for the Malta Young Sailors Club athletes competing in various competitions abroad. We have been building up for this moment for these last 2 years and thanks to the support of the Club together with the efforts of the young sailors themselves and their parents these sailors have made Malta and the Club proud.”

The Malta Team at the 2016 Optimist European Championships - (l. To r) Craig Farrugia Vella, Patrice Pace, Matthew Micallef, Richard Schultheis, Antonia Schultheis, coach Maurizio Bencic, and Saul Vassallo