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First Gorge junior race team tests Seattle waters

Young sailors represent the Gorge at Junior Olympics

As an extension to the Hood River Community Education-based GORGE Junior Sailing program, a group of 10 young sailors traveled to Seattle last weekend to race in the Northwest Junior Olympics. The group, coached by Paul Steward, trained through the summer with GJS and learned the ropes of sail racing inside the protected waters of the Hood River Marina.

“This year I really wanted to start a youth racing team because we have a lot of good sailors in the program who are interested in taking sailing to the next level,” Steward said this week. “We practiced throughout the summer on boat handling, starting, and tactics and strategy. My hope in providing these opportunities was to get a core group of sailors interested in forming a race team that could train and travel to regional competitions together.”

The NWJO event was a youth regatta hosted by Seattle and Corinthian yacht clubs. Young sailors from across the Northwest competed in several different classes (Optis, Bics, Lasers, Laser Radials, FJs, 29ers) in the Shilshole Bay just north of Seattle.

“Most were a little hesitant to sail in the vast and salty waters of Puget Sound after having sailed on the Columbia all summer,” Steward said. “But attending the event exposed the kids to a whole new level of competition and broadened their sailing horizons.

“The best way to get good at sailing is through racing. A young person can sail around the Hood River marina for several summers without really mastering some of the important concepts of sailing. Racing, however, gives sailors motivation and incentive to figure out how to make their boats go fast. In so doing, sailors figure out how their boats work and learn what it takes to compete.”

Highlights from the race are as follows:

Leif Bergstrom and Charlie Sutherland: third in FJ class

Maya Berkowitz and Erin Sutherland: seventh in FJ class

Ruben Blaine: ninth in FJ Class

Gavin Ullrich: 22nd in Laser Radial class

Pelle Bergstrom: 13th in Opti Blue class

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