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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Chautauqua Lake Yacht Club Hosts Dinghy Championships

Participants arrived from all directions with many hoping to make the grade as a qualifier from their region.

Others traveled from distant home ports in Canada or the west coast, simply to test their skills in the waters of Lake Chautauqua.

This weekend the Chautauqua Lake Yacht Club in Lakewood is hosting the Great Lakes Optimist Dinghy Championship.

"This is the first event of the qualifying season," said Rob Rowlands on Friday, while some parents helped young competitors wheel their boats onto the grass beside the launch.

Rowlands is the Executive Director of the U.S. Optimist Dinghy Association, and this is his second trip to Lakewood.

Upcoming events sponsored by the USODA will be held in Pensacola, Houston and other locations around the country, he said.

While the calm, sparkling waters of Chautauqua don't typify the conditions found in the Great Lakes region, Rowlands said this venue "hosts its own set of challenges."

He said events for the Optimist class can be found in any type of surf, requiring skills among inland lake, bay and ocean sailing.

After a series of races Saturday and Sunday, the top 25 percent of eligible contestants will be recognized as "qualifiers" who advance to a USODA team trial event.

The results of team trials go toward the selection of which sailors represent the U.S. at the international regatta to be held in the summer of 2011.

Though they might be young- the cutoff age for competition with the Optimist is fifteen- the appropriate term is "sailor," said Rowlands. They could be eight years old or in high school, he said.

Advancing beyond this small dinghy, called an "Opti" by instructors and young racers alike, Rowlands said the sailors can continue on a larger boat for one person, or move to a watercraft which requires two or three people.


During the day Friday, Lauren Turner from the Yacht Club hosted sailing exercises on the lake for the competition's early arrivals.

Gage McLennan, a young member of the San Francisco Yacht Club, was assisted by his grandfather as he pulled his watercraft ashore. McLennan spends a week of his summer on Chautauqua Lake with his family, and has taken lessons in Lakewood for the past three years. He described the unpredictable condition of the day's breeze, which is common for the lake.

"The wind sometime dies, and then it has a puff," he said.

While some sailors were headed back to the docks, others were still on land unfurling their sail. Lakewood native Ellie Kreinheder prepared to launch for the practice races held later in the afternoon. She is currently eight years old, with three years of experience sailing in an Opti.

Her mother said she is a veteran of multiple races, both on Chautauqua and at the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club in Ontario.

Information for the event can be found at the website of the Chautauqua Lake Yacht Club,

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