On the Harbor: BCYC’s Junior Sailors

By LEN BOSE

I had a chance last week to check in with several Junior Sailors from the BCYC sailing program. I’m not going to lie – each one of the sailors reminded me what I had forgotten and what I should be doing to improve my sailing performance.

Here are five quick interviews with some of the harbor’s newest yachtsmen.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Len Bose

(L-R) Front row: Emerson Shoemaker, Will Metzger and Tavin Beattie; Back row: Coach Mark Gaudio, Mesa Uliasz and Preston Decker

Emerson Shoemaker – 13 years old

She has been with the BCYC program for six years, has owned two sabots and is the first of her family to sail. She was introduced to sailing through family friends. Shoemaker sails all year round and is also sailing in high school. She sails a Corsair sabot, whose name is Leeward Passage, with the same colors as Windward Passage. Before racing, she goes over her boat the night before removing any water and adding her weight to meet the boat class minimum weight rules.

“I am lucky enough to have some very nice Gresham (Marine) boards, and I like to keep them pristine and proper,” Shoemaker said. I asked her what she thinks about in the pre-start. “It’s pretty simple. I find it difficult to keep a long list in my head, so I check the angles off the starting line looking for the favored end, understand the time to sail the line, and try to get three or four pieces of information, so I am not going in completely clueless at the start.”

Mesa Uliasz – 13 years old

He has been in the program for eight years. “At 5 years old, my parents enrolled me into the Starfish program and I really liked it after a couple of seasons. My parents purchased a Phoenix sabot for me – sail number 9479.” I asked Uliasz how he comes up with a game plan. “I’m looking for pressure and looking for low-density areas on the racecourse. If I am sailing off of Lido, I’ll sail into a header a little longer to get into the Lido lift. With the dredging barge on the Lido corner, it gets a little light in there, so you don’t want to get too close. When sailing through the “bottleneck,” you do have to keep a heads up for the lefty coming through,” Uliasz said.

While sailing into the leeward gates my question to Uliasz was: “You are in second place, the first-place boat has a good lead on you with third place and fourth place within striking distance. It appears that the lead boat has chosen the favored mark, so what do you do?

“I’ll normally follow the leader because they are in phase, and I don’t want to gamble away my second place. Now if third and fourth place is well behind me I will consider the opposite gate the leader took, just in case a lucky shift comes through.”

Preston Decker – 13 years old

He has been in the BCYC program for four years and has a Corsair sabot, which he inherited from his older brother. “It’s one of the best sabots in the bay – it weighs 95 pounds,” Decker said. I asked how he got interested in sailing. “Mainly my brothers; I did not like sailing to begin with, but I began to like it better just like my brothers did. Both of my brothers are world-class sailors.”

I then asked how he prepares for the start of the race and what goes through his head after the start. “Before the start, I look to decide which end of the starting line is favored, so I round the committee boat and then round the leeward end – whichever side I find has the best angle. I am always looking for a spot with a ton of space so I have room to accelerate. I like the port tack approach, looking for that space to start in. If my starting plan doesn’t work out, I tack looking for a lane to get back into phase with the wind. At the same time, I am working toward the favored side of the course.”

I next asked when he is rounding the weather mark and has the lead, what are his thoughts at this time. “When I am leading at the weather mark I can get rather stressed out and I have a tendency to over trim my sail which is a problem for me. I do my best to stay focused, not to mess up.” I asked the same question about rounding the leeward gates as I asked Uliasz. “I normally go to the opposite gate so that the leader can’t tack on me. I’m always looking for clean air.” My last question was what was he going to sail next. “I plan on sailing FJs and 420s like my brothers after I grow out of a sabot,” Decker said.

Will Metzger – 13 years old

He has been sailing in the program for three years. “My parents found the BCYC program during COVID because there was nothing else for us to do. I have a Corsair sabot, my third boat. I got it when I was a B sailor and the day I got it I moved up to As.” I asked Metzger how he preps for race days. “I like to sunscreen up, because I sunburn easily. I try to stay calm because once I am out there I don’t think, I don’t feel any pain I just kind of race. I try to remain calm because I do get nervous.” Then I asked if he ever feels like some days he has the mojo and when he doesn’t feel it what does he do. “Most of the time I don’t feel it. I’m kind of in the middle. There are times when I feel I have it and there are times when I haven’t done that well in the previous regatta. But most of the time I feel like I am in the middle. I do tell myself that I am fast – I’m fast which builds my mojo up.”

I then asked Metzger about sailing in the five-point area of the harbor, and what are some of his do’s and don’ts. “Stay out of the moorings. That is like the number one rule, if you are starting in the south/west side of the harbor you want to start in the middle of the line and lead to the right. That Lido lift is crazy; you can gain another five to 10 degrees and lay the mark – it’s pretty good.” I asked about the current in that part of the harbor. “We do take current into consideration. I will luff my boat into the wind and see which way I am drifting,” Metzger said.

Tavin Beattie – 11 years old

He has been in BCYC program for five years with one of his younger brothers in the Starfish program. My first question was how does he come up with his game plan for the day as he looks up the course. “It’s important to look at the land and how it is shaped because the wind curves it. This creates the wind headers and lifts, and you want to sail in the lifts.” I then asked if he had a checklist for the day’s racing. “Making sure my weights are in the boat, paddle and bailer are tied down and I have my lifejacket on. If the wind is blowing eight knots you want to pull in the outhaul and make sure you have the foot of the sail a hand length from the boom,” Beattie said.

I then asked what his procedure is after rounding the weather mark. “Most of the kids like lifting up their leeboards to reduce drag. I feel jumping up to the front of the boat and rocking the boat slows the boat down.”

I asked Beattie after rounding the weather mark what he is looking at to decide if he wants to jibe or not. “Usually it’s decided on what the other racers jibe on. I want to sail on the jibe that takes you to the leeward side of the course.

Every time I do these interviews it makes me want to go sailing with these thoughts fresh in my mind. I should have written this story on Friday night rather than Sunday afternoon, because I got beat up this Saturday sailing one of my RC boats. I think I will re-read this story before Taco Tuesday at BCYC this week.

Sea ya.

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Len Bose is a yachting enthusiast, yacht broker and harbor columnist for Stu News Newport.


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