Let’s Get Started: Beginning Sailing and Green Fleet Information
Welcome to the Lakewood Yacht Club Seahorse Sailing Program
More than 150,000 children in over 110 countries have discovered sailing and we are glad your child is one of them. This guide is intended to answer the most frequently asked questions for Green Fleet and beginning sailing parents, but we recognize there may be some we have missed. Please do not hesitate to contact us.
Types of Fleets for Optimist Sailing
Learn to Sail
Learn to Sail is the entry to the sailing program. Sailing lessons are very structured and designed to allow children to get acclimated to the boat parts and maneuvering the sail. Coaches will determine when students move to the next level. Throughout Learn to Sail, your child will learn to evaluate different situations such as wind conditions, risk of capsizing or colliding. By the end of Learn to Sail, your child will have the self-confidence and skills to move to the next level. Your child will start the program by working with other children. This is a great time for your child to create new friendships and many of those friendships will be lifelong. There are many positive aspects of sailing which promote solid character traits.
Green fleet is for beginning racers. Green fleeters can be any age from 7 to 15. The purpose of the green fleet is to encourage novice sailors. To make sure they eventually move up to the next color level, the United States Optimist Dinghy Association’s (USODA) policy is to present “Participation Awards” to all sailors versus the traditional 1st, 2nd, 3rd, you will see in the upper sailing levels.
Red, White and Blue
To make Optimist racing in the United States as fair as possible, sailors are placed into an age group once they move beyond Green Fleet. The age groups are as follows:
White Fleet is for 10 years and under
Blue Fleet is for 11 – 12 years
Red Fleet is for 13-15 years
Sailing Equipment and Water Safety
Photo courtesy of Aquasail
Your child is required to be able to swim and be comfortable in, and with, the water. All programs begin with a swim test to check your child’s ability. This swim test can take place in a pool or in the ocean/lake. We need to make sure that the sailors do not panic the first time the boat capsizes. The sailor will probably never swim far, because one of the main rules of safety is that the sailors always should stay near the boat after capsizing. The following is general information about the equipment needed for sailing.
You do not have to buy an Opti to get started. We are fortunate to have the Bay Access Program at our club where boats are available for charter.
Life Jacket: This life jacket needs to be Coast Guard approved and must be properly sized. A whistle needs to be attached with a line to the life jacket.
Watch: Your child will need to have a watch with a timer that counts down, not up.
Airbags: Your boat needs to have proper flotation devices as well. An optimist has three airbags, one in the back and two in the front. These airbags need to be fully inflated at all times. With correctly inflated airbags the Optimist becomes a very safe boat. You can actually put an adult in the boat, fill it with water and it won’t sink. The airbags are each held in place by three straps. These need to be attached to the boat. Check regularly for loose screws.
Bailers: Whenever water gets into the boat, sailors are using bailers to empty the boat. These bailers are necessary at all times and, therefore, need to be tied into the boat. A really great place to tie them is using the forward most straps of the airbag straps.
Daggerboard: The daggerboard needs to be tied in. This is extremely important to check before the sailor leaves shore. When the boat capsizes the daggerboard is used to get the boat back upright.
Mark every major piece of equipment and gear clearly marked with your name. Most foul weather gear, life jackets and boat parts look alike and are easily misplaced or lost.
Dressing for the Weather
Proper sailing gear is vital to safety and the sailors ability to function well on the water in a wide range of weather conditions. It can be difficult to determine the best gear to wear to practice. Crerate a gear bag and bring a wide range of clothes until your sailor knows what is most comfortable for certain conditions. Also, bring dry clothes and a towel for sailor to change out of wet, cold clothes if they capsize in the colder weather. We recommend the following basics:
Hot Weather (80+ degrees): Baseball hat, long sleeve quick dry t-shirt with UV protection, board shorts/UV leggins, barefoot or light boat shoes.
Warm Weather (70 – 80 degrees): Same as above plus a spray top/bottom
Cool Weather (60-70 degrees): Same as above plus an extra layer of fleece under foul weather gear. Outfit may be substituted by wet suit (neoprene) plus a spray top. Neoprene shoes and wool hat.
Cold Weather (combined water + air temperature 100 or less):Dry suit with thin layers inside (add as needed). Neoprene boots, wool hat, warm gloves.
Sailors need to apply sunscreen in the morning and reapply several times during the day regardless of the outside temperature. Long sleeves and leggings provide the best added protection. Wear a hat with visor and polarized sunglasses.
Parents can help with rigging the boat. As your child progresses through the program, you will be asked to allow him or her to rig their own boat but be prepared to help if you see someone struggling. Help launch the boats using the dollies and/or ramp. Make sure that the dollies get carried away from the ramp to make room for other boats. After practice, be ready by the dock to help the sailors get the boats back out of the water. Please have the dollies ready at the foot of the ramp and keep an eye on other sailors who may need help. Often times, the coach is still in the boat monitoring those still heading into the harbor. Following practice, all boats and equipment should be rinsed and properly stored. Again, the goal is to have the sailors de-rig their boats but they will need the support from adults at the beginning.
If your child is currently in, or plans to join the Green Fleet, he or she will be introduced to Regattas. Green Fleeters are encouraged to sail in the Texas Sailing Association (TSA) circuit right from the beginning. Please get familiar with the website:
TSA Regatta Schedule
Regattas for Green Fleet start pretty early in the season, even before many sailors have sailed for a month. Remember when you go to a Green Fleet regatta that all the other sailors are in the same boat as you, everything is new to them as well. And just as important remember that most parents are new too. Most have not been to a regatta before.
Be there right at the beginning, it’s a lot of fun both for you and your child. And it’s nice for your new sailors to have mom or dad right by them at this first regatta experience. You get to meet many new people and realize that Optimist sailing actually is just as much fun for parents as it is for the children.
Normally you can register for the regatta ahead of time. Take a look at the club’s web site and look for what is called a Notice of Race or NOR. The Notice of Race tells you all you need to know about when and where.
Several regattas require travel arrangements.
Hauling the Opti
Lakewood Yacht Club does have a six-boat trailer for parent use. Contact Elizabeth Morrell firstname.lastname@example.org. Many families do haul their optis on their own trailer or on the roof of their car. Coaches and other parents will help loading the car, and tying down the boats properly. KO Sailing has good tie-down straps.
Registration at the Regatta
Once you arrive at the regatta site, you should immediately go to the registration desk and register. You will get a copy of the Sailing Instructions or also known as SI. Help your child read them. Our coaches will go through them as well.
Before the sailors are let loose on the water, the Race Committee, the people who run the races, will have a meeting. The details of the regatta will be explained. It’s very important to be at this meeting as there may be some local information that you need to hear. Your sailor should be rigged (have the boat ready to sail) and be fully dressed for sailing at this meeting. Normally the “harbor start” or launch follows right after completion of the meeting.
Your coach will have a meeting with the team either right before or just after the Skippers’ meeting. Make sure that your child is there. It’s very important for the team to be together, especially in Green Fleet regattas. LYC coaches meet with sailors approximately 30 minutes after sailors get off the water each sail day to debrief. Do not leave before your sailor has been dismissed by the coach.
Remember that the weather can change very quickly and you need to bring clothes for all kinds of weather. Regattas are over the course of two days. Make sure you consider this as you pack and bring sailing gear for Day 2 for out-of-town regattas since the Day 1 gear may be wet or dirty.
Most regattas offer lunches for sailors to eat prior to or on the water. It is wise to also pack plenty of water, energy bars and snacks to have on their boat. Small personal cooler is the best way to keep everying organized.
In order to keep all sailors well informed, the program sends out weekly updates to participants who wish to receive the news. Lakewood Yacht Club members can opt in on our web site at http://www.lakewoodyachtclub.com by signing in the members’ section and selecting Seahorse Youth Sailing subscription under the “My Club” and then “My Profile” tab. Non-members can be added to our distribution list by emailing a request to email@example.com with your full name and email address you wish to use to receive the information.
Things You Should Know
1. To qualify as a Lakewood Race Team Member, sailors must have participated in any 4 combined TSA or USODA regattas under the LYC name their first year of racing and 7 regattas in subsequent years.
2. Membership with the United States Optimist Dinghy Association (USODA) is required to participate in official USODA events, including the Texas Youth Race Week. Membership in US Sailing is also necessary for major Opti events. US Sailing is the official governing body of sailing in the USA.
4. Bring the LYC team polo to all regattas for photos.
5. This is a volunteer run hobby and it takes a village to keep our sailors safe.
3. Important websites to bookmark:
US Optimist Dinghy Association
Texas Sailing Association