Shestopalov Gears Up for Optimist World Championship

Ivan Shestopalov at the 2014 South American Championship. Photo by Juila Sestopalov.

Fourteen year-old Ivan Shestopalov is already an accomplished sailor. He came into 2014 fresh off a win at the Orange Bowl Regatta then won the Optimist South and North American Championships, but he’s not done yet. This year he’s reaching for the top prize – to win the Optimist World Championship this October in San Isidro, Argentina. Despite his busy training and fundraising schedule, Ivan took some time to talk with us about how he’s preparing for his biggest challenge.

You’ve already had a very successful year. To what do you attribute your success?
I think experience is a big factor in my success. From it comes boat handling, tactics, strategy, even self-confidence. Hours on the water are the most important resource you have in your sailing career. In the end, it comes down to the energy you left in practice, the effort you put into your training. Regattas are won and lost by mistakes on the race course, and the only way to make sure you make fewer mistakes than your competitors is to be confident in your knowledge and your instincts.

What has been your biggest challenge while racing this year?
My biggest challenge at any regatta is always the things unique to that locale – the wind, the current, the sailors. Tactics and boat handling are the same anywhere. You can practice sail tuning in Miami for a regatta in Europe, but you can’t practice for the wind patterns there.

How have you been preparing for the World Championship?
I train with my team at Coral Reef Yacht Club. Lior Lavie is my coach, and I train with him two or three times a week in Biscayne Bay. I also take any opportunity I get to go to regattas, both local and national.

You’ve been traveling around the world racing and fundraising for the World Championship. How is that going?
This summer I’ve traveled to Singapore for their nationals, to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for North Americans, and Newport, Rhode Island for the New England Opti Championship. I’ve raised about $5,000 for my campaign, which is amazing. My goal is to raise $7,500 for Worlds.

This will be your third time to the World Championship. You finished 12th in 2012 and 7th in 2013. What is your goal this year?
My goal for Worlds is the same as for any regatta – to win. I’ve been going at it for three years now, and this year is my best – and last – shot. I plan to bring my best to the regatta and to go for gold.

How is the World Championship different than other Opti regattas?
Worlds is like any other regatta, but multiplied. Every characteristic is bloated: the level of competitors, the variety of the fleet, the judges. Everything is grander in every respect.

What makes the World Championship so special?
Worlds is the pinnacle of Optis. It’s the elite few, the best five Opti sailors in their country. With fifty-plus nations, the level of the regatta is very high. The room for mistakes is very low. I am preparing for this by exposing myself to bigger fleets; the only way to train for a large starting line is to be on one. Worlds being in October has made time for me to attend regattas to fine tune my skills.

What are you most looking forward to about the World Championship?
I’m very excited about competing in Argentina. I’ve already sailed there in the 2012 South Americans. I’m also interested in racing with the competitors from all over the world, to compare myself for the last time with the best of the best.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your preparation for this year’s World Championship?
I would like to thank everyone that donated to my campaign.

To follow Ivan’s journey to the 2014 Optimist World Championship, visit his website at 

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