Verve Inshore 2020 for Charlie

Charlie was lucky enough to get to race a J/70 this past weekend with Chris Lefferdink, Matt Woodworth and Brian Porter, three great sailors. They finished mid-fleet against some amazing competition. Congrats to Chuckles. .

PC Ryan Foley, owner of Johnny Utah who lent the team the boat

Basic Opti Tool Kit / Spare Parts

Last updated late in the day April 3, 2016, to add “Amy’s Real Life Tool Kit” to complement “Jay’s Crazy Comprehensive Tool Kit”

Buying an Opti for your young sailor is a bit of a commitment. Since they’re no longer using club-owned boat, your sailor (and you) must be prepared and fully equipped to maintain your boat. Since you own the boat, the Coaches will no longer be providing spare sail ties, wind indicators and the many other small pieces of equipment needed to sail an Opti. We wanted to put together for all parents a “must have” and “nice to have” list so you can be sure that your sailor will have everything he or she needs to successfully sail.

The “must have” list should be in a small bag or toolbox. It should be brought to sailing each day and brought home each night. Like everything else in junior sailing, clearly label every single item with your sailors’ name and sail number.

The “nice to have” list contains more significant repair items to keep your sailor on the water. We’d recommend having this at any important regatta or when traveling.

Jay’s Must Have for your tools/spare kit

1 Spare Wind Indicator (#9 Knitting needle works just as well)
1 Spare Air Bag
1 Sponge
1 Roll of Sail Repair Tape
1 Can of McLube (lubricant)
1 Roll of Electrical Tape
1 Pair of Pliers
1 Screw Driver
1 Tape Measure (metric)
1 Spool sail ties for sail (1.2 mm vectran)
1 spool corner ties (3mm vectran)
1 knife (Leatherman Wave Multitool is great)
1 lighter (to melt line ends)
2 Magic Markers (2 colors)

Jay’s Nice to Have for your tools/spare kit

Opti Vang
Lower Sprit Control
Spliced V12 Upper Sprit Control (3 mm vectran)
Lower sprit (4mm vectran)
Mast Tie-In and keeper
Personal Rescue Knife
Epoxy Packet
Protest Flag-in-a-Bag
Mast Sleeve and Collar
Set of Nuts and Bolts for Mast Collar
Tiller Universal
Set of Dolly Pins
Painter 5/16” by 6 meters
Extra bailer
Bungee cord 3/16

Another Kehoe has chimed in with a similar, yet different version. Presenting “Amy’s Real Life Toolbox” Suggestions:

Everyday Toolbox, Spare parts list for everyday: (Stuff you need now)

Sailties: PLEASE! pre-cut w/ends burned ( FYI – Full Set is 12@1.5 mm, 5@3mm, PLUS some spares)
Spool 1.5 or 2 mm vectran
Spool 3 mm vectran
Wind Indicator & spares or #8-#9 knitting needles (2)
Spare Bailer with bungee tie-in
Spare Airbag
Spare centerboard tie-in line (3′ @3mm)
Spare mast tie-in (12″ @3mm)
Sharpie Marker (LABEL EVERYTHING!!)
Rigging Knife (single blade is fine)
Electrical tape
Spare Whistle with string to tie to lifejacket

Boat Care Bucket

Lake friendly soap
Sponge (Big) also used to remove water after rinsing/sailing

Travel Kit for Traveling to events (most gear $$ avail on-site at big events)

Spare Bow line (6 meters @5/16″ must float!!)
Spare main sheet
Spare Vang & Outhaul lines
Spare 5/16 for hiking strap tie in
Spare upper/lower sprit halyards (3 mm vectran)
Spare boom bridle line (4′ 2mm Sailtie)
Small Protest flag in bag
2 Screwdrivers (- & + , aka. flatty & posi)
Sail Repair Tape
Spare pop-in tiller extension (with universal)
2-3 long shackles with pin & clevis ring
Mast Sleeve and Collar
Set of Nuts and Bolts for Mast Collar
10′ @3/16″ bungee cord

Campaign Equipment

Spare boom, sprit, mast
(Some folks get a spare boom for rolling a race sail)
Spare tiller & extension
2-part epoxy
Practice Sail and Race Sail of the same design/cut.

Note: Contact info for vendors of virtually all these items is at the bottom of this post.

Creative Commons License
This work by http://www.teamgallagher.net is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


We bought a new boat

We bought a new boat with our friends Don Maxwell and Dan Gabriel.  We are the proud owners of J/70 hull #14 Surprise (formerly NoPro). The J/70 is a small (22 foot) racing sailboat, which Don, Dan & Matt intend to race locally and nationally. Our sail number is USA 14.

We bought the boat 1/8/16 and Matt got to sail it in a regatta right away with its former owner, Mark Foster, and our friends Chuck Nevel and Laura Sigmond, event 2 in the Davis Island J/70 Winter Series (the boat was entered under Mark’s name as NoPro). We did really well by my estimation, finishing 18th out of 48 boats and had 2 top-10 finishes.

There are some photos of us sailing at the J/70 Facebook page and there are some great ones below from Phil Pape

Phil Pape Photography: Sailing &emdash; J70 DIYC Jan 10-34

Phil Pape Photography: Sailing &emdash; J70 DIYC Jan 10-38


Parent's Guide to Opti Sailing Pt 2 – Entering the Race

While many of our CYC Opti Team kids have parents or siblings who race sailboats, certainly not everyone does. I am going to attempt in this post to give a bit of an overview of how sailboats are raced. At the end will be a few books and other resources for you to learn more.  This article will talk about the basics of entering a regatta – what you need to know to get to the starting line. The next will discuss the rules for the sailors once they get racing, so you have some idea what your little one is talking about!

Sailboats are raced by everyone from young children to people in their 80s and beyond, which is one of the great things about the sport; it is truly a lifelong sport. Whether sailing an Opti or a Volvo Ocean Race boat, sailors must agree to a common set of rules, just as in other sports. These rules cover everything from how to enter a race, what eqipment you must have, who has the right of way, and more.  The standard rules are called the Racing Rules of Sailing. They’re updated every four years by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), the international governing body of the sport of sailing. Each country has an equivalent organization – in the US, it’s called US Sailing. US Sailing is the governing body for all sailboat racing in the US, from a local Opti regatta all the way up to the CYC Race to Mackinac. The rules adopted by US Sailing and ISAF make it possible for sailors to know how to enter a race and what rules to follow both on and off the water.

Optis are a type of boat called a “one-design” boat, meaning that all Optis which comply with the class rules are exactly the same and thus the boats can compete evenly – it is the skill of the sailor that should make the difference. In order to manage the Opti class, there are parallel bodies to ISAF and US Sailing, namely the International Optimist Dinghy Association (IODA) as the international body and the US Optimist Dinghy Association (USODA) as the US body. IODA/USODA make sure all Optis raced in the US are the same. Like US Sailing and ISAF, these nonprofit entities are largely run by volunteers who love the sport of sailing. Membership in US Sailing or USODA is often a requirement of entry in a regatta, so I strongly suggest that you have your junior sailors join both bodies now online via the links above. (You do not join the international body, but rather the US one, in both cases). You do not need to own a boat to join either organization. For families, US Sailing offers a family membership which gives each family member their own membership number and may be less expensive than joining

One of they key things our coaches teach at CYC’s sailing school is an understanding of the rules. All sailors should read and strive to understand the rules, and their parents must understand the basics, particularly about entering a regatta.

What is a regatta?  A regatta is simply a series of sailboat races, organized so as to be scored together and run by a single entity. Most often, a regatta is sponsored by a yacht club. The Club serves as the “Organizing Authority” for the event – this is the entity which establishes the regatta, coordinates both on- and off-the-water activities, and generally runs the event. When an Organizing Authority (OA) wants to set up a regatta, the first thing they do is publish the Notice of Race (NOR).

The NOR is the key document for a sailor (and their parents)! The NOR sets out all the requirements of entry; the dates and time and location of the regatta; information on how to register and costs; the classes of boats that will be raced; the rules that will apply, and all sorts of other important information on the event. It’s the contract between the sailor and the OA and should give you enough information to decide whether or not to enter and to plan your attendance at the event.

Some examples of NORs from recent regattas include the 2015 USODA Midwest Championships, the 2015 Macatawa Bay Junior Olympics,  the 2015 Orange Bowl, and the 2014 USODA Midwest Championships held at CYC (click on links to view). For fun, here are the CYC Mac NOR, the Sydney-Hobart Race, and the Volvo Ocean Race. As you can see the adult events’ NORs, while more complicated, follow the same basic format.  Pretty much all events post their NOR on the Club’s or Event’s website, so that’s the best place to start looking, but you can always ask our coaches or me for help tracking it down.

Every parent and every sailor should download and read the NOR before deciding to enter a regatta and should save a copy!  I cannot emphasize this enough. The NOR will answer virtually all your questions on how to enter, whether you should enter, and what you need to do to enter, plan your trip, etc. When I ran the Mac race in 2014 and 2015, about 95% of the questions I received from competitors could have been answered if they had just read the NOR, and the same goes for our opti sailors. If you’re not ready to enter an event yet, download one of the samples above and read through it so you understand what’s involved.

Some key things to look for in the NOR when you download it:

  • What are the dates, times and location of the regatta? These virtually always will remain unchanged. 
    • “First warning” is the time that the first race of the day will begin, usually expressed in military (24 hour) time.  Please note that this is NOT the time you show up at the venue, but rather the time that the sailor needs to be 100% ready, in his or her boat, and out at the start line. Normally you need to arrive 2-3 hours before this time at the venue. Your coach will provide you guidance on this.
    • Many regattas post a “No racing after xxxx” time.  This is designed to let you know about when the sailor will be done for the day.  Again, this is not the time to pick them up, but rather the time that the last race will start (no later than that time). Figure a few hours after that for getting the boat in, put away, etc. before you can leave/
  • What class(es) of boats will race? Will there be an opti green fleet? How are the other fleets organized?
    • USODA has the concept of a Green Fleet, for newer sailors.  See this article for information on what the Green Fleet should be all about. Not all venues offer Green fleets, and in events that are not USODA-sanctioned, the Green fleet may not follow these guidelines. Ask your coach.
  • Do you need to bring your own boat, or will charters be available?
    • Chartering an opti may make sense for certain travel regattas. Always discuss this with the coach.
  • Does the sailor need to be a member of US Sailing or USODA to compete? Many if not most regattas require membership in one or both organizations. 
    • Again, I urge you to have your sailor join both bodies today to avoid difficulties down the road.
  • How do I register? What are the deadlines? What is the cost?
    • Most, but not all, regattas offer online registration. Some require paper, and the deadlines are often strict. Please adhere to them carefully!
  • Do any special rules apply? 


After reading this post, you should understand how to find and read the NOR; what to look for in the NOR; how to register for a regatta; and how to figure out the basics of how the regatta will be run.

In addition to the NOR, a second document is issued closer to the actual regatta called the “Sailing Instructions.” I’ll talk about that in the next post; the SIs deal with matters that occur on the water.



A Parent's guide to Opti Sailing – Part 1


I wanted to put down some information I thought might be helpful to parents of newer Opti sailors. Whether you are a sailor yourself, or whether this is a new activity for you and your family, entering the world of Opti sailing involves a lot of new terms, knowledge, and experiences. My wife Emmy and I have learned a lot since our son Charlie (also know as Chuckles) started sailing in Optis in 2014. We wanted to share what we’ve learned. Opti sailing can be rewarding for your child but also for your whole family.  Unlike a lot of other youth sports, the parents must stay involved throughout their child’s ‘career,’ and the rest of the family will also likely participate in some way. There are lots of links – you should click through for more information.

By way of background, I am a member of the Chicago Yacht Club and race my own cruising-racing boat with my wife and co-owner, Emmy. We have two small kids, Charlie (8) and Maggie (5), both of whom have participated in CYC’s sailing school for several years. I serve on CYC’s board and was chair of the Race to Mackinac in 2014 and 2015. Emmy and I both serve on CYC’s Junior Activities Committee which oversees junior sailing, and I was just elected to a 4-year term to the board of directors of the US Optimist Dinghy Association (USODA), the organizing body for Opti sailing in the US. 

This first article is an overview of Opti sailing in general. Other articles will cover regattas, travel, a parent’s role, competition on a national level or beyond, future opportunities for sailors beyond Optis, and as many other topics as I can think of. If you have questions, or there’s something you would like me to write about, drop me or Emmy an email.  We’re writing this from the point of view of parents,  but our CYC coaching staff is great and can answer many of your questions as well. Contact Bobby or Augustin. We may try to get some of the kids to contribute as well.

Why start sailing an Optimist?

    •    Optimists are designed for kids. 

    •    Single-handed is best for learning. They didn’t learn to ride a bike on a tandem.

    •    Over 150,000 kids in over 110 countries cannot be wrong. It is the largest class of identical (one-design) sailboats in the world!

    •    The Optimist is not only the biggest dinghy class in the world, it is the fastest growing.

    •    Former Optimist sailors were over 85% of medal winners at the last Olympics. Everyone from great Olympians to great America’s Cup Sailors to the average woman or man cruising off Chicago started somewhere, and many if not most started in Optis.

    •    Builders on five continents provide ample opportunities for travel sailing. In fact, traveling is a key part of the experience for youth sailors. More on this later.

    •    Almost any yacht club in the country or around the world that offers youth sailing will have an Opti fleet.

    •    The only dinghy recognized by the ISAF* exclusively for under 16 sailors   (*the world organizing body for sailing)

How is Opti sailing organized?

The vast majority of Opti sailors start sailing at the sailing school at a yacht club, community sailing center or park district. CYC’s Junior Sailing school is one of the most prestigious in the country. Most Opti Sailors start sailing in the Green Fleet and move on to the ‘Championship Fleet’, also referred to a “RWB Fleet”. What’s the difference?

Opti Green Fleet

Green fleet is a special fleet for beginners. Green fleeters can be any age up to 15.  A green fleet might have skippers who are as young as 6 and as old as 15, but sooner or later they’ll move into their age-appropriate fleet. A ten year old green fleeter would move into white fleet, a thirteen year old green fleeter would move into red fleet, etc. The purpose of the green fleet is to encourage novice sailors. To discourage sailors from staying in green fleet, in order to win races and receive awards, USODA’s policy is to present “Participation Awards” to all skippers sailing in the green fleet. By not crowning a champion,  sailors and their parents, are encouraged to move to the appropriate age fleet as they become more confident of their abilities. Not all events are organized under USODA rules (more on this later) and thus don’t always follow this, but the basic idea is that a green fleet is not about winning, but about learning, having fun, and getting ready for competition in the RWB fleet.

Often times Green Fleet racing takes place on a separate race course that is smaller and more protected. Green fleet usually enjoys a shorter day on the water and/or a lunch break mid way through racing. Coaching is usually permitted during racing for the back half of the fleet.  Sailors generally do Green Fleet for one year, or until they are in the top third of green fleet, before moving up to Championship Fleet. Switching back and forth between Green and Championship Fleet is discouraged.

Green Fleet sailors sail the same type of boats with the same equipment as RWB fleeters do.

Championship Fleet – AKA Red White and Blue Fleet or RWB or Race Team

When sailors are ready to move out of Green Fleet they move into the “Opti Championship Fleet.” At CYC, we call this the Race Team, and in other places it’s called the RWB fleet, but it all means the same. To make Optimist racing in the United States as fair as possible, the class puts each skipper into an age group, called a fleet. White Fleet is for skippers who are 10 and under. Blue Fleet is for skippers who are 11 or 12. Red Fleet is for skippers who are 13, 14, or 15. Skippers move up to blue fleet on their 11th birthday and red fleet on their 13th birthday. At most regattas, the red, blue, and white fleets all start at the same time and race on the same course, but are scored separately according to fleet. On their 16th birthday sailors “age out” of the Optimist and are no longer allowed to compete in the class. More often than not, sailors “size out” before then. It’s rare that sailors continue sailing the Opti once they reach 120 lbs.


The United States Optimist Dinghy Association oversees Opti racing here in the US. The USODA is in charge of enforcing class rules, overseeing national/regional regattas, and selecting the US National Team. The USODA adheres to the rules and guidelines set forth by the International Optimist Dinghy Association. Opti sailors are STRONGLY encouraged to join the USODA. Although USODA membership is not required for many events, it is required for championships, qualifiers, and team-trials. Membership is also a good way to support the class that supports you! On the USODA website you’ll find lots of great resources!

Other resources

The best single book on Opti sailing was written by CYC’s own Jay Kehoe and Gary Jobson, the Winners’ Guide to Optimist Sailing. It’s written for kids but works for parents as well. It’s available from Crowley’s Yacht Yard (and Jay will autography your copy on request) as well as the usual internet sources. A lot of the content for the articles I am writing will be liberally lifted from the Optimist Parent Manual published by USODA. It gives you some idea of what to expect as an ‘Opti Mom’ or ‘Opti Dad’.  You can download part one and part two of the Optimist parent manual for free. The Optimist Owner’s Manual, available here, provides useful information on boat selection, repair and rigging. 

What’s next

I expect the next few articles in this series to focus on

  • How racing is organized and the basic rules of racing
  • How regattas work
  • What is a parent’s role in opti sailing
  • Yacht Club’s Roles in sailing
  • What travel regattas are like from a parent and kid’s point of view
  • Parent’s role vs Coaches role in sailing
  • Buying an Opti

Bobby can notify you when a new piece is published but better yet you can subscribe to this in your favorite RSS reader program.