Saturday, May 20, 2017

2017 USODA Team Trials Debrief

2017 USODA Team Trials
By Julia Melton
Peter Barnard, Julia Melton, Christian Predergast, Jack Baldwin

I’m proud to have coached three talented sailors from Chicago Yacht Club at the 2017 USODA Team Trials hosted by Brant Beach Yacht Club.  This regatta is the most important USODA event of the year. Each year all sailors must earn a spot for team trials at a qualifying event. This year, 223 sailors from around the country traveled to the coast of New Jersey to compete against the top sailors in the United States.  

Each sailor set personal goals for the regatta, from making the US development team to simply developing individual skills. The regatta concluded with every sailor having achieved or exceeded their individual goals. This event is undoubtedly one of the greatest experiences for kids to compete amongst the top Opti sailors as well as make new and lifelong friends on and off the water. 

Results: In the finals, Peter Barnard placed 56th overall in Gold fleet and qualified for the USODA National Development Team. In Silver fleet, Jack Baldwin placed 58th and Christian Prendergast placed 70th out of the 148 boats.

The team practiced in the days leading up to the four-day regatta and experienced a wide range of conditions.  There were many things to take away from this regatta.

Body placement and technique had a huge influence on boat speed. Upwind, it was equally important to keep the boat flat windward to leeward as well as from bow to stern. In choppy conditions, sailors needed to sit slightly further aft to prevent the bow from taking on waves.

Downwind, the goal was to keep the boat planing on a wave. I noticed that many Opti sailors were conservative and sat too far back which prevented the boat from planning. The stern is the widest part of the Optimist; by sitting further forward downwind, the sailor is reducing the submerged area and drag of the stern, allowing the boat to stay on a wave. Surfing the wave meant riding the trough of the wave, coming up on the wave when you lost speed and riding down the wave in the puffs.

The current was another factor that needed to be considered daily.  For example, on the last day high tide was at 1:15pm so the current on the course was not only moving from left to right near the channel, but also down the course towards the shore. This meant sailors could be more aggressive at the start because the current was pushing them below the line. Additionally, having good course awareness was crucial in current. For instance, on the reach leg sailors needed to sail a higher angle to make the mark and compensate for the current sweeping them downwind away from the mark. It is always wise for a competitor to research tides, current direction, and depths before competing at a new venue. The location of where the course is set in relation to channels and depth will determine how the boat will be influenced by the current around the course.  

Something the sailors really focused on during this event was mental preparation. We utilized positive affirmations and visualization exercises to stay relaxed. When a sailor is dealing with high pressure situations in an important regatta, it is important to stay positive and neutral-not getting too high or low after race. The ability to bounce back from success or failure is critical to an athlete’s success on and off the water.   

A big thanks to the Opti parents for their help in planning logistics and for their on-shore support and assistance. Without your dedication, events like this would not be possible.  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Goals for Opti Team

Dear Opti parents and sailors, 

I hope you all had a great Easter! I apologize in advance for my lengthy email…  Please read when you have a chance so that we can work together in making this Opti season as successful as possible. 

I have seen huge improvements from each and every sailor. They are all eager, ask questions, and want to better themselves on the water (and during workouts!).  I would be more than happy to go through individually what was accomplished this fall/spring and what we should work on, but I wanted to share a few updates regarding our team’s goals. 

  1. We will aim to gain a more positive sense of self. No more negative talk!! Julia and I have talked to the sailors about rephrasing our sentences in a more positive light.  Although our minds are brilliant and amazing, they can be easily tricked.  When we say to ourselves before a windy race, ‘don’t flip,’ the last thing our mind remembers is ‘ flip, flip, flip.’ When we change this to ‘keep the boat dry and hike hard,’ our mind remembers factors that are in our control, and this will ultimately push us to be and sail better.  Also, there have been many research studies that have shown the psychological benefits of repeating a positive mantra, such as “I can do this!”  In our classroom and on the water, I want the sailors to focus on being more positive about situations, each other, and themselves. They are all growing exponentially — physically, emotionally, and mentally, — and I want them to feel empowered to do and be better at the end of the season. 
  2. Gain independence — One thing that I have noticed with our sailors is that they are really dependent on the coach and their parents. I understand that they are still young, but they are more mature than we give them credit for.  I mean, they are out on the water sailing a boat by themselves! They are able to multi-task and think about their position on the race course, how to make their boat go fast, where their body should be, planning ahead for their approach to the mark, all the while, avoiding other boats! That’s amazing!! However, I want their independence to grow a bit more when they are on land. I want them to try to launch their boat themselves, try to get a knot out of their bowline by themselves, figure out why their sail is too high, get their dry suits on by themselves, and take ownership of themselves and their boats. I notice that before they even try to do something, they ask for my help. When I ask them if they have at least attempted to do xyz, they say no. Our new rule at practice is to first try, then try again, and if you still need help, I will be right there.  I hope that they do not see me as the ‘mean/lazy coach,’ but the coach that believes that they can do anything. I truly believe that when people feel empowered by others habitually, they will start internalizing that feeling and will begin to empower themselves. 
  3. Foster a better sense of teamwork. As I said earlier, our sailors are asking for help before they even try, but only from me! With that being said, there are tasks (such as flipping your boat or putting your boat on the rack) that requires at least two people. I want the kids to learn about teamwork! Instead of me running from the opti dock to the pad to the grassy area to help each sailor flip their boat, I want to see more camaraderie. I want to hear more “Can you help me flip my boat? I can help you roll your sail!”  Again, it is not that I do not want to help the sailors flip their boats, but I think that teamwork helps foster a healthier sense of community. The environment switches from competitive to collaborative, allowing the sailors to feel like they can be themselves, ask questions, and learn from each other. 
  4. Lastly, the people that you grow up sailing Optis against are the people that you’ll sail against in high school, and then again in college, and for the rest of your life! So, let’s try to foster friendships from a young age :)

I plan on going over these goals with the sailors on Wednesday and/or this weekend, so please let me know if you have any questions/concerns/comments regarding these thoughts before then. 

With all of that being said, I absolutely LOVE to coach all of these sailors. I have seen huge strides made by each sailor, and most importantly, it seems like they are all still having fun!! 

Happy Tuesday! 


Katia DaSilva

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Lime Fleet Parent Meeting Notes

Lime Fleet Opti Parents,

We had a constructive Parents Meeting yesterday. I know some of you were unable to attend the meeting, so below is an outline of some of the information that was covered.  Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.

  • Sailing gear required for the spring
  • Spring lime fleet
    • practice schedule: Friday 4-7pm & Sunday 12-5pm: May 7-28. *There will be no practice on Mother’s Day, Sunday May 14th, we will be adding an additional practice on Sunday, June 4th to make up for this cancelation.
    • Spring Coaches: Amy Kehoe, Julia Melton, and Claudia Isbell.

  • Summer green fleet
    • can my child participate in green fleet?
      • Yes!!! Green fleet is intended for sailors who have participated in at least one season of Lime fleet. You have the option to register for a half summer or full summer. This is an excellent way for sailors to improve their skills with full day practices and attending regattas. The summer is also a great time to make new friends and have fun on the water.
    • practice schedule
      • M-F, 8:30am-3:30pm. No CYC practices during a scheduled regatta or regatta travel days.
      • Half Summer: June 19-July 14 (1stHalf)  / July 10-August 4th (2nd Half)
    • regatta schedule

  • Please note that on May 1st summer registration fees will increase by $200.00. You can register here.

  • Opti Blog
    • Please subscribe to the CYC Opti blog by inserting your email address in the top right box.
    • Calendar- Find our season calendar under the calendar tab. Refer to this Google calendar for changes to our practice schedule, regattas, and registration deadlines.
    • Regatta signup sheets can be found under the regatta & clinics tab.
      • You must sign up on the regatta signup for each event to reserve a spot for your boat on the trailer  
      • You will need to register to become a member for as well as for US Sailing

Please save the date for our next parent meeting on June 7th at 6pm!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

April 1-2 Opti Spring Practices Start

Opti Race Team,

We will start spring practices next weekend, April 1-2! Katia will be coaching the team on Saturday and Sunday from 9am-4pm. Sailors should be rigged and ready by 9:30am. Wednesday practices will begin on April 5th 4-7pm.

We will have morning workouts on Saturday and Sunday, so pack accordingly. Workouts will start promptly at 9:30am. We will be doing be a fitness test in the beginning/half way/end of the season to have the kids set some goals and stay motivated/active. Exercises will include 1. Max pushups in 1 minute 2. Max Sit-ups in 1 minute 3. As a team we will increase our time for Wall sits.  

Please take all Optis off the trailer. After practice, Opti hulls can be stored on the rack on the floating dock in any of the open spots. Opti dollies should be stacked neatly together in the pad (no dollies should be left on floating dock or in the patio area).

Be sure to bring the following to practice:

-dry suits are mandatory. If you do not have a dry suit, do not plan on sailing.

-warm sailing gear: layers, long underwear, fleece, neck warmer, winter wool or fleece hat, rubber gloves or dish gloves to wear over your regular gloves.


-refillable water bottle

-Sun protection: sunblock, hat with visor, sunglasses

-tennis shoes & workout clothes (only on Saturday and Sunday)


- Opti equipment you will need that was brought home over the winter

We are excited for the team to get back on the water this spring! I am away doing some personal sailing this week. I will be able to check email during the week, so please let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you,

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

2017 Sunshine State Championship Debrief

2017 Sunshine State Championship

On March 3-5th, 7 CYC team Optimist sailors traveled to Jensen Beach, Florida to participate in the 2017 Sunshine State Championship hosted by US Sailing Center Martin County. The regatta is the biggest tune up before Team Trials for the teams in the south-east, and the regatta was also a qualifier for Caribbean teams and attracted lots of international talent. Thus, there was fierce competition amongst 227 boats, and it was a great experience to be a part of! Jack Baldwin led CYC placing 30th overall.
Jack Baldwin

Peter Barnard

Despite the sunny name, the regatta occurred on the second day of a massive cold front coming through that part of Florida. A total of 6 races were sailed, 4 on Saturday and 2 on Sunday. The conditions were extremely windy on Sunday - in the upper teens to low twenty's. Saturday was slightly less but still pretty spotty!  Many sailors were intimidated by the conditions; I am happy to say that our sailors all went out every day and showed determination throughout the event. Attitude was an important factor in order to survive a long day in breeze and I felt that the sailors grew in their confidence sailing in breeze by the end of the regatta.

Annie Samis, hydrating in between races.

In windy conditions, swamping and capsizes can cost you in a race, and minimizing them is a skill. One of the things we taught the kids was that they have the ability to keep their boats upright if they maintain control by having good boat handling. This means hiking out and letting out your sail when you bear away, and playing the daggerboard through maneuvers. It means being able to sail while you bail on all three legs of the race course. The effect of water in your boat is to make it float lower, and to pitch more, which in turn ships even more water onboard! Bail as soon as there is an inch of water in your boat. Upwind, ease the mainsheet very slightly and put it in your tiller extension hand, then hike to heel the boat to windward, and reach your free front hand in for scoops with the bailer. Keep your eyes up on the waves and telltales and rely on the sound of the bailer scraping on the bottom of the boat.
Cali Frerker rigging her sail

Morning Rigging! Madeline Torrey, Katia DaSilva, Peter Barnard

Rigging and tuning are also really important to get right in heavy air:

  • Make sure your sail ties are tied correctly and knots are tight. Sail ties tend to stretch more in bigger breeze so making sure each sail tie knot is tighten goes a long way. Tight luff ties make for a flatter sail.

  • The top ties should be tightened so that there is no space between the sail and the mast. A good trick is to overlap the sail on the mast, then crank your horizontal tie.

  • The line on the sail should be in the center of the two lines on the mast. Higher or lower are both bad - messes with luff tension, sail too high or boom too low (dangerous).

  • Once you sail is fine-tuned and all corner ties are tight, you should present your major controls.

  • Make sure the outhaul is on, then proceed to the vang.

  • Before you put vang on, make sure you boom preventer line is on the hook (super important with new race sails).The preventer adjusts the tension on the luff of the sail, and needs different numbers of twists based on length and how you did your top corner ties, but in general we want FEWER TWISTS in heavy air and MORE TWISTS in light air. Ideally everything should be set up so you have 1 twist in heavy air and a pretty tight luff - the front edge of the sail 'snaps' if you pluck it.

  • Tension in the following order - VANG THEN SPRIT.

  • You want to put on some vang on land- bigger more experienced sailors can adjust on the water, but lighter newer ones need the help of the coach to tighten their vang on the water. Clip the mainsheet to the boom, trim in the sail to centerline, and take out all the slack on the vang. When you release the mainsheet, you will notice that you vang is significantly tighter. How far from the transom you trim the end of the boom is a good measure of how much vang. We go anywhere from 4 inches off in medium - heavy air to 1 in survival conditions.

  • Many of our sailors learned the benefits of switching from a 3 to 1 to a 4 to 1 mainsheet. Having the extra block makes it easier for sailors to trim in their sail.

  • Hiking hard the entire upwind, but hiking especially hard the first third of the upwind. This is because if your boat is not flat, then you are not making gains upwind, but rather side slipping.

  • On the run downwind you need to move you weight aft only when needed and move further forward in the lulls.

  • On the run downwind you never want to ease you sail past 90 degrees to the boat. This will cause the boat to flip or nose dive.

  • The reaches were in flatter water than most of the beats thanks to the close windward barrier island. Keeping the bow up was important as was hiking and aggressive body movements to get planning in the puffs. In general, you should try to heel to windward on the reach, and move forward in the lulls, back in the puffs as you would downwind. While having the high lane is almost always good in Optis, if you can work down in the puffs once speed is achieved, and up immediately in the lulls, you gain!

  • As always, but especially in bigger wind and fleets, having a good start was key. If you had a good start on the favored side and could hit the first shift you would extend your lead right away.

  • In general, there were more shifts on the top of the course because of the land windward to the course.
Peter Barnard, Julia Melton, Annie Samis, Katia DaSilva, Madeline Torrey, Deana Fedulova

Thank you to All-American Katia DaSilva for coaching the Chicago group with me, and to all the sailors and parents for making this happen!

Julia Melton

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Orange Bowl Regatta-Jack Baldwin

The Orange Bowl Regatta

Jack Baldwin USA17853

Chicago Yacht Club Opti-Red 

The CYC Optimist Race Team had the opportunity to go to Miami, Florida for the Orange Bowl Regatta this past December at the Coral Reef Yacht Club. This was my second year sailing in this event, and as in years past it was full of talented competition from across the USA, with many international sailors as well.  

The winds on day one were light, and hovered around 7 knots with a few puffs, while the current in Biscayne Bay was very strong. These conditions pushed many sailors over the line and a third of the entire fleet was black flagged in race two, myself included. I found at day’s end I had one of my worst regatta starts ever with two black flags and a mid-fleet finish on race three.

Day two started slow, with even less wind which resulted in an on-land morning postponement. By 10 am we were launched and able to get off three races. The wind was shifty and light, and the key to success was tacking on the lifts and staying one step ahead of everyone else. My results at the end of this light day were not what I wanted, but after a talk with my coach, Hector, I had a new perspective. I was not going to worry about my score and instead I was going to learn from this regatta, push the line, and sail with the best of the fleet. 

Day three brought more disappointment with a wind forecast of 1-2 knots all day. The Chicago Team spent time meeting with our coaches and in the Coral Reef pool trying to stay cool through the postponement. After lunch, racing was finally called off for the day, but a front was coming in and the forecast for day 4 had us excited to see some great wind.

The fleet was split into silver and gold fleets for the final day. Everyone was ready for more breeze, and with a steady 16-18 knots of wind, it was a perfect day for sailing. I stuck with my coach’s philosophy of pushing the line and using Orange Bowl as a learning regatta. I quit thinking about where I would place and I tried to sail in the front of the fleet. In winds like this I was really hiking out and doing my best keep my boat as flat as possible. My results on this day were much better, but more importantly I learned that sometimes I can let go of my scores and just learn. I can’t wait for Orange Bowl 2017!
Jack Baldwin

Coach Hector, Christian, Charlie, Dina, Madeline, Peter, Annie, Avery, Jack, Coach Julia