What a Grown-Up Can Learn at an Opti Regatta

Published on June 22nd, 2016

A first-time regatta chair reflects on lessons learned at a recent Opti Heavy Weather Regatta

By Rich Jepsen, St. Francis Yacht Club
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of chairing the Opti Heavy Weather Regatta at St. Francis Yacht Club. There were 57 competitors, 11 in the Green fleet and 46 in the Open fleet, hailing from many West Coast latitudes including Cabrillo Beach, California Yacht Club, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Seattle and Willamette, plus nine competitors from Canada.

Over the course of one practice day and three race days, the conditions ran the gamut from thick fog to sunny skies and the breeze never dropped below 10 knots. Each afternoon, we had between 12 and 18 knots and we saw 20 knots for a time on Saturday. This regatta is billed as “Heavy Weather” and Mother Nature did not disappoint.

What impressed me the most were the competitors. Having never been a competitive Opti sailor myself, it was heartwarming to see how brave, strong and mature these little sailors were. It got me thinking of a few things we adult sailors could learn…

Never give up.
One of our goals was to run as many races as possible, with 11 races in the Open fleet and 17 in the Green fleet. These kids must have been exhausted, but they were resilient. There were several capsizes and because Optis take so long to bail, that could mean a mid-fleet boat ending up dead last. But even those boats just aimed for the mark and finished, resolutely. They didn’t whine, they didn’t complain; they just played the game.

…except for when it’s time to give up.
We only had one breakdown that was non-gear related. It was late in the day and this poor kid had capsized three times in a race. He had diligently bailed his boat after each capsize, but had simply run out of gas. His coach saw him bailing—again—and said, “Hey buddy, is that enough?” The kid said “Yea, I think so.” The coach gave him a tow to shore where it was only a matter of minutes before he was showered, warm, and scarfing down a plate of mac n’ cheese.

You can be competitive and kind at the same time.
Of the top ten finishers, there were two sets of brothers: Will and Ben Foox (SFYC) and Henry and Simon Boeger (SFYC). Will was particularly amazing, finishing the regatta in first place with 7 out of 11 bullets. And still, when he was sailing downwind leading the fleet, he passed his brother sailing upwind and shouted, “This is the first leg! It’s not over yet! Keep at it!” I was so impressed that he took the time to encourage another sailor…much less his brother!

Give back to the sport.
Though I have raced on the Bay competitively since 1985, I have always lived off the efforts of other Race Committee volunteers. I am a rookie volunteer and a first-time regatta chairperson and decided it was my time to give back. I had no idea what I was doing, but thankfully our Race Committee regulars saved the day with their experience and knowledge. That, combined with the easy-to-follow templates from our professional Race Office, made it simple to run a regatta of this size and caliber. Once I was confident everything was running smoothly, I got to spend four days on a safety boat which was so rewarding. I loved watching these kids perform above their age level, both in terms of skill and in terms of maturity, bravery and self-reliance.

If you’re serious about the sport, get a good coach.
After every race, the kids sailed over to their coaches for a briefing. The coaches were all super professional, attentive and encouraging and the kids all seemed to love and respect their coaches. I wasn’t a kid who was coached nor did I get to sail in 18 knots of breeze and 3 knots of current! If I could write a letter to my 8-year-old self, I would tell me to get a coach.

These kids are going to be such fantastic sailors. They already are.

For 2016 Opti Heavy Weather results, click HERE

About the St. Francis Yacht Club
The St. Francis Yacht Club was founded in 1927 and has been host to many of the most prestigious national and international championships in sailing. With over 40 regattas on its calendar annually, StFYC is widely regarded as having one of the top racing and race management programs in the country. In addition to enjoying a worldwide reputation for on-water excellence, Platinum Clubs of the World named the St. Francis Yacht Club the Number One Yacht Club in the United States in 2012, 2014 and 2016; and Boardroom Magazine recognized it as the first yacht club to be a Distinguished Emerald Club of the World.

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