By Carol McCracken (Post # 1 ,488)
All sparkly afternoon 310 Opti sailboats scudded back and forth across outer Casco Bay – the diminutive white sails barely visible from the Eastern Promenade. The youthful captains of the 10 ft. sailing dinghies, Optimists, were practicing for the upcoming race and perhaps a chance to be on the U.S. International team and travel abroad to sail. The first day of racing begins tomorrow at 10:30 am and the two different courses are off Mackworth Island; that is to accommodate the large number of competitors as well as a large race course. The Opti sailing program is the number one junior sailing program with 200,000 dinghies sailed world-wide.
With 310 children ranging in age from 6 to 14 years old, their Optis, and their families and friends in Portland to support them, the Prom was a busy place today and will be for the next three days as a highly competitive regatta plays out on Munjoy Hill. Participants from all over the country as well as Canada, Bermuda, the Netherlands and the US St. Thomas (Mia & Teddy Nicolosi) swarmed the area. Their Optis were loaded onto dollies and they single handedly pulled them down to the East End Beach, often in parade like fashion, led by the team coach. Armando Gonzalez, from Key West, FL., whose son is racing, said: “We spend a lot of money when we travel around the country. There are lots of expenses like hotels and restaurants.” He’d just spent over $3,000 for a new Opti for his son from one of the on-site vendors. “It’s a lot better having him sit in front of the television set, eating bon bons,” Gonzalez said laughing. Other parents said they could usually find used Opti’s which cut back on expenses rather than buying them new.
Carly Costikyan, 11, was working on her sail with her father nearby following her practice out on Casco Bay. The winds were blowing consistently between 10 – 15 knots with gusts up to 20 knots. Carly, from Connecticut, said she hadn’t sailed in such strong winds very often. “It was a challenge to set the sail for heavy winds,” she said. “We didn’t do it until we got out onto the water because we didn’t know the winds would be this strong,” she said following six hours of practice on the Bay. Two girls from Florida said they got cold sailing, while two boys from Nova Scotia said it was warmer then they were used to.
Glidden Excavating & Paving, Inc. has been working along the Eastern Promenade for the past several weeks. Late last week, the company contracted by the city, posted no parking signs on both sides of the Street. Tom Schwarm, a volunteer for SailMain and its liaison to the City, said that Sunday he met with Glidden officials when he realized that the no parking areas could complicate an already complicated situation. Company officials decided to delay work on the Prom for the rest of this week to be sure that folks “from away” did not leave Portland with a bad impression of the city. This morning, very early, two Glidden employees were out removing the signs from along the Promenade.
Jim Atwood, another volunteer for SailMaine summed it up this way: “This is quite an honor for SailMain to host an Northeast Championship event. It shows how much confidence there is in this small organization to host sailing families from all over the world. It’s a good chance to showcase the City of Portland and all that we have to offer.”
Christopher N. Robinson founded SailMaine on a parcel of land on Portland Yacht Services property which was recently sold to hotel developer Jim Brady.
For more information, on the US Optimist Dinghy Association, please visit its webpage. (The top unidentified photo is of Optimists lined up along “Opti Lane” on the Trail near the East End Beach.)