Rachel Bryer joins FAST for fall sailing
Even though the junior sailing season has ended in Jamestown, you won't find 11-year-old Rachel Bryer rolling up her sails until mid-November. Bryer, who sails out of Conanicut Yacht Club during the summer, is one of the up and coming junior sailors from Jamestown.
In the fall, she heads across the bay and is a member of the Fort Adams Sailing Team, or FAST, which is a parent-run junior sailing program. FAST was formed three years ago to fill the gap when most local sailing programs end in late August.
FAST has three coaches and about 30 kids, who range in age from 10 to 15 years old and come from all over New England to practice on weekends in September and October. The team is trying to establish itself as the program for premier junior sailors in New England. The junior racers of FAST, sail Optimists and compete with the likes of the Long Island Sound Optimist Team (LISOT).
The Optimist Dingy or Opti has become the standard for junior sailors. Optis are an ideal boat for kids just learning how to sail and race. They are safe and simple boats designed with children in mind. They are very popular and there are many opportunities to compete on a local and national level for kids 15 and under. The weight limit for Optis is 113 pounds, which is when most kids transition to a Laser.
Bryer started in the sailing program at the CYC when she was 8 years old. She has only been competing for two years and last year, at age 10, she placed third in the Junior Olympics. "She has been on a boat since she was born," according to her father, islander Jim Bryer. "She was born in December and was on a boat in May."
Rachel recently traveled to Norfolk, Va. for the Atlantic Coast Championships in early October. Overall there were 330 kids ages 10 to 15 competing in the Optis and Bryer placed 185. In her best race she finished 26th. Thirty kids represented FAST at the ACCs.
Rachel usually competes in six regattas each year, including four local and two larger national regattas. According to Rachel, her best performance in 2007 was the Halloween Howl held in Newport the last weekend in October. There were 36 boats and Rachel placed 13th overall and finished in 4th place among the girls. She was the only Opti from Jamestown. When asked if she was happy with her performance, she said, "Yes, because it was pretty windy and in one race I swamped my boat at the leeward mark." She had to bail out her own boat and still managed to finish the race and place well overall.
The Bryers just purchased a Laser for Rachel to practice on next season and race the following year. "It is also for me," joked her father. Rachel just completed her second year in FAST and will continue to race her Opti next season.
According to her father, "Next summer is going to be the big summer for Rachel." Rachel's coaches have said that physically and mentally the tactics of racing do not start to click until age 13, but lately Rachel has been doing well in the larger fleets and her starts have really improved.
The seventh grader has interests off the water including basketball and softball and she spends a lot of time skiing with her family in the winter.
In addition to Bryer, there are four other Jamestown members of FAST including Amina Brown, Casey Brown, India Johnstone and Emma Kate Vogel. Rachel's brother, Ian, is right on her tail and has enrolled in the Little Guppies for 7-year-olds at Sail Newport.
The fall sailing season has ended and Rachel will head back across the bay in March when FAST starts its spring program. Look for Rachel on the water off Jamestown next summer. She'll likely be crossing the finish line ahead of the pack.