Tristan Lovell (Optimist RWB — Blue) of Davis Island Race Team, Piper Roberts (Optimist RWB — White) of Sarasota Yacht Club and Ryan Rossignol (Optimist RWB — Red of Sarasota Youth Sailing) emerge from a bend in the course.
James McCauley and Katie Boyle of the Venice Youth Boating Association; Curt Wheeler and Brynn DeJongh of the Sarasota Yacht Club and Ian Richardson and Blake Vincent of Davis Island Race Team sail Club 420s.
Sophia Woodbury of Sarasota Youth Sailing and Jackson Wilcox of Sarasota Sailing Squadron push their Lasers ashore after finishing the day's races.
Photo by Ian Swaby
Mark Liebel first sailed with the Sarasota Sailing Squadron in 1981, after his family moved to the area from Cincinnati when he was 9 years old.
Soon, he was headed into the water for his first Annual Labor Day Regatta.
“I loved it so much, I never stopped,” he said.
For the past 10 years, including at the 75h Annual Labor Day Regatta the weekend of Sept. 2-3, he has served as principal race officer (PRO), supervising the race courses at the event.
Over time, he has seen the regatta evolve into a more youth-oriented event, a change he said shows that the sport is being passed on to the next generation.
“Not only does it bring back memories, it's just great to see the youth in the sport,” he said. “They’re the future of the sport. The more youth we can get out on water, the better the chance the sport has to survive.”
Liebel said the event was one of the biggest in recent history. It drew about 175 sailors from organizations including the sailing squadron, the Sarasota Yacht Club, the Davis Island Race Team in Tampa.
The young participants, who had the chance to pilot their boats in Sarasota Bay, said they were also enjoying what sailing had to offer.
13-year-old Coco Claypoole of Longboat Key began sailing at age 7 and now belongs to the Red fleet of the Optimist RWB fleets at Sarasota Youth Sailing, a nonprofit organization that provides coaching and instruction for young sailors at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron.
Claypoole said she enjoyed the sport from the time she first started alongside her brother Brice Claypoole. She grew to enjoy it more and more as she improved. It even resulted in her mother, Ali Claypoole, taking up sailing as well.
“I just enjoy being in my own boat and being in control of the boat,” she said, adding that she sees herself continuing to sail into the future.
Everett Vaughan, 10, of Sarasota began sailing after he was inspired by his brother, Sam Vaughn, and currently belongs to the entry-level Optimist Green fleet of Sarasota Youth Sailing.
When he started the sport, which he has practiced for about three years while taking a break at one point, he found it difficult, especially as the boat rocked considerably.
“It was difficult, and then easy, and then difficult,” he said.
As he mastered the skills his feelings began to change, however.
One of his favorite aspects of the sport has always been the speed involved, something that becomes important during a regatta.
“Sailing is fun because you get to be on the water, and then regattas are fun because it’s a challenge against other people, he said.
He said he would advise others to try Sarasota Youth Sailing as well.
“Do SYS — it’s better than anything,” he said. “A lot of it is just the camaraderie about the people. I love the fact that it's you trying to figure out Mother Nature, which you're always going to lose. You just try your best. It's always a challenge, no matter if we're running races or sailing.”
Regatta Chair Dave Hillmyer said on Saturday that the event was proceeding smoothly.
“It’s really great conditions today,” he said. “You look around and see everyone having a good time. Everyone just goes with the flow. It’s a good vibe.”
Ian Swaby is the Sarasota neighbors writer for the Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands.