Port Elizabeth’s Joshua Woolard stayed his own course to take line honours in the Nations Cup during the RS Tera World Championships in Weymouth, England, on Friday.
Representing South Africa in the Tera Sport class, the 17-year-old Cape Recife learner outmanoeuvred junior sailors from five countries over five rounds of the one-lap elimination event.
Woolard, who normally races in the larger-sailed Pro class, triumphed over the short and technical course by choosing a surprising tack and racing apart from the rest of the field.
“I just wanted to get off the start as fast as possible and stay out of everyone’s bad air so that I could have the fastest boat on the water,” he said.
“I was reading the wind and saw more of it on the side I went to. In the end it paid off and helped me.”
After winning the first race, in which Uruguay was eliminated, Woolard jumped the start of round two and had to do a 360-degree turn before setting off in pursuit of the four remaining boats.
Ignoring spectators’ cries to tack, he sailed in a different direction to close the gap faster than expected and sneak into a surprise second place, knocking Austria out of the race.
This maverick strategy proved even more successful in the third race when he crossed the line first to eliminate his Spanish rival.
With just England, New Zealand and South Africa remaining in the penultimate round, Woolard once again defied expectations as he pushed on the inside line to nose the host nation out of the competition.
In the nail-biting final, he was sitting just inside the Kiwi sailor heading into the last buoy. The commentator had already called the race in New Zealand’s favour when Woolard tacked within sight of the finish to take the trophy for Team South Africa.
“It’s an amazing feeling of utter happiness and pride in winning the Nations Cup for my country,” he said. “I love this type of sailing as it’s short and fast and you always have to be on your toes.”
Woolard finished the championships in 15th position overall, with Grey High School’s Justin Harth placing 40th out of 51 boats in the Pro fleet.
This year’s world championships were the largest ever, with 122 sailors from nine countries participating. South Africa will host the 2014 event in Sedgefield.