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Young Sailors Compete In Southport Opti Rumble

SOUTHPORT, Conn. – It was excruciatingly hot on land Saturday, but much cooler on the water where steady breezes cooled off the young sailors in the Opti Rumble sailing regatta at the Pequot Yacht Club in Southport.

Seventy-nine sailors competed, with three winners crowned after each group completed three 1 1/2-mile races on Long Island Sound, two miles from Southport harbor.

Cooper Yeager from the Stamford Yacht Club won in the red group for 13-14-year-olds after placing first in all three races. Nina Reichhelm from the Pequot Yacht Club won in the blues for 11-12-year-olds. Gavin Meese from Noroton Yacht Club won in the whites for 9-10-year-olds.

The top 30 percent of the finishers qualified for the Opti championships, which will be held at a Long Island yacht club at the end of the summer. The other sailors can qualify at regattas that will be held later this summer.

The Optis were towed out to the sound by boats driven by the coaches. Once the boats were positioned on the course, they waited for horns to sound signaling the race was about to begin. That was when they struggled to position themselves in areas where they could take an early lead in the race and catch the wind.

Austin Schaefer, the Pequot Yacht Club coach, warned his sailors not to be too aggressive on the starting line. “You’ll get messed up by the other boats,” he said. He also told them to “look upward for the heavy breeze and keep the sails powered to go through the wind.”

The sailors have from three to five years experience and Schaefer sees “a huge improvement every year.”

The Opti Rumble began at Pequot in 1990 and was the first one on the sound, according to Charlie Reynolds, who heads the junior sailing committee at the Pequot Yacht Club. The Rumble began after the Opti (Optimist) boats were introduced to provide an opportunity for young sailors to compete, he said.

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