Now that the holidays are over, it is time to settle down and get back to a more normal schedule. For many, that might mean a slower pace after the hectic weeks that have just concluded. Not so for our sailing friends. Their season just never ends - for which they are quite thankful. This past weekend, competitors from around Long Island Sound, and as far away as Massachusetts trailed their IC dinghies to Manhasset Bay YC for the 76th Annual Frostbite New Years Regatta. One might wonder about the moniker "frostbite," as three divisions (IC dinghies, Ideal 18s and Penguins) gathered around Kraus' Kastle in weather that was in the low to mid 50 degrees. Not too many were heard complaining, though. Look for complete results and details in next weeks column. In the meantime, readers can go to www.manhassetbayyc.org, for complete results and photos.
It has been said that the future of the sport of sailing rests with the younger generation. It is that group of young people who are sailing as youngsters or teens, who will be the sailors of tomorrow, who may enjoy recreational sailing, or strive to be an Olympic competitor, or one who reaches the pinnacle of sailing, and get on an America's Cup boat. Whatever the aspirations, there is no doubt about the future of our sport is in our young people taking an interest in, and loving being on the water - in all kinds of weather. There is one young lad from England who has set a very high standard for a school field trip. His name is Michael Perham, 14, who spent his holiday reading books, playing his guitar and doing his homework. Nothing too unusual about that - except that he did all these things from his 28 ft. boat, named Cheeky Monkey, as he sailed across the Atlantic Ocean single-handed. Perham, who is from Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, spent seven weeks sailing 3,500 miles from Gibraltar to Antigua. According to a reporter for the London Times (online edition), Will Iredale, the young Perham commented, "I can't quite believe I am about to do it (finish). I am looking forward to a bed that doesn't roll and food that does not come out of a tin. We've had blue skies, a few clouds and an odd rain squall. The sun is pretty hot so I make sure I'm well protected." In spite of what he has said, Perham braved seas as "high as a house", shark-infested waters and gale force winds. Although he is sailing solo, his father, Peter, 47, an experienced yachtsman, is following two miles behind and keeps in regular contact with his son, but is prevented from helping, except in an emergency. Perham has survived on tinned food, and canned drinks. And he has found time to do some of his homework! He has taken three weeks off school to complete the voyage and is sponsored by local companies. He is also raising money for the BBC Children in Need appeal and for RYA Sailability, a charity that promotes sailing for disabled people.
And how does Perham's mother feel about all this? She said she was "taken aback" when her son first told her he wanted to attempt the record. "Michael mentioned he wanted to set a new record but we just thought he was crazy. Little did we realize it would actually happen." She admits it is all "fantastic." The previous record for the youngest person to cross the Atlantic was set by Sebastian Clover, 15, from the Isle of Wight, who completed the journey in January 2003, sailing his 32 ft yacht Reflection. At press time, Perham was due into Nelson's Dock in Antigua. If he finishes his voyage, he will become the youngest person to sail across the Atlantic Ocean single-handed. And if some of his homework is incomplete, he has a much better excuse that the dog ate it. For more information, go to www.timesonline.co.uk.Continuing the thread of youth sailing - and what better way to start the new year - the son of Sir Peter Blake, the famous New Zealand sailor who was murdered while sailing in 2001, is heading to the Antarctic to fulfill a promise to his father. James Blake, 19, has signed on to take part in an expedition to restore historic huts used by Antarctic explorers Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott during their early Antarctic expeditions. The past 100 years of harsh environment has left them needing a bit of TLC. When Sir Peter Blake was murdered by South American pirates while sailing on the Amazon in 2001, he had promised to help save the huts near Scott Base. "Dad wanted to do his bit to preserve the huts of his heroes," said James. So he is off for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work as a general hand on the expedition. Working along with carpenters and professional conservators, young James is determined to fulfill the wish of his late father. As they say down under, "good on ya." By year's end, there are two events that are specifically for junior sailors. One is for the cream of the crop and the other is for all interested sailors. Let's start with the later. It is called the Orange Bowl and it takes place down in Florida during the school recess between Christmas and New Years. Just image! You are an 8-year-old Optimist sailor and you end up down in Miami with about 600 junior sailors. Now, what could be better than that? This regatta is for the uninitiated and veteran junior, and draws kids from all over the world. The final count was 615 sailors from 30 states and 8 foreign countries, not counting the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Five Optimist sailors hailed from Yokohama and Nagoya, Japan. No wonder this regatta is the Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta - with a well-deserved emphasis on the international. With this many sailors (plus their parents, siblings and friends), the US Sailing Center, Coral Reef YC and Biscayne Bay YC all got involved. And the buzz is that this is just the place to be, if you are a junior and into sailing and would like to be part of an unforgettable experience. You may want to check out the website and start making plans for next year. www.coralreefyachtclub.org.
The other youth regatta was the 2006 IODA (International Optimist Dinghy Association) World Sailing Championship in Montevideo, Uruguay which started on Dec. 29. Two hundred and thirty sailors from 50 countries are competing. Hosted by the Yacht Club Uruguayo, which is celebrating its centenary this year, many volunteers gave up their holiday break to ensure a successful event for competitors and their families. The fantastic growth of this event is captured in the numbers. The last time the event was held over the holiday, only 133 sailors from 29 countries were registered. And sailors who make it to this regatta tend to go on to bigger and better things. Looking back to 1992, almost 10 percent went on to the Olympics. Results unavailable at press time, but check out www.optiworld.org for more information.