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Sailing for fun and competition teaches us teamwork

Credit: Kidsday staff artist / Maggie Flaherty, Merrick

We sail two types of boats: Opti and 420. We take lessons at our club, the Westhampton Yacht Squadron in Remsenburg, and competitively sail in the Great South Bay Yacht Racing Association.

The Opti is a one-person boat that looks like a fiberglass bathtub with a sail in it. The Opti is a type of dinghy that is a beginner boat, perfect for learning how to race. It is easy to control and simple to rig. It is not crazy powerful and fast, but it is still difficult enough that even as you mature there are still more techniques to learn that keep it fun and interesting.

The other boat is a 420. It is called this because it is 420 centimeters long. It is for advanced sailors. It is also a double-handed boat, meaning two people sail it together. The 420 is a larger dinghy made of fiberglass. It has three sails. With a 420 you do something called trapezing. When it is really windy and the boat starts tilting, the crew puts on a harness that is attached to a wire that is attached to the top of the mast. The crew then stands on the edge of the boat and leans back. The person is supported by the harness and is able to control how far he is leaning back by adjusting the length of a rope attached to the wire. This helps keep the boat flat.

When racing these boats, you have different courses. The three most common courses are a windward/leeward, a port triangle and an Olympic. The goal is to get around the course the fastest. However, it is not as simple as that. You have to take a zigzag path since you can’t sail straight into the wind. Then you have to head to the next buoy, and the same thing after that, and eventually finish.

We have been sailing and competing for many years and really enjoy it. We have had a great time racing and have learned a great deal about teamwork and community along the way.

Valerie Hanley’s seventh-grade class, Our Lady of the Hamptons Regional Catholic School, Southampton

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