Four-time Laser World Championship medalist Nick Thompson has hailed the Optimist European Championships as “the event that started it all for me” as Great Britain prepares to welcome the regatta for the first time ever this summer.
British Sailing Team star Thompson, the first Brit to ever win the Optimist Europeans title in Athens in 1999, was speaking as the Optimist Europeans prepare to make their debut on British waters at Pwllheli Sailing Club, North Wales from 17-24 July 2015. It will be the first event hosted by the new Plas Heli Welsh Sailing Academy.
Thompson, who recently won silver at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami, was named YJA Young Sailor of the Year for his history-making achievement in 1999. In total he competed in three European, World and National Optimist Championships, before progressing into the Laser Radial, winning the 2002 Youth European Championships, and later Laser gold at the 2004 ISAF Youth World Championships.
But the 28-year-old, the favourite to lead Britain’s Laser charge at Rio 2016, has no doubt what kick-started his fledgling career.
Thompson said: “The Optimist Europeans in 1999 were the biggest event I’d ever competed in and I didn’t quite know what to expect. It was quite daunting when I first arrived and saw all the competitors from so many different countries, but once I got out racing it was a great experience. I started to enjoy the atmosphere and had a great time meeting people from all over the world.
“The racing was tough but I remember just focusing on each race at a time and suddenly with one race to go the reality I could win started to sink in. I will never forget the amazing reception I got from my teammates and fellow competitors once I returned ashore as the European Champion
“It wasn’t until I was reading an article a few months after the event I even realised I was the first Brit to win it, but once I knew it gave me great pride that I was able to do so for my country.”
Around 250 of the World’s top Optimist sailors from over 45 countries will travel to Pwllheli for the European Championships 2015, for what will be only the second time the event has been hosted on UK waters and the first time since Belfast in 1993.
Thompson also has some advice for those British team youngsters who will bid to follow in his footsteps in North Wales.
He added: “To sail for your country is a huge achievement and to get the opportunity to do so on home waters makes the experience even more special. The atmosphere will be electric and you should embrace it and have fun. If you can do that the results will take care of themselves.
“When it comes to sailing at Pwllheli do your research on the tides and prepare for anything plus take lots of kit onto the water to allow for different conditions and long days. And make sure you don’t twist an ankle jumping off the sand dunes, I’ve seen that plenty of times!”
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