PORTLAND — Nick Adams had a plan as he and sailing partner Charlie Coes prepared their 420 class sailboat, Operation Afro Thunder, for competition Tuesday.

“We’re staying hydrated and getting pumped up,” Adams said. Wearing sunglasses, bright blue-and-maroon swim trunks and a look of determination, the 12-year-old was ready to put his boat in the water for the USA Junior Olympic Sailing Festival’s Northeast Youth Championships.

Each summer, US Sailing sponsors a nationwide Junior Olympic series that gives young sailors a chance to practice their skills and compete. Some 4,000 sailors are expected to participate in the regattas this year.

Co-hosted by SailMaine and the Portland Yacht Club, the two-day Northeast youth regatta off East End Beach, which ends today, has drawn about 175 sailors and 100 boats from across New England.

The event features three classes of boats: the small, one-person Optimist, two-person 420s and one-person Lasers. There are different fleets within classes for different ages and skill levels. It is open to sailors ages 8-18.

The event gives new racers a taste of competition and is also a great venue for older racers, said Sarah Helming, director of programs at SailMaine.

Jake Fish, communications manager for US Sailing, said many members of the U.S. Olympic sailing team have been through the Junior Olympic series.

But while the event is competitive, many sailors say they do it simply for the love of the sport.

Adams and Coes, also 12, came to Portland with their friends, Henry Weese and Thorne Kieffer, from the Small Point Summer School, where they practice during the summer. The four friends have been sailing together for five years.

“We’re in it for the fun,” Weese said.

Sailors must have basic skills to participate. “They don’t have to qualify, but they must be race-ready,” said Kelly Franklin, director at Portland Yacht Club.

Not much of a breeze greeted the sailboats, children, parents and coaches as they filled Fort Allen Park in the East End. But as the morning progressed and the children began rolling their boats down a ramp into Casco Bay, the wind picked up.

The sailors struggled to keep their boats steady in the crowded field as they vied for position and waited for the start signals to be flagged from the race committee’s boat. The sailors start up to 10 races over the course of two days.

“It’s never tiring on the water, but after (sailing) I am,” said 9-year-old Joey Chomyn of Freeport, who has been sailing for six years and says the start is the hardest part of a regatta.

Olivia Baranowski, 14, was sailing a 420 with her friend, Malia White of the Portland Yacht Club. She has been sailing for seven years, but this is her first time in a big regatta, and she can’t wait to race.

“I’m on the water in Maine,” she said. “What else is better than that?”

 

Staff Writer Ellie Cole can be contacted at 791-6359 or at: [email protected]