Thursday, May 19, 2011

Small boats, big futures

There is nothing more encouraging than noticing the true passion for the sport of sailing within our harbor's junior programs. This passion trickles down from Grandpa and Grandma watching their grandkids sail around the harbor, and leaving the yacht club with tears in their eyes knowing that they have passed the torch. Or the parents biting their tongues and not screaming at their kids to "sheet in" from across the bay. But truly my favorite part of sailing is noticing that spark turn into a flame.

The Newport Harbor 2010 Summer Junior Sailing Programs have come to the finish line. This year I noticed that flame in many different kids, but three kids really stood out from the others.

From the Balboa Yacht Club, I could not help but notice Kerri Luttrel. She spent the summer with a smile on her face and a bounce in her step. Now this might be her competitive spirit of beating her brother coming through, but one can easily see her passion for sailing.

Over at Newport Harbor Yacht Club (NHYC), I met Jimmy Madigan at a Thursday night Lehman 12 twilight race and was greeted with a very positive and addictive "hello." While watching Jimmy compete against his father, Nick, one could easily see Jimmy's interest in sailing shine through.

Now at Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club (BCYC), there is one individual with so much passion for sailing that he could light up two cities. When I asked around the harbor "which junior shows the most passion for sailing," all five people answered "Derek Pickell" before I could finish asking the question.

One of my panel noted: "Not only does Derek want to get on the water, he cleans and polishes his boat after each day of sailing so he will sail faster the next day." Well done, Mr. and Mrs. Pickell! I also want to make a shout out to my good friend, Chris Killian. I just hung up the phone with Chris. He and his two sons, Porter and Christophe, were driving home from optimist dinghies Pacific Coast Championships at the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. This was followed up by the Sabot Nationals in San Diego. You da man, Chris!

OK, let's talk about who brought home the "pickle dishes" this year? The first name you have to notice is Conner Kelter and his second place finish at the Sabot Nationals this year followed by Carolyn Smith in eighth Greer Wattson in ninth. NHYC had three people in the top ten this year, more than any other yacht club in Southern California. I also need to recognize Jimmy Madigan again for winning The Balboa Bay Fleets and Low Point Perpetual. This is not that easy a task. Well done, Jimmy!

BCYC's Rory Gaudio had an outstanding season this year with a first place overall in the Dutch Shoe Regatta, and by improving his finish in the Junior Nationals by 87 places from his 2009 finish. Rory received the Harbor's most prestigious award, the Peggy Lenhart Perpetual Trophy, for the most improved junior sailor at Nationals. That's something to be very proud of, Rory. Good job.

Someone else that should be very proud of their achievements is Wells Drayton from NHYC, who received The Jessica Uniack Memorial for being the outstanding junior sportsman of the year. This will look awfully good on your resume, Mr. Drayton.

We also had a couple of standouts this year in Match racing and double-handed sailing. Chris Segerblom won the first annual Rose Cup and received a second place in this year's Governor's Cup with crewmembers Connor Bathen and Kieran Chung. Kieran also teamed up with Ryan Davidson to win the C420 National Championships this year.

Now, if you are like me, you are grabbing your kid and taking them to sailing practice so they will make my column next year? My panel reminded me how to "keep it fun" and help your kids improve. Make sure you attend all the family outings your yacht club provides by supporting the social part of sailing and make time for your kid to go swimming with everyone and play games after events. Get your kid to go sailing once a month, and just sail with a friend.

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