Edgewood Yacht Club was a hub of activity Wednesday morning as nearly 100 young sailors, their parents and their boats – 8-foot long Optis that look more like bathtubs than boats – turned out for the Narragansett Bay Yachting Association Opti Regatta.
Parking spaces were at a premium. Trailers loaded with boats navigated for space as they were directed by scores of EYC members and volunteers clad in matching blue shirts. Some kids wolfed down breakfast sandwiches between rigging their craft while other slathered on sunscreen.
For some like, 8-year old Philip Manice of Newport, this was the first regatta. He would be sailing in the green fleet, while the “champion” – or more experienced – sailors were assigned to race in the red, white and blue fleets. Which fleet they raced in was based on their age.
Stephanie Van Patten of Warwick, an EYC member, managed the on-shore activities. She rotated between the registration desk at the clubhouse and the beach where sailors readied their boats.
“The racing will start when the wind comes,” she said, casting a glance at the tranquil waters.
Actually, the sailing would happen after a skippers meeting at 9. And the wind did come. Better yet, as there were concerns given the forecast, there were no thunderstorms.
During the skippers’ meetings – one for the Green Fleet conducted by EYC member Chris Lee, and another for the Champions led by Curt Spalding, overall director of the regatta – sailors were given course descriptions and reminded to wear life jackets and have their air bags. The bags keep the boats afloat should they capsize. The sailors, ranging in age from 5 to 15, were also told to stay well outside the shipping channel to the Port of Providence.
Some of the kids have sailed for as long as they can remember.
“I’ve been sailing since I was 3, but I stepped on a sailboat when I was 1,” said Green fleet sailor Blake Appleton of Newport.
One of the late arrivals – albeit just in time for the skippers meeting – was the Barrington Yacht Club fleet. They came by sea with a string of Optis being towed by an inflatable that carried the masts and sails.
In addition to Barrington, participating clubs included the Greenwich Bay Sailing Association, Wickford, Tiverton, Saunderstown, the East Bay Sailing Foundation, Sail Newport and the Conanicut Yacht Club.
The Edgewood Yacht Club offers a practical venue for a youth regatta involving upwards of 90 boats, as it isn’t too big or too small for keeping an eye on the activity.
“Here we can sail basically in sight distance,” said George Shuster, vice commodore of the EYC.
The EYC members looked on admiringly as the youthful sailors rigged their boats.
“Happiness is sail-set and ready to go,” said club volunteer Larry Cannon.
(Warwick Beacon text and photos by Owen Sullivan and John Howell)