“These flags go up at how many minutes before the start?” principal race officer Paul Kresge asked the gathered audience of young skippers.
“Five,” they responded.
He proceeded to go through the countdown flags and horn signals for the Junior Olympians assembled for the morning pre-race skippers meeting, Saturday.
“At zero minutes, boom, you’ll be off the line,” he said.
Gathered at tables set up on the lawn at the Frisco Bay Marina, the group of more than 20 sailors, ranging in age from 8 to close to 20, listened intently.
As if on queue at 10 a.m. the breeze coming from the Tenmile Range started to break the calm morning air.
Smiles wiped across the faces of the young sailors.
The day’s forecast called for possibly stronger winds and late-afternoon rain. But the kids seemed eager to take to their boats.
“If it gets really junky out there I’ll put this (flag) up,” Kresge warned. “This means run like hell to the shore.”
After the cautionary note, which might have been enough for one young sailor to decide to stay shore-bound for the morning, Kresge shifted to a more positive tone to close the meeting. “One last thing: Have fun.”
With that the group of sailors huddled up with their coaches for a final pep talk before heading to their boats.
“Remember, this is our lake,” James Welch, coach for the Dillon Sailing Club, said quietly to his team. And with that they were off to the water to kick off the first day of competition in the Junior Olympic Sailing Festival .
There was some concern in the air early, as Vickie Ragle, regatta chairwoman and director of the Dillon Yacht Club Junior Sailing program, made her way to the club’s pontoon boat to get on the lake and oversee the race.
“Something’s a little fishy today,” a man on the dock said, gauging the wind. He decided to leave his 25-foot boat tied up, and not test the waters.
“Wow this is rough,” Ragle, a former professional sailor, remarked as she directed the boat out to the middle of the reservoir.
In the cluster of sailboats ahead she observed, casually, that two or more had already capsized.
As quickly as she pointed them out, the young sailors were able to right their vessels, as if they’d done it a thousand times.
Just in time for the races, the wind calmed to a more manageable level.
The young sailors navigated their boats like season professionals.
Even the 9-year-old twins, each in their own little bathtub-like Opti boats, sailed like old salts.
“They are little tiny things, and they can sail!” Ragle said.
The first race of the day featured Ragle’s son, Steve,17, facing Andy Nelson, 16, each in full-rig Lazer sailboats.
Ragle won the first heat by a wide margin. In the second race he capsized early but was able to recover, and with a strong effort still crossed the line first. He finished first in five of six races.
After the rough, windy start, the races ran smoothly, Ragle said.
Each of the classes raced six times, before organizers called it a day around 2:30 p.m., beating out an evening storm.
“It was a pretty good day,” Ragle said. “They’re going to be exhausted.”
The competition resumes today. Organizers are planning five additional races, pending conditions.
For those interested in getting a closer look at the action, today’s races get underway at 11 a.m. A spectator pontoon will run from Frisco Bay Marina at two-hour intervals, starting at 10:30 a.m. Rides cost $10.
More information on the Dillon Junior Sailing is available at www.dillonjuniorsailing.com