July 17, 2001


200 sailors competing in New Englands

By DOM NICASTRO

Times sports editor

An estimated 200 sailors hit Rockport waters yesterday to check in for the United States Optimist Dinghy Association's New England Championships hosted by the Sandy Bay Yacht Club.

Sandy Bay had anticipated up to 300 boats competing in the three-day regatta, which started today and features sailors ages 8-15 using Optimist prams, eight-foot, single-sail boats.

Still, it's the largest single-class regatta the Sandy Bay Yacht Club has held, according to Jacob Fiumara, event coordinator. It's also larger than any single-class regatta held by any Cape Ann yacht club.

It's the first time the Rockport yacht club, which has an Optimist fleet used to teach sailing and for racing, has hosted the event.

According to Ron Petoff, Sandy Bay's club manager, participants who signed in yesterday hail from Canada and Michigan to Virginia and Bermuda. All New England states are represented, and sailors from Louisiana and Maryland also arrived yesterday.

Based on age, sailors were grouped into three fleets -- white (8-10), blue (11-12) and red (13-15) -- which form a championship fleet. Sailors in the championship fleet have been randomly split into four divisions and will compete against one another over the three days. The bulk of the sailors, Petoff said, are in the blue and red fleet.

Sandy Bay also has a green fleet, those sailors who are neophytes.

"It's not too much of a regatta experience for the green fleet," said Petoff. "It's more of a learning experience for them."

The first round of 10 total races kicked off today at 11 a.m. Races continue both tomorrow and Thursday at 10:30 a.m. More than 50 trophies will be presented at Granite Pier Thursday at 3:30 p.m.

The Sandy Bay Yacht Club has 15 of its own sailors competing. They are: Heather LaCombe (sail number 5492), Isaac Dann (5485), Eliza Ehrlich (5497), Hannah Hoerner (7541), Inga Aprans (5515), Courtney Battistelli (5499), Joanna Clark (5519), Naomi Delphin (5581), Alex Levin (5502), Kagan Lonval (5155), Lee Lyons (5500), Caroline Seamans (5512), Andrew Williamson (5501), John Williamson (5504), Max Lott (5521) and Tim Greely (5483)

Gloucester's Annisquam Yacht Club features three sailors competing: Melissa Lehman (USA 10297); Evan Cooke (USA 4283) and Kelly Cooke (USA 8974).

Best on-shore viewing sites are the end of Bearskin Neck, the end of the Granite Pier (where parking will be difficult as that is where the boats will be launched each day), Front, Back and Old Garden beaches and the Headlands at the mouth of Rockport Harbor.