Photo: Hawaii Kai Boat Club
Some Hawai‘i teenagers are kicking off their spring break with a national sailing competition. The O'pen BIC North American Un-Regatta runs from March 17 through March 19. Ten kids from the Hawai‘i Kai Boat Club are among the young sailors from all across the United States in Sarasota, Florida, vying for eight slots into the international competition in June.
Hawai‘i's team is made of kids from 12 to 16 years old from Kaimukī, Tantalus and Hawai‘i Kai. They may be young, but they are seasoned. Six of the eight already hold national or international titles in O'pen BIC, an open hull sailboat that is easy to set up and for kids to manuever.
Hawai‘i Kai Boat Club Sailmaster, Helena von Sydow, the mother of an O'pen BIC champion, keiki can have the boat rigged and on the water in less than two minutes.
"Even kids as young as 6, if they have the concentration and desire, can sail the O'Pen Bic," von Sydow says. "It's not that kids can't learn to sail in another boat, it's about keeping them excited so they keep coming back. My kids first learned how to sail on an Opti, but once exposed to the O'pen BIC, they fell in love with sailing."
The Hawai‘i team will compete in three divisions: U13 for kids 12 years and younger, U16 for kids 13 to 15 years, and Open for kids 17 to 18 years. The regatta runs three days with about five races each day. At the end, nine kids will be selected to compete against sailors from 10 other nations including Japan, Italy, Sweden, Australia, in June's O'pen BIC America's Cup Endeavour O'pen. The American team will consist of the top six qualifiers, the next two highest-ranked girls and one teenager selected at random from this weekend's Un-Regatta. Those kids will earn a free trip—with lodging, entry fee, charter boat and meals provided—to compete in Bermuda in June.
"The biggest reward as a coach is to see the happiness and the excitement when they master the skill," von Sydow said. "The kids feel so empowered."
Here are the sailors on Hawai‘i's team:
- Marcos Baez, 14. Earned first place in the 2015 O'pen BIC North American Championship's OPEN Division and came in 18th in the U16 Division at both the 2016 and 2015 World Cup.
- Gavin Ball, 14. Placed eighth in the U16 Division in last year's World Cup in France.
- Pearl Lattanzi, 16. Top girl qualifier at the 2015 O'pen BIC North American Championships in Miami. Placed 26th in the U16 Division at the 2015 World Cup in Australia.
- Kanoe Pick, 14. Came in first in the U13 Division at last year's North American Championship. Placed ninth in the U16 Division in the 2016 World Cup.
- Rocco Baez, 13. Competed in the 2015 O'pen BIC North American Championship.
- Thomas Busch, 12. Placed sixth at last year's North American Championship in Charleston, S.C. Competed at the 2015 O'pen BIC World Cup in Australia.
- Kona Carle, 13. Came in fourth in last year's North American Championship and competed in the 2015 World Cup in Australia.
- John "JP" Lattanzi, 12. Earned first place in the U13 Division at the 2016 North American Championships and second place in the 2015 national competition. Came in 18th at the 2015 World Cup in Australia.
- Kamanao Morton, 12. This is Kamanao's first time in a national competition.
- Catherine "CJ" Perez, 14. This is CJ's first time in a national competition.
Good luck to them all! We'll keep track of the team's progress and update you on the results. We can all watch the International competition on ESPN, it will be the half-time event between races at the America's Cup Finals.
Hawai‘i Kai Boat Club is taking registrations for Spring Break and Summer Camps. The classes are open to any child 7 years and older, no experience necessary.
"All they need is their swimwear or a wetsuit, if it is a little colder, and their life vest," von Sydow said. "I have seen inexperienced sailors learn to sail after only a few sessions. Moreover, I have seen smiles, laughter, camaraderie and exuberance for sailing in children of all ages.