An overcast sky was no hurdle for the young sailors participating in the National Inland Optimist Championship at Panangad in Kochi. They eagerly took to the waters in their Optimists – small dinghies usually used to train children – as the championship was flagged off here on Thursday.

Vice-Admiral Satish Soni, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Southern Naval Command, flagged off the championship.

Vice-Admiral Soni exhorted the participants to continue their interest in yachting. He said the State had an excellent natural setting for sailing.

Hormis Tharakan, former Director General of Police, was the guest of honour at the inaugural function.

A slight change in the weather on Thursday had championship organisers concerned about the lack of wind as participants tried out the waters. They are, however, hoping for clear skies and better conditions as the races begin on Friday.

More than 60 boys and girls between eight and 15 years of age will represent various sailing clubs in this edition of the annual championship. The Tamil Nadu Sailing Association with 21 participants has the biggest contingent among teams from different parts of the country. A few children who had participated in the national coastal optimist championship at Cherai in 2011 have returned this year for the inland event.

The Ernakulam Sailing Association, which is hosting the event, trains around 35 children from Panangad free of cost every year along with its other students. Six children trained by the association are part of a contingent from sailing clubs in the State.

The picturesque backwaters at Panangad, in an area of about 600 sq km with an average depth of 2 m, will become the venue for the nine legs of the race till the event concludes on December 31.

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