Mudratz Hit the Road by Jay, Lisa and Evan Spalding

Monday August 4 was a flurry of activity in Stonington and Weekapaug as the ECSA Mudratz packed up their boats and headed to Newport, RI for the 2014 US Optimist Dinghy Association New England Championship August 5-7.  16 Opti sailors and their boats, 4 coaches, 3 coach boats and a boat for parent spectators all made it on Monday.  Chris and Braedon Hansen were the advance team to secure a good location in the boat park.  A huge field at Fort Adams was covered by 419 Optis within a short dolly push to the beach for launching.  Sail Newport was well organized with registrations broken down by alphabet and the kids were quickly registered and out sailing for some practice.  It is hard to appreciate how to handle a fleet of hundreds of Optis, but Sail Newport makes it look easy with their great organization, army of volunteers and a great system for quickly getting 400 boats on and off the water.  Most of the Mudratz had not sailed a major regatta like this with this high level of competition.  You could see them soaking up the experience on and off the water and having a great time.

The mission of the MudRatz is to complement the local sailing programs offered by the yacht clubs of the region, by enabling enthusiastic sailors to practice in the spring and fall as well as travel as a team to regattas around the country.  The Mudratz team ranged in age from 9 to 14 and were all experienced racers in ECSA so they sailed in the Red, White and Blue fleet (RWB) which was 376 boats! The team consisted of Chris Annino (blue), Brook Barry (blue), Tristan Chang (blue), Tyler Chang (red), Harvey DeMovick (white), Caelan Desmond (blue), Lily Flack (blue), Jamie Fox (blue), Megan Gimple (red), Austin Halsey (white), Braedon Hansen (blue), Margot Hutchins (blue), Duncan Manthous (red), Sasha Oakes (blue), Evan Spalding (blue) and Ryan Travers (blue).  RWB raced together but were randomly split each day into 4 color coded fleets of almost 100 boats each.  Tuesday, the first race day, many of the Mudratz drew the yellow fleet which headed out and raced last.   The race course was north of the Newport Bridge between Potters Cove and Gould Island.  There was good breeze and they completed 3 races in each fleet over the Opti Trapezoid with Reach Finish course designed so the multiple fleets would not mix together.  Given the 4 fleets this amounted to 12 races in one day, a great job by the race committee.  This was a long day with some pretty tired sailors falling asleep in their dinner.  Wednesday they shuffled the fleets but breeze was hard to come by.  The race committee completed one set of races and tried to finish the second set but was thwarted by shifting and dying winds leading to the third race of the set being thrown out and thus the whole second set of races on Wednesday were thrown out by the RC.  A nice social event was enjoyed by all the kids at the after race carnival with a rock climbing wall, bungee trampoline, coach dunk tank, weigh-in contest, snow cones, lemonade, popcorn, hot dogs, hamburgers and pasta.

Thursday started with hopes for two races so everyone could get a throwout once 6 races were completed.  As this was the last day the first race of a set of 4 could not be started after 2:30pm.  The seabreeze was slow in starting but the RC did succeed in starting the second set of races just before 2:30pm making a total of 6 races per fleet for a total of 24 RWB races!

For most of the team this was a first opportunity to sample the competition of a national level event.  While they regularly sail in 60 boat fleets in ECSA, these larger much more competitive fleets were why they were here. Some feedback from the kids: “It was very interesting to sail in a fleet of 100 boats. Tactics became much more important. There was a lot more confusion on the water because it was more difficult to figure out 4 fleets than 1. The event also took three days and we experienced a lot of different conditions. This made it so that the people that won the races were the best all-around sailors instead of just the best in whatever weather the day provided. I really liked sailing in such a big event and hope I get a chance to do so again.”

The late start on Thursday made for another long day as the team broke down their boats and packed up upon hitting shore.   The line to pull coach boats at the ramp was impressive.  The team packed up and attended awards where they won 2nd (Lady Bug) and 3rd place (Dragon Fire) for best boat names. They then hit the road to return to Stonington and Weekapaug by about 9:00pm.  Thanks go to our coaches, Jon Faudree, Justin Diekerhoff, O.J. O’Connell and Ally Melvin. Many parents pitched in here and there but Chris Hansen, Tori Gimple, Tim Desmond, and Harvey DeMovick, put in a huge effort up in Newport all week. And of course none of this would ever have happened without Brandon Flack and his tireless organizing, promoting and execution of a great vision to expand our kids sailing world.

Mudratz fall session is fast approaching and that means it’s time for another season of MudRatz sailing starting September 7 at Niantic Bay YC.  Six weeks of small group coaching in Optis or 420s. See We again would like to thank the ECSA and the Mystic River Mudheads. Without their support this team would not be possible.


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