2006 Opti National Championship
Reports below. - Results Overall   Red   Blue   White   Green   Girls

-Charlie Clifton photo

7/23/06 Practice was cut short Sunday by an afternoon thunderstorm but the sailors had a fun ride in. Measurement is underway. Girls Championship starts Monday. Open National Championship starts Tuesday. Regatta Chairman Patti Tebo and her crew are busy keeping 350 sailors and their families happy.

Young Sailors from both sides of the Atlantic come to Sarasota for 2006 Opti Nationals.

7/23/06 - 350 sailors ages 8-15 will be racing Optimist Prams at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron on City Island July 24-28. The young competitors have come to the 2006 Opti National Championships from the four corners of the US as well as Bermuda, Sweden, England, Canada, and the Caribbean.

City Island and the Sailing Squadron are packed with families and boats preparing for the week long event.

Three Champions will emerge. The Girls' National Champion will be determined after one day of racing on Monday. The National Champion and the Green Fleet (Beginners) Champion will be determined after races are completed Tuesday through Friday.

Top seeds include Taylor Lutz (Fort Lauderdale), Antoine Screve and Jordo Factor (both Long Island, NY), and Merissa Lihan (Ft. Lauderdale.). Lutz was the top US sailor and Lihan (Ft. Lauderdale) was the top girl. at the Opti North American Championship held in Puerto Rico last month.

A strong 8 boat Bermuda contingent could produce a winner. The Bermudians are especially fast in strong breeze.

Local Sarasota sailor Abby Featherstone (at right) has won some regattas lately. She may be peaking at the right time as she goes into her last Opti regatta. She will be over the age limit after this event.

Three races a day are scheduled throughout the week. On Monday, the girls begin at 11 AM. Tuesday through Friday races begin at 1 PM.

Bermudian Haley Powell wins 2006 Opti National Girls' Championship.

7/24/06 - 15 year old Haley Powell from St. George's, Bermuda won the 2006 Opti National Girls Championship running away from the other 93 competitors. The Bermudians are noted for their heavy weather prowess, but Powell was untouchable in the 4-8 knot light, shifty winds on Sarasota Bay.

In the first race, she rounded the first mark in third place and had a nice lead at the finish. In the second race, she blasted out into the lead right away and it was a horizon job at the finish. The third and fourth race she recovered from being buried at the start to post a second and fourth respectively.

Nobody came close to the consistency shown by the young lady from the Royal Hamilton Dinghy Club. Sailing since she was 9, she exhibited an uncanny knack to capitalize on frequent wind shifts and intermittent puffs.

The other two races were won by Morgan Kiss of Team X and Marlena Fauer of the Long Island Sound Optimist Team.

Two protests are pending of boats in the top 15 but they do not involve any of the sailors mentioned. Official results will be released at www.sarasotasailingsquad.com after the protests have been heard. -Charlie Clifton

Things were a little hectic at the pin from time to time.

This view of the start from the pin boat is courtesy of Jessica Knighton, Quantum Sails rep.

Gantt Shiflet is an up and comer. -John Domagala photo.
The 2006 Opti National Championship opened the first day with a whimper and ended with a bang. After waiting on the beach for an hour for the breeze to fill in, the young sailors went out onto Sarasota Bay and raced until 6 PM in breeze that built steadily throughout the day.

Results are still pending on the just under 300 boat Red, White and Blue Championship course because of scoring discrepencies and protests but interviews with the competitors reveal the latest developments.

Matthew Wefer (Sea Cliff, NY), Antoine Screve (Coral Reef Yacht Club, Miami), and Haley Powell (St. George's, Bermuda) have all posted very consistent finishes and are at the top of the pack.

A light wind began to fill in around 1 PM and then built throughout the day. The first race began at 1:30. The Red White and Blue Championship Fleets sailed until 6 PM in breeze that had built to form white caps on the bay. The Green Beginners Fleet were in at 4:30 in mild winds.

Makai Joell (Bermuda) recovered from a bad collision and finished the regatta in 15th place.

In the Green Fleet, Ian Prinholser (Naples, FL) never won a race but posted consistent finishes to gain a 9 point lead. Seth Hart (Venice, FL) is tied with Alexander Hopkins (Gulfport, MS) for second. Jonathon Potthurst (New Orleans, LA) is one point behind in fourth.

A rising star burst upon the Green Fleet scene. 8 year old Gantt Shiflet (photo above) has been sailing for three weeks. His first regatta is the 64 boat Opti Green Fleet National Championship. The first race he beat 2 boats. The second 1 boat. The third he found his legs and beat 9 boats! After the races Gantt said, “ I didn't do too well the first two races but then a coach told me a couple of things to try. I started moving a lot better after that. I passed a lot of boats. Tomorrow I'm going to do even better”

Races continue Wednesday in both fleets with 3 races scheduled for each.
-Charlie Clifton

Addison Hackstaff of the St. Thomas YC follows in the footsteps of Peter Holmberg on his way to winning race 2 in the Green Fleet.
- John Domagala photo.

2006 Opti National Championship 7/26/06

Consistency was the key for Raul Rios (right) of San Juan, Puerto Rico, as he took the regatta lead Wednesday. He never won a race but was in the top five in the three races Tuesday and one Wednesday. Raul weighs 85 lbs. and likes it when there is less than 15 knots of wind.

Wednesday there was only one race because a thunderstorm cut the afternoon short. Abandonment was signaled shortly after the start of the second race and the sailors sent in when lightning appeared on the horizon from a slowly approaching cell. The wind was light and shifty in the one completed race.

14 year old Matt Wefer (right) of Sea Cliff,NY, is four points back in second. One point behind him are Nick Johnstone (lower right) of Newport, RI, and Joshua Greenslade of Bermuda who are tied. Both Johnstone and Greenslade have won two races.

The only other winner of two races, Haley Powell of Bermuda, was disqualified from Wednesday's race due to a premature start. If six races are completed she will be able to discard that mistake and could still be in contention.

The racing is very tight and with 280 boats in the Championship Fleet, standings can change drastically in one race. There is plenty of potential for sailors low in the standings right now to move to the top.

In the Green beginner's fleet, local sailors had a good day. The Green Fleet completed two races and Seth Hart of Venice moved to the top of the leaderboard. This fleet may consist of novices, but they in no way lack competitiveness. The second race was started four times as sailors pushed to the front of the line, surging ahead prematurely to the start. Gantt Spiflet upped his record by beating 10 boats today, up one from yesterday.

-Charlie Clifton

Sailors traded t-shirts and autographs on mini Opti sails at the ice cream social.

Opti Nationals 7/27/06

Thursday no races were completed due to approaching thunderstorms. Green Fleet was in the middle of finishing and the Championship Fleet hadn’t gotten a start off when the weather deteriorated and all the sailors were sent to the beach.

Developments occurred on shore as a backlog of protest were sorted out. There is a new leader in the Championship Fleet. Haley Powell of Bermuda was determined to have returned to restart the last race. Her 7th place finish was counted and she now leads the regatta.

As the judges listened to protests the sailors found some fun things to do (above) like jumping off the bridge on the dock (Uh Oh! Busted by regatta authorities !) and paddling a wheel barrow 50 yards off the beach before it sank. (HA HA, no old people saw that one! .. and they did salvage it.)

Racing was rescheduled for an 8 AM harbor start Friday in an attempt to get more races Friday.

-Charlie Clifton

7/28/06 11 AM
The boats left the beach at 8 AM in 6-8 knot shifty easterly. The RWB fleets have been racing all morning.

The Green Fleet has 3 races completed this morning. They are now on the beach for lunch with plans to go out for more at 11:20. Toni Mastrota had a very good morning.

More reports to follow.......

3:30 PM Matt Wefer wins overall and Red, Raul Rios Blue, Kyle Burgess (Bermuda) White, Trevor Trepton (ALMOST/LaBelle) Green. Story and Results to follow....

7/28/06 4:30 PM
Matt Wefer (Sea Cliff, NY) won the 2006 Opti National Regatta at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron July 28. After thunderstorms canceled all races Thursday, the sailors left the beach at 7:30 AM and raced until 2:00 PM. A 6-8 knot easterly provided very shifty, challenging winds. Wefer posted two top ten finishes and a first the last day.

Simon Kjellstrand (Sweden) posted two top 5 finishes and a bullet to move into second place overall. Raul Rios (Puerto Rico) and Haley Powell (Bermuda) both had deep finishes the last race and dropped to third and fourth respectively. Haley won one race today to score the most firsts in the regatta. Both Rios and Powell were on the wrong end of the line when a giant shift came in and put them on the downwind end on the last start today. Haley's brother Ryan (right) who finished 30th in Blue, says he will be showing her his stern before long.

While Wefer and Rios won Red (13+ years) and Blue (11-12) Fleets respectively, Kyle Burgess (Bermuda) won the White (10 & under) Fleet by a good margin over Sam Hopkins of Gulfport, MS.

The Green Fleet (beginners) went out early also. They sailed three races in the morning, came in for lunch, then went out and sailed two more.

Trevor Trepton (LaBelle) eked out a close one point victory over Samantha Purton of Tampa, FL. The final came down to who beat whom in the last race. Ben Mohney (Venice, FL) won three races the last day to move into third.

Gantt Shiflet again beat ten boats in one of the races today.

Awards were presented at 4:00 PM. The sailors tossed Wefer into Sarasota Bay and then began trips home to both sides of the Atlantic, except for Team Bermuda (below) which is headed for the middle of the Atlantic.

-Charlie Clifton