Sharp turns, jockeying for position in tight quarters, strategical navigation; the Jr. Olympic Sailing Festival had a little bit of everything to offer in terms of excitement during Monday’s opening races.
In fact, about the only thing missing in Monday’s competition was strong winds, which did not cut the action short but made it much more difficult for sailors to pick up speed.
The Jr. Olympic Sailing festival is being hosted by Annisquam Yacht Club and runs until Wednesday. Around 300 sailors from all over the Northeast have come to Gloucester to compete in the three day festival including local sailors from all four Cape Ann cities and towns.
The festival features three different kinds of sail boats, the Club 420’s, 4.2 meter long boats navigated by two crew members, optimists, and laser radials, two smaller boats navigated by just one sailor.
Fortunately I was able to have one of the best seats in the house during Monday’s opening races on the events media boat, Rebait. An up close view of the races is definitely the place to be as one can see just how much work goes into making these boats move.
The Club 420’s were the first boats to race in Ipswich Bay off of Wingaersheek Beach. The two person boats are the fastest in the field which meant for the most exciting races.
The 4.2 meter boats start the race off jockeying for the best position to start the race course. Another advantage in being on the media boat was seeing strategy come into play. Sailors do not just make a mad dash for each turn, they develop a game plan on how to attack each turn, this strategy especially came into play on Monday with low winds.
Some boats attacked the flag head on and chose to make a sharp turn around the buoy, which marks the race course. Other crews, however, took their turns wide in an attempt to build up speed heading into the buoy.
It was interesting seeing the two man crews lean to one side of the boat during a turn and then frantically move to put up their spinnakers, sails which are thrown up by the crews to catch a tail wind. All this while being in complete control of the boats navigation.
The Optimist races were just as interesting given the youth of the competitors. To race in an Optimist one has to weigh under 115 pounds meaning the vast majority of the sailors were in their early teen or late pre-teen years.
Despite their age the young sailors navigated the Optimists like seasoned veterans of the sport.
Strategy also came into play in the Optimist races, and the number of ways to tackle the turning buoy were even greater. Like the Club 420’s some boats cut the turn tight while others took it wide. But unlike the Club 420’s, some Optimist sailors took a bit of a zig zag approach during straight aways while some turned in a figure eight type rotation. With no wind at their backs, the sailors shifted back and forth in order to catch some wind.
One girl sailing in an Optimist appeared to be sailing far to the left of the turning buoy with several other boats following suit. The sailor then quickly changed direction jumping in front of several other boats and beating them all to the flag, she would go on to win the race.
The festival continues with two more days of racing on Tuesday and Wednesday and there is sure to be a lot more action. If you can’t get an up close view of the races on the water, the races can be seen perfectly from Wingaersheek Beach.