MOUNT ARLINGTON – With winds coming from the north at a steady rate of 10-12 knots, sometimes gusting to 15, weather conditions for the annual Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club Back To School Regatta Saturday, were perfect, said co-chairman Chris Norman.
“Truly outstanding,” said Norman. “Ideal for sailing.”
Over 70 sailors took part in the 23rd annual September race, topping last year’s participation numbers by a dozen, said Norman.
The bulk of the sailors were in the Opti fleet, which was split into three fleets; the White Fleet for 10 and under, the Blue Fleet for 11- and 12-year-olds and the Red Fleet for 13- and 14-year-olds. Sailors between the ages of 15 and 17 sail the 420’s. Twelve boats sailed in the 420 fleet, doubling the number of participants from last year, the first year of the race, said Norman. Two boats from the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club finished within the top five.
Luke Arnone, 12, from the Mantoloking Yacht Club was the overall winner in the Opti Fleet, successfully defending his title from last year.
“Lake sailing can be very tricky so that is the challenge,” said Arnone of Saturday’s weather conditions. “You always have to look around for the next shift or puff. Usually in a lake it is super shifty so I needed to pay attention to that.”
Arnone is proving to be a top sailor in his age group, competing in Opti races around the United States and the world, having raced in Holland, Bermuda and Canada. At the CORK Regatta in Kingston, Canada, Arnone finished first in his fleet and placed second overall.
“Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club is a great place to sail and is a ton of fun, and has great people,” said Arnone.
According to Norman, many of the top spots in the OPTI Division Overall were won by members of the NJ State OPTI Sailing Team who also took most of the top positions in each of the five races.
“This is a group of the best OPTI sailors in the state, they receive coaching, clinics and travel support and have focused their attention on sailing as their sport of choice. They have competed in regattas in Florida, Canada and the Opti North American Championships in Bermuda this year,” he said.
Norman said this was a “particularly hard year for many of these sailors as most were from areas along the Jersey Shore between Mantoloking and Beach Haven hit by Hurricane Sandy, some lost boats and equipment, homes and much of their memorabilia, many of their clubs suffered major damage.”
Members of the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club collected memorabilia from past races to send to participants who lost everything in the storm. Arnone's Mantoloking home was one of the structures, said Norman, lost to the sea when the coast was breached and a new inlet opened between Barnegat Bay and the Atlantic.
The top sailors from LHYC were Cathleen Murphy and Angus Dickenson, both 15, who took second place in the 420 Class race. Will Muzyl, 14, placed seventh in the Opti Red Fleet. Cameron Hussey, 10, edged out twin brother Josh, in the Opti White Fleet, placing seventh and ninth respectively.
According to Norman, between 40 and 50 yacht club members volunteer to make the Back To School Regatta a continued success.
“Fortunately the membership is always ready and willing to step up and do whatever is needed to make this a quality event,” said Norman.
The 420 Fleet on the water during the morning races.