Monday, March 09, 2009

Hell has frozen over

The Optimist class has enormous popularity worldwide, but a few areas had held onto their own junior trainers. For the west coast of the United States, Northern California used El Toros, but now the Opti has nearly squeezed out the youth class. Working down the coast, the Opti has infiltrated SoCal sailing sites such as Marina del Rey and Los Angeles Harbor. However, further south from Long Beach to San Diego, the Naples Sabot is the dominant class.

Now I wonder how long that will last, as this announcement could carry a lot of momentum for change:

2009 US Optimist National Championship Regattas
Hosted by Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club, San Pedro, California
Team Racing Nationals, Girls Nationals, USODA Nationals
July 18-26, 2009

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At 12:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

52 Optis in Marina del Rey this weekend for the "Harken Series" event.

At 12:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Four of those 52 were from Balboa YC and Newport Harbor YC.... some of the sailors were from San Diego area as well! And they are all great Sabot sailors and they race both. A recent 3 day Opti clinic sponsored at BYC drew 21 sailors last month.

At 12:55 PM, Anonymous SO CAL OPTI PARENT said...

Optis are warm in SO CAL! Not frozen! My BIG OPTI kid (11) was miles outside the Marina Del Rey (THANKS CYC) break water in 12-15knt wind and full plane on surfing waves she was having a blast! My little OPTI kid was sailing his third time in his first regatta, inside the harbor but in 13 knts wind and had no problems at all, he is so proud and so are his parents - go SOCAL OPTI kids thanks SCUTTLEBOYS for mentioning us we "opti invaders" races seem so ignored but like a virus we could be contagious.

At 1:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your 11 yr old was sailing for his third time, you mean third regatta? And 13 knots wind? Must be a big 11 yr old. He must be a Sabot racer I guess.

At 4:01 PM, Blogger DJC said...

Until So Cal Freezes over? Just ask anyone from Orange County, there's no such thing as global warming. It's actually getting colder there!

On a serious note, when introduced, the opti is often greeted with cynicism. Usually because it competes with a local indigenous class. Sure, the control lines are all there, although sometimes awkward to adjust, and what about that sprit pole?

But that isn't the point at all. It's about the class infrastructure that USODA and IODA provides. The optimist class is very well organized from at the local, national and international levels. Yes, National AND International.

And that's the fun part. The kids have a ball meeting new friends and sailing at the Orange Bowl, at the Southern Yacht Club Midwinters in New Orleans, at the Heavy Weather Regatta on San Francisco Bay, and so many more fun places.

Then there is the international aspect for the serious. Opti's are sailed throughout the world, and the venues will make the parents happy too, Sardinia and Riva del Garda in Italy, Rio de Janeiro, Puerto Vallarta, Curacao, Nieuwpoort Belgium and many, many more places.

I sailed a Naples sabot until I was 18, and know the class well. It's also well organized and has terrific competition. But the level of competition and the friends my children have made from throughout the country and world have me sold on the opti.

The traveling can be tiresome, but it also creates a great opportunity for the family to spend quality time together. I know my family is much better off for it.

We will very much miss the opti class when the kids have aged out.

At 4:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

13 kts is no big deal. Not to brag, but my 11 year old boy raced on the North Sea in Belgium in 25 kts of wind. He is not big either. Maybe 85 pounds, tops. The SI's said they would race until the wind hit 30KTS, and it got close.

At 4:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For all those south of the Mason Dixon Line (San Diego in slavery to the Sabot heads from Dana Point South),it is wise to acknowelge slavery is over and we now have a new President who by his accomplishments testifys to the fact that anything is possible in America!!
While we all may have less money to treat our kids to more than one class of boat (yes, I will complain about the state of the stock market,the expectation of hyperinflation,as well as paying more taxes),yet the facts are undeniable - the Opti is truely a
"one design" boat whish offers an opportunity for travel and competition well beyond the bounds of La Playa Cove. While it is understandable choices might be made out of fear,an unrealistic expectation of a "sabot class demise",the reality is the Opti will continue to grow an acceptence and generate a following around the world;there are no indicators on the horizon that the wide enjoyment of this class by parents or sailors will be either limited or abaondoned in the future.To all those in San Diego....consider joining the fun!!

At 9:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excerpt from an OPTINEWS Fall ’08 article
By Stacie Kress Booker

Offering Another Option

The Opti is not meant to replace the Sabot, but to offer junior sailors another option, another sailing experience. As the Opti catches on in California, more and more sailors like Esteban Forrer routinely jump from their Sabot to their Opti. Esteban says it’s not always easy to go back and forth between the two boats because they are very different, however, doing so has only made him a stronger sailor. Esteban lives in Tucson, Arizona and sails for the Coronado YC in San Diego. This summer he was 2nd at the Sabot Nationals and 24th at the Opti Nationals. He is on the USNT (US National Optimist Team) and was on the Development Team last year. He started sailing Optis when he was 11 years old. “I learned to sail in a Sabot, but I have the Optis to thank for taking me through my Sabot career,” says Esteban, “Optis gave me the step up, gave me the skills I needed, to compete and do well at the Sabot Nationals.” He also likes that the Opti is sailed worldwide. “This is a huge benefit,” he says, “because you can practice with the best in the world while the Sabot is only sailed in Southern California.” Esteban also likes that you can sail the Opti in more than twenty knots. “If you try that in a Sabot, it will literally break,” he adds. Sabot sailors are a close-knit community which Esteban enjoys, “you know everyone at the events so you can talk to anyone you like without feeling like a stranger.” As Esteban has shown, sailors can remain involved in both classes, Sabot and Opti, and can do well in both.

At 9:20 PM, Anonymous Socal said...

It's about time to get rid of the sabot it's a good boat but not worth the price. Make one boat for all youth sailing.

At 10:10 PM, Anonymous Tom Coleman said...

No boat that has been around for as long as, is as popular as and is loved as the Sabot should be "gotten rid of". It's a proven boat for the light winds of SoCal and has served well for generations. Turns out many world-class sailors too! The Optimist "may", one day, take over as the junior trainer of choice, but not because it's a better boat or because there should only be "one" junior trainer. And don't blame the boat... the Publisher says the Opti has "squeezed out" the El Toro and "infiltrated" US Sabot country. That sounds rather ominous for Naples Sabot aficionados, but it was the families and progressive program directors that brought in the Opti, not some diabolical plot. They saw it worked better and adjusted to serve their needs. If the Sabot falls by the wayside it would be because the sailing community found, over time, that it had something the Sabot could not offer.

I ask families what they love about the Sabot and they don't talk so much about the boat, they talk about what Sabot racing offers their kids. They tell me they like the friends they, as well as their young sailors, have made traveling to regattas and clinics. They talk about the opportunities Sabot racing has offered their kids.
I nod my head, yes, and tell them I understand. Because that's exactly what's so great about the Optimist....friends, fun, events and opportunities on a regional, national even worldwide scale, not just limited to several clubs.
Ps. I build the Optimist.

At 7:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up sailing El Toros. It was the best junior sailboat available at the time (I didn't live in Southern California, so the Sabot wasn't an option). Our two kids grew up sailing Optis. The Opti class is unsurpassed in its local, regional, national, and international organization. Our children have made great friends, created wonderful memories, traveled to venues they otherwise may not have explored, and become very competitive as a result. The one benefit the El Toro (and Sabot, for that matter) have over the Opti is that sailors of all ages can compete in the class. This gave me a tremendous opportunity to sail against my parents and their contemporaries, and the gift to interact on and off the water with all generations.

At 7:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess there is something to be said for that. As a parent, it would be cool. But the kids DO NOT like to sail with or against their parents or other adults! Let the kids sail, enjoy their triumphs and failures, give them all the opportunities you can, encourage them, buy their stuff.... but let the kids sail their own boats. If you want to be closer to them on the water go cruising or race a big boat.

At 8:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I thought I covered it in the last post, but the comaradarie and family togetherness we've experiened in the Opti class though travel, even locally, will be our tresure forever. I fully expect the Opti will be here when my kids kids are sailing.

At 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our 10 year old Opti Ace will now let us move back to SoCal!

Long live the Sabot... and bring on the Opti.

At 12:36 PM, Anonymous SO CAL OPTI MOM said...

To Clarify My 7yr 60lb Green fleeter has only sailed 2x before this regatta in an OPTI ever, the wind was 13kt but he was in the harbor - he was a wee big scared but stuck it out and hiked some - see the photos in Facebook under SO CAL OPTI group. My 11yr old 90lb has moved up out of green, she does not we to the Champ Fleet they where out miles from the Harbor in big seas and 13-15Knts they pull them at 40Knots so I have heard and just recently had a big day in St. Fran. YC they where racing in 17kt it moved into the 25-30 range and the kids hung because they could. YES they can! and they surf too! My daughter made that clear. and these kids are not that big at all..Frankie Dair 9 is under 80lbs, Cameron Feves is even smaller..8yrs in Champ fleet of that I am sure.
There are some good intro documents on my link if you want more info..
You can see the race results for both fleets on CYC site.

At 3:07 PM, Blogger DJC said...

With little exception these days, sabot and El Toro jr's and seniors sail separately.

Furthermore, Bay Area opti sailors dislike sailing in regattas at Richmond YC when the El Toro seniors are sailing. Many El Toro seniors are hostile to the young opti sailors. It's sad to see these adults act so childish about the threat they perceive of the opti.

The funny part is the little kids in the optis always want to sail outside the breakwater, but because the adults can't sail their El Toros outside the breakwater, they force the optis inside onto the Toro Cove course with the El Toro adults.

I have seen regattas at RYC where the opti's and El Toro's have sailed on the same course. Once the wind gets above 10 kts, the El Toros start capsizing or dropping out of the race. Meanwhile the optis sail on, even the green fleeters.

But, if there ever was a venue that should be the home base for the opti, it's San Francisco Bay. The reduced sail area, high stability and extra flotation make the opti the perfect boat for the Bay areas strong winds.

At this point, the only Bay Area Junior program that still works with El Toros is Richmond Yacht Club, which uses the El Toro as a learn to sail boat. Compared to the opti, there is very little racing opportunity for El Toro junior sailors anymore. When there is the fleets are very small. But even RYC bought 10 optis as part of the changeover. The RYC jr. program has a waitlist now for opti charters.

At 3:26 PM, Anonymous DCB said...

The Opti Class is very welcoming. If you want to sail in the USODA Nationals at Cabrillo, charter boats are available and a good warm-up event is the USODA West Coast champs held at Cal YC the weekend of July 11-12.

At 4:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up racing El Toros on the east coast. Optis were not part of the scene back then. My friend's father drove us all over to regattas and raced in the senior class while we raced juniors. Having all ages participating was helpful to me because I got a chance to talk to adults who had been sailing all their lives. I think I learned how to sail better faster but any class that gets kids involved in sailing is a great thing.

At 6:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My 11 year old son sailed in open ocean for the first time this past weekend at CYC. There was a small SW swell with NW wind swell and 12+ knots of breeze. If you would have told me a year ago he would have done that I would have laughed and said no way. I am so proud of him for conquering his fear of conditions that one must be fearful of in a Sabot.

We will sail both boats for as long as possible.

The Opti-Sabot discussion is sort of like a similar one in the ranks of use a longboard for small waves and a shorter board for larger waves. Yet there are those that stick to only one or the other very stubbornly.

The surfers with an open mind seem to always have a smile on their face, regardless of the conditions.

At 10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last weekend my son and I raced the final day of the Robinson Memorial Midwinters at Lake Merit, Oakland. My 12 year old son and I loaded our Toro's together, set them up together and then raced in our separate Jr. and Sr. fleets. At lunch we compared notes on wind conditions and swapped stories about our competition. After the racing we got our sodas,shared more stories of the day and put away our boats together. Sorry Opti dads but you are really missing out on one of the most bonding experiences you'll ever have with your kids by sticking your kids in Opti's and not being able to sail the same course in the same one design dinghy.

Toro dad for life.

At 10:02 PM, Anonymous Fred Paxton said...

Have to respond to DJC comments about RYC midwinters with Optis and EL toros... Speaking as the first PRO at the midwinters in 2004 where we as toro sailors first made room for the opti fleet to join us on the inside course the optis have been made welcome..Yep there are more and more, they are the coming boat for junior sailing in the bay area.. Only conflict you see is the coach boats getting in the middle of the course. Last five midwinters there have been a growing fleet of optis, in the toro racing area..the race committee is all toro people as are the support boats (no opti parents). Optis have a shorter weather leg since we are sailing in protected waters and usually light air.. As a past junior instructor at RYC to have someone say we have a hostile enviroment for junior opti sailors just not so.. In the senior fleet this year we had at least six past and present RYC and SYC junior instructors and one of them has a daughter in opti fleet.. We are for juniors sailing, and looks like it is going to be optis in the future. Opti is a natural for summer bay sailing since it handles windy weather better. Richmond Yacht Clubs junior program has always been a fall and winter program and light air, the other clubs have summer programs when it's windy and an Opti shines in that stuff.. Of course the only place you see opti parents is out on power boats with the coaches, or cheering from the shore, none of them sailing. Most of us toro people got hooked on sailing taking our kids sailing, just a different world now... Fred Paxton

At 10:59 PM, Blogger James said...

Don't get me started, Fred. That warm welcome from the Toro seniors has on more than one occasion included four letter words directed at Opti fleet members and coaches load enough for everyone on the water to hear.
Its a different world alright, we don't compete against our kids, we compete with them. Many of us Opti parents race in big boats and/or one design fleets with our kids where we have a first hand opportunity to teach them to be good sailors and good competitors.
By the way, I did volunteer to help square up the starting line last month with my boat, but my offer wasn't very well received... Jim Barton

At 12:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to set the record straight, Jr. El Toro racing in the Bay Area is still taking place. There is a five regatta Season Championship series. For 2008, 18 boats competed, with the winner in doubt until the last race. 36 boats competed in the Jr. NA's held at Stockton. These are certainly not huge fleets (in fact, they seem just about right) but they are more than a lot of classes can boast.

Regarding the Richmond YC Midwinters, the name of the game is getting off races and choreographing the overall event. (Prams out racing while the bigger boats eat, prams in eating while the bigger boats race.) The El Toros learned long ago that it's better to sail a short distance and race, than sail a long distance and get swept away by the stronger tidal streams outside. Often, in typical winter light air conditions, the inside boats are the only ones to have any meaningful racing. Plus, we are all closer to the galley for lunch! Not everybody has a $50K Protector to drag them to and from the race course.

At 7:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

el Toros -name seems to fit! but can you get some 400 el Toros on a start line practice? Can you go race against the east coast? Can you go to Nationals and get on a US Sailing Team to go abroad? Wow there are good things in all small boats- it is good to get kids sailing. But there is so much the Opti fleet has to offer, please let us in your races, help coach some opti kids and help the CA OPTI fleet grow on the left coast! Do not save your advice and support for the el toros/sabots, please We have plenty of catching up to do and could use your talent not your tude! PS I love the long board short board Analogy GREAT!

At 2:01 PM, Anonymous ZoumUSA said...

1) There's a real buzz relating to CA and Optis. We operate from Florida where three of the five sailors that represented the US at the World Championships in Turkey last year reside. They are preparing for the South Americans and Team Trials. The other two from New Orleans and San Fran have aged out.

In any case, this weekend (at a regatta with 75 Championship kids) the conversation was all about the decision to go to CA in the first place for Nationals and then to Team Trials next spring. Who’s going and who’s not? Was it a good idea? Is it fair to move all the sailors from the east instead of moving the few from the west? Having the Nationals in CA and then Team Trials probably will expand the Optimist participation out west even if fewer east coast sailors participate. It is a sacrifice for the long-term growth of the class.

2) The argument about the better boat being the preferred boat misses the point. The Optimist class is probably the largest OD class in the world. I wish I could go back and sit on a starting line every couple of weeks with 100 other kids. My son is just turning 9 and he sails his Zoum like I gave him a Porsche. Talk about self-reliance. He's 84lbs and he'll sail in the ocean in 6' seas and 25kts.

3) I went to Burlingame High and graduated in '82 if there are any of my class mates out there.

At 3:15 PM, Blogger DJC said...

Fred, It is a fact that quite a few of the El Toro adults are hostile to the opti kids on the water. You know who they are, and the kids sure do too. This has caused a number of young opti sailors to take a pass on sailing at RYC. Which is a shame.

Thankfully, you are not part of the problem. But I wish the other adult El Toro sailors were as respectful of the opti kids as you are, sadly they are not.

I have volunteered to serve on race committee at RYC, so you can't say the opti parents don't help out. The reason you don't get more opti parent volunteers is because very few optis are sailed by RYC member families. The opti parents do help by serving as safety and support on the water. I don't see the Toro parents doing the same, and the Toros are the ones that really need it.

I don't understand the negative comments about parents of opti sailors not sailing. I think it's a good sign that young sailors are being introduced to our sport that come from non sailing families. But quite a few of the opti parents do race and sail other boats as well. It's healthy balance.

Doug Cefali


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