The name Joshua Weech has become synonymous with junior sailing in The Bahamas due to his dedication to the sport and commitment to represent The Bahamas at the very highest levels of the optimist dinghy class. At the 2019 Optimist North American (OPTINAM) Championships right here in Nassau in September, Weech became the first Bahamian optimist sailor to compete in the Gold Fleet at an International Optimist Dinghy Association (IODA) event.
Following his commendable performance, Weech, 13, was successful in securing sponsorship to compete in the 35th Campeonato Rioplatense de Optimist 2019 held December 17-21, 2019 in Montevideo, Uruguay. Weech’s entry fee, accommodations, meals and boat charter were supported by optimist sailor Patrick Tomlinson from the Lyford Cay Sailing Club. He gifted Weech with the Yacht Club Uruguay Regatta voucher he won in the OPTINAM 2019 Hurricane Dorian Relief Raffle.
This act of generosity was followed by the enthusiastic support of the TK Foundation and Bahamas Waste Ltd. They quickly stepped in to cover the balance of travel expenses for Weech and his chaperone to travel to Uruguay. Managing Director of Bahamas Waste Ltd. Francisco de Cardenas stated: “Joshua is a great sailor and a lovely young man. We are proud to sponsor him to represent The Bahamas in junior optimist sailing internationally. With the right support and guidance I am confident that he will continue to improve his performances on the world stage.”
The support of corporate and private sponsors allowed Weech to spend 10 days in Uruguay, first training with host club coaches at Yacht Club Uruguay, followed by five days of scheduled competition. Due to weather, there were only three days of actual racing with six races completed in the individual series and one day of team racing.
Weech started the competition on day one with two first place finishes and a seventh in races one, two and three, which put him in second place overall, in a fleet of 69 sailors. On day two, Weech ended with ninth, fourth and fifth place finishes, in races four, five and six, which was enough to keep him in a very strong second place position with just one point separating him from the leader Facundo Nina of Yacht Club Uruguay. Unfortunately, the third and fourth days of individual races were cancelled due to weather conditions with rain, lightening and winds in excess of 30 knots. The results at the end of day two of individual races therefore stood, and the series ended with Weech securing second place in the individual competition. Notably, he was the only competitor to end the competition with all top 10 finishes in the six races.
Another outstanding result was achieved on day three of the event which saw Weech leading an international team of sailors in the team racing competition. The international team was assembled with five sailors from four countries – The Bahamas (Team Captain), Colombia, Paraguay and Peru (two sailors). Not only had the team never trained together for team racing, there was also the language barrier with Weech being the only English-speaking member of the team. Irrespective of the challenges, Weech led the team of talented sailors to a second place finish in a battle for first with Yacht Club Uruguay’s top team racers.
Weech said his only regret is not having travelled to the competition with a team of sailors from The Bahamas. When asked why, he explained that participation in international competitions, with larger fleets and varying racing conditions are critical for developing as a sailor. It’s an opportunity he is grateful to his sponsors for facilitating and one he would have loved to see other sailors from The Bahamas benefit from.
In keeping with his commitment to the sport, on December 22 Weech left Uruguay to compete in the Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta in Miami, Florida.