Jun 19, 2011, 11:53 AM
I just read your notes in Scuttlebutt 3363 about the 9 year old girl sailing against you in the Etchells 22 Worlds. It reminded me of another 9 year girl sailing an Opti in the Mexican National Olympics where, for me, she was the true competitor.
Encouraging youth success in sailing
Every year in May, Mexico holds a National Olimpics for the youth. This is a month long event with many different sports including intellectual sports such as chess. The states pay for their teams to travel to the city and provides uniforms. The competition is split boys and girls with different age groups. The country allocates sports budget to each state depending on participation and points (down to 16 places I think).
This May I had the honor of being the PRO for the Opti course in Progresso, Yucatan. This is a fantastic place to sail but not perfect (name a place that is). The afternoon wind kicks up heading into the beach with the launch and recovery of boats being straight into the surf. The race courses, Opti to the NE of the marina and Laser & sailboards NW of the marina, are up wind of the beach.
On the first day we had 50 boys and 29 girls in the Opti class, 2 starts. During the second race the wind was NE at 17 knots with gust to 22. It is only 5 meters deep so the waves were fairly steep and close together. Many of the children were racing hard but some of the lesser experienced skippers were punching waves and being swamped. We kept a close watch on the situation and directed government rescue boats, coach boats and mark boats to oversee Optis who seem to be having difficulty. (Meanwhile the parents were listening on the radio to all this!) The sailors who wish to retire but sailing were told to sail downwind to the marina. The coach boats towed 2 hulls to us, we take the 10 year old male skippers and they returned to help others.
Sailing downwind in reasonable control was 9 year old Frieda from Playa del Carmen in the state Quintana Roo. She was obviously not having fun and wanted to tie on to the signal boat. Everyone was saying to sail to the marina but she clearly wanted to come on board. I told them to tie her on and bring her rig on board. The crew gave everyone water and food and got them settled.
Now we had 3 kids on the flying bridge with the safety officer, Federico, and myself. The 2 boys and Fede spoke English, everyone else spoke only Spanish. Let’s just say my Spanish improved greatly that week. The boys were enjoying being on the signal boat especially during the start of the 3rd race of the day. Freida was still not happy. Feeling safe but not happy. Only when we headed for the beach after the race does she start having fun.
At breakfast the next morning I passed the long Quintana Roo table. I stopped at Frieda and 1 of the boys and asked in Spanish if they are ready for a new day. “Noooo” they both answer shaking their heads. I counter that with “a la mi Espanol, cada dia, pequeto mas”. Like my Spanish, each day, a little more.
Move now to the 3rd and last day, the wind was out of the north (straight on to the beach). The start line was about 1 mile out, wind 13 knots with gust to 17, waves were not as high or close together as day one. Race 2 of 3 for the day. 26 girls including Freida start. The top boat rounds mark 1 in 12 minutes. Freida was sailing back and forth, sitting too far aft and sail not completely trimmed but in excellent control. Who knows how many times she tacked. But she was GOING to make the windward mark. It took 34 minutes for her to cover the 600-700 meters but she did it think she was all by herself head out into the Gulf of Mexico, next stop: Gulfport, MS, 500 miles away. She sailed to the jibe mark then headed to the lee mark where she stopped to talk to her coach then went in by herself.
Later I spoke with her coach. She has been sailing only 6 months. This was her first regatta. I told him this story and he responded: “her father will be so proud”.
As the medal ceremonies began the 1st order of business was to give Frieda, to her surprise, a “Spirit of the Games” award. This was an impromptu presentation invented by the staff of the signal boat who also gave her a standing “O” when she rounded that mark. Her race was not against the other girls but against the wind and sea and improving her ability! One day Frieda will be a champion, maybe sailing or some other event in life but she will be on top. She will be a leader.
Day 2 was entertaining as well. We still had a 3rd Opti girls race to run. The boys had their 3 and the other course was complete for the day so all the coaches and parents had come to our course. The wind was up and 19 girl Optis started. There were 14 spectator boats following. It reminded me of the America’s Cup.
The Mexican Sailing Federation is giving me the opportunity to PRO some of their biggest regattas and I consider it a great honor to serve them.
La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit, Mexico