Southern California Does Miami

By Lynn Fitzpatrick

Southern California is a water lover’s dream. Blessed with a Mediterranean climate, natural and manmade harbors lined with sailboats and powerboats, kids and adults alike have to make tough decisions—do I surf, play water polo, row, or sail? An affinity for sailing is easy to recognize; At Newport Harbor High School the sports teams are “The Sailors.”

Buoyed by strong regional programs and inspired by the leadership of the California International Sailing Association, young sailors come out of Southern California with strong skill sets, ready to go.
You could see that in evidence at the recent
ORANGE BOWL INTERNATIONAL YOUTH REGATTAS sailed in Florida at the Coral Reef Yacht Club. Here’s a little need-to-know:

Unlike junior sailors throughout the rest of the world whose first training sessions and regattas are in Optimist prams, the kids from Southern California’s first junior sailboat is the Naples Sabot. There are some idiosyncrasies to the leeboard Sabot, but the basics of sail trim and boat handling are transferable and the Southern California Youth Yacht Racing Association (SCYYRA) and the California International Sailing Association (CISA) have been producing some of the nation’s top junior sailors. A powerhouse, CISA-sponsored, 35-person Orange Bowl squad is indicative of how organized junior sailing is in California and how dedicated parents and sponsors are. (You can find them on the web at CISA.

Graham Biehl and Adam Roberts, aspiring Olympians, coached Tyler Sinks and Morgane Renoir, Chris Barnard and Chris Segerblom, Oliver Toole and Willie McBride and others in the C-420’s. Andrew Campbell, one of the world’s top ranked Laser sailors, and Robbie Dean gave winning tips to Charlie Buckingham, Peter and Matt Wenner, Michael Menninger, Ryan Hoeven, Rex Cameron and others as they negotiated their way around the Lasers and Laser Radial race course and the three sailing facilities that hosted the 500+ sailboat Junior Olympic Festival.

“We look for kids who are consistently finishing at the top of the fleet and are mature enough to travel with the coaches. They also have to be able to handle their boat in 20 knots, because they could end up sailing in those conditions in Miami,” said Jerelyn Biehl, one of the members of the CISA selection committee. CISA has been sponsoring a team to the Orange Bowl since 2003. Team members get assistance with great coaching, weather reports supplied by Jennifer Lilly, mini clinics, prepping in the morning, evening debriefing sessions and this year’s green Orange Bowl green baseball cap. “It’s a win-win for everybody. The coaches are Olympic caliber athletes. By coaching they can help to fund their Olympic campaigns and the kids on the team realize how approachable they are. The team members get to participate in a huge international regatta in their own country,” said Jerelyn Biehl.

Graham Biehl, is coming off a win at the 2006 470 US Pre-trials. He is one of the coaches and was fortunate enough to make the CISA team a few years ago and sail 29ers with his brother, Cameron. “Even though we had traveled before and sailed in some large youth regattas, it was an awesome experience,” said Graham. Leading up to the regatta, his hope was that everyone on this year’s CISA team would finish among the top 10 in their fleets and have a great time at the regatta. A product of Southern California sailing, “I can’t tell you what a great feeling it is to be helping out these kids,” said Biehl.

This year’s Orange Bowl Regatta is Tyler Sinks’ fifth. He took first in the C-420’s last year and did it again this year with Morgane Renoir. Tyler’s arrival at his first Orange Bowl Regatta left an indelible impression on all of his chaperones. “It was crazy. There were so many boats and so many kids! I was used to sailing in 25 to 30 boat Sabot fleets. I’d never sailed against 90 boats before.” Before returning to defend his title in the 78-boat C-420 fleet, Tyler commented that he was “totally excited” and didn’t “want to go downhill” from last year’s finish.

There were a lot of smiling Californians on Saturday afternoon as they packed up their chartered boats, gear bags, and trophies. They were treated to fabulous sailing conditions on Miami’s Biscayne Bay. Warm weather, warm water, a breeze that picked up as the week went on and lots of landside activities in Coconut Grove. Beaming from ear to ear was the entire Sinks family. Not only did Tyler win the regatta by finishing in the top ten in each of the 12 races, except for an OCS, his 29 point total included 4 firsts.

Scott Sinks, Tyler’s younger brother, took third in the 69-boat Optimist green fleet. Scott was not one of the CISA-sponsored sailing squad, because the program is designed for the Laser, Laser Radial and C-420 sailors. Some of the 35- person team admitted that they had sailed Opti’s in the Orange Bowl when they were younger and did not have immediate success with their initiation to the Optimist in such a large regatta. Scott, who has been sailing Sabots for three years suggested to his parents that he would like to go to the Orange Bowl also. They didn’t push him, but they did want to make sure that he had a good time.

Chuck and Lynn Sinks who flew to Miami with their sons on Christmas day had many comments, among them, “Southern California works!” Scott Barnard and the other parents who accompanied their sons and daughters concurred. Sinks who is chairman of Southern California Youth Yacht Racing Association (SCYYRA), said that he never would have expected to be so involved with youth sailing but is amazed what some funding, committed volunteer parents and member yacht clubs can do. Sinks and the others involved in SCYYRA, CISA, and Pacific Coast Interscholastic Sailing Association (PCISA) sing praises to benefactor, Roy E. Disney for his financial contributions and encouragement, over the years.

SCYYRA sets and coordinates year round clinic and regatta calendar for the Naples Sabots, Laser, Laser Radials, C-420’s, C-FJ’s and 29er’s. Juniors graduate from a strong Naples Sabot program into a College Flying Junior, Laser Radial and Laser program and can find themselves on one of 85 California high school teams. “The kids make friends at an early age. It’s fun. It’s co-ed and we’ve had great results all around,” said Barnard. Barnard stressed that a modest amount of funding and a number of very supportive parents are the backbone of California’s junior sailing success. “Aside from the $500 sponsorship that each of the CISA team members were given, the largest expenditures are for coaching for the clinics that we arrange. $500 to $1,000 goes a long way when it comes to getting the kids together and providing them with training sessions,” said Barnard. With a 1,2,3,8, 10,11,16 in the C-420’s; a 3,6,24 in the Radials; and a 4, 11,17,21 in the Lasers, it is clear that the Naples Sabot, CISA, SCYYRA, and PCISA are giving these sailors a great start and are producing some of sailing’s next generation of top talent.

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