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Scuttlebutt News:
Next week’s reunion in Miami
By Lynn Fitzpatrick

(December 21, 2006) The week between Christmas and New Year’s means family time for most. For some it means skiing in New England or in the Rockies, for others it means heading south for some sunshine on a tropical island, yet for many of the world’s top junior sailors and their families it means a week of organized chaos in Coconut Grove. This year’s International Youth Orange Bowl Regatta organizers capped the registration so that over 700 Opti, 420, and Laser Radial sailors and their untold number of brothers, sisters, moms, dads, and coaches could celebrate a Miami, and for many, a family tradition.

As the Listwins, towing their Laser, three 420’s, three tiny Optis, and a partridge and a pear tree race Santa and his sled from Michigan to Miami, many local families take time away from their Holiday shopping to prepare to host this Junior Olympic Festival regatta. Sarah Lihan just flew home to Fort Lauderdale from Connecticut after finishing up her finals at Yale, to be with her family during the holidays. Her third in the Laser Radials at last year’s regatta was one of the many accomplishments that have created her celebrity. This year alone she has been named a starter on the Yale Sailing Team, a member of the US Olympic Sailing Team, and a candidate for Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year.

“I’ve sailed in the Orange Bowl since I was in the Opti Green Fleet and so has Marissa. There’s always a lot of excitement leading up to the regatta for the whole family.” Tom and Dana, her father and mother, are running one of the mark boats for the Laser Class and her younger sister Marrissa is sailing her last Orange Bowl Regatta in the Optis, as she ages out. Marissa, who was the top female North American at this year’s Opti North Americans, will start sailing 420’s following the regatta.

Dana doesn’t worry about her daughters at huge regattas such as the Orange Bowl. “We have been very fortunate over the past five years to have had Marek Valasek as a coach for the girls. He has been a tremendous source of comfort. Regardless of the conditions, he has been able to instill a sense of confidence in them. We have been blessed with strong coaching all over the world.”

Sarah has lots of fond memories of the 10 Orange Bowls that she has sailed. “The best thing about it is that it brings everybody together. It’s like a big family reunion in the middle of the winter. We get to see everybody who we sail against during the summer and all over the world here in Miami,” said Sarah who will be sailing her final Orange Bowl as she ages out. “I can remember what it was like to go from Opti World over at Coral Reef to Laser Land at the Sailing Center. It’s a great tingly feeling to be able to help out the younger kids as they try to settle in.” While last year’s finish as the top female radial sailor was very impressive, Sarah considers her 8th place in the 2004 Orange Bowl Regatta to be her most memorable. “It was the first regatta that I really felt that I broke out.”

What is Christmas like at the Lihan house? Is there a lot of sailing gear under the tree or in the stockings? The family admits that there have been some special surprises over the years. One Christmas morning Sarah padded out of the house in her leopard spotted pajamas to find a Laser with a big red bow on it. She tested it out on Christmas day and sailed it during the Orange Bowl Regatta.

As Miami prepares for next week, we hope that every junior sailor, parent, and coach who has attended an Orange Bowl Regatta can smile as they reminisce about their experiences during the Junior Olympic Sailing Festival.

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