Sailing challenge: which boat is it today?

"Flying Juniors, Lido 14s, 420s, Lasers, and C-Larks are the equipment - can you name the sport?Bainbridge Island Sailing Club members have to be able to handle all varieties of sailboats as they compete in regattas throughout the state, with the difference in the craft from race to race perhaps the team's biggest challenge. Last year we won districts sailing Lido 14s in Port Hadlock. Then the team sailed 420s in national competition, said Coach John DeMeyer. Our boats on Bainbridge are Lasers, and they are small and fast, echoed co-captain Chris Utley. The other boats are bigger and harder to sail - we have to move farther, and it's more awkward for us because we're not used to them.Formed by DeMeyer at the urging of local kids, the club - co-sponsored by Bainbridge Island Park and Recreation District - is in its fourth year at BHS.When DeMeyer started the program, which competes as part of the Interscholastic Sailing Association, there were no teams in the Northwest region. Now the club competes in a 13-team district.The club practices three days a week on the water, and another two in the gym. The goal is to condition the crewmen whose job it is to hike out, as it is their strength that keeps the boat from tipping over. It takes a lot of discipline to be successful in this sport, said DeMeyer, assisted in coaching the squad by Susan Kaseler. It's really fun, and there is so much to learn ranging from competition strategy to the kinesthetic skill of sailing.The 18-member club has the advantage of having eight of the nine sailors who participated at last year's nationals back on the team. Spartan co-captains Amber Blankenship and Chris Utley crew with Dan Roche, Kellen Bailey, and Brittain Mason. Returning helmsmen Claire Hudson, Patrick Taylor, and Kelly Norton steer the course for the Spartans, along with junior Matt Upton, who returns after a year off. We have the best team we've ever had, DeMeyer said.Eight members of our team sailed in nationals, and they learned a great deal. We want to use their experience as a starting point to build from.In a typical regatta, three boats per school compete in up to seven races, depending on sea and weather conditions. The more races the better, but according to DeMeyer, the standard is the best three out of five races. Two students crew each boat in a true collaborative effort. The helmsman controls the main sail and steers, while the crewman controls the jib and centerboard. The team receives one point for first place, two points for second, and so on, with the winner being the team with the fewest points. The crews sail for the fastest time, but the sailors must also use strategy to out-finesse other crews.Following a strict set of rules, they compete for the tactical advantage to outmaneuver competing vessels.In a move for tactical advantage, if a Spartan boat is in the lead and the crew wants to assist another Spartan boat that has fallen behind, they can maneuver their boat to slow the opponent, thus allowing their teammates to catch up and pass - much like a chess game, factored with the unpredictable whims of wind and water.The club kicks off its season today with a regatta on Whidbey Island, and will be racing in Lidos or Flying Juniors. They face a tough opponent North Kitsap on Wednesday, but BHS will have the home boat advantage with Lasers.We are really pumped about the season, Utley said. We will have some good competition against NK and Friday Harbor, so we'll have to work at it. I think we have a good chance of winning the double-handed districts in Long Beach and competing in Team Nationals.We have a lot of really good sailors this year. Lasers streak to heavy harbor useThe six Lasers used by the Sailing Club are owned and maintained by the park district, and were purchased with grant money for approximately $5,000 per boat. Kept in Eagle Harbor, the sailboats serve between 45 and 50 classes each spring and summer, accommodating the needs of hundreds of would-be island sailors. In fact, they see near continuous use every day during the season. DeMeyer managed to purchase a seventh boat last year, so the club has a spare - six are needed to host a regatta."

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