Sunday, November 6 dawned with a mix of sun and clouds and a steady 15 knot east wind blowing in off the Atlantic as sailors from up and down the east coast of Florida streamed into Youth Sailing Foundation’s (YSF) marine recreation park south to the 17th Street Bridge. Towing sailboats and coach/safety boats, over fifty sailors and their families came to Vero Beach to compete in Youth Sailing Foundation’s Veteran’s Day Regatta.
After a briefing by YSF’s Sailing Director, Ben Chafee, the junior sailors, ages 8-18, launched at 11 AM from the beach into the teeth of a squall with winds gusting to 25 knots and heavy rain. Undaunted, the young sailors got off the beach and beat to windward across the Lagoon to the sailing venue east of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). Indian River County Sherriff’s marine units were on station to halt all ICW traffic as the fleet of forty sailboats transited to the two races courses set by the race committee with large yellow inflatable marks.
The breeze settled in to provide perfect racing conditions for the remainder of the day. And what a day. The 420 fleet of fourteen 14-foot two person racing dinghies recorded a record 11 races in just under four hours of racing. These experienced high school sailors had their boats humming at maximum hull speed. The Opti fleet of twenty-six 8-foot prams was equally up to the challenge racking-up seven races.
As the 40-boat fleet came home for a beach recovery at 3 PM the weary smiles of the young sailors radiated the knowing satisfaction of meeting a challenge and persevering. Keeping a small sailboat upright while racing on the edge for four hours takes concentration and fortitude. The sailors are on their own, no sidelines to take a breather, no coaches to pat them on the back. Equally heartwarming was the broad smiles and hugs all around from proud parents who helped in the de-rigging and loading boats on trailers for the hours-long drive home.
Taking home the hardware for YSF were Alexander Delamater with a 1st in the Opti Gold Fleet and Nicholas La Rachelle with 1st in the Opti Silver Fleet. The Eau Gallie Yacht Club from Melbourne had a clean sweep in the 420-class taking 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.
The last award was made just as the sun began to dip below the western horizon on the first day of Eastern Standard Time. One senior citizen remarked: “This is the best day of my life since I had to give up sailing more than a decade ago. Seeing these young people calmly handle the challenging conditions brought back memories of my sailing days and the joys they brought to my life.”
Youth Sailing Foundation of Indian River County, Inc. is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit devoted to eliminating cultural and financial barriers to sailing. Numerous youth programs are offered throughout the year, many of them free to participants. For more information or to make a tax-deductible donation, please visit: www.ysfirc.org.