Ivan Shestopalov keeps his eyes on the prize before Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta

Ivan Shestopalov races during Day 1 of the Iptimist World Championship 2013.
Ivan Shestopalov races during Day 1 of the Iptimist World Championship 2013.
Photo courtesy of OBIYR [Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta]

Special to the Miami Herald

Since last year’s second-place finish in the Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta, local sailor Ivan Shestopalov has gained a lot of experience, including a first-place finish in the West Coast Championship in Los Angeles.

Shestopalov will be among approximately 700 sailors aged 8-18 who will be competing Thursday through Monday in the OBIYR.

In 2012, the 13-year-old sailor held his own with a record number of 18-and-under competitors from around the world, finishing just behind Max Clap of Great Britain.

“There were record boats last year and the wind was weird — it was light and shifty,” Shestopalov said. “The British kid just did better; it was a pretty close race. It was testing.”

So far in 2013, he has had five first-place finishes — highlighted by his Los Angeles win — compared with only two in 2012.

“There are more boats here and stiffer competition with people coming from around the world,” Shestopalov said. “In the Pacific, there is more of a punch to the wind. It may be 15 knots but it doesn’t feel the same as here. Also, the geographical conditions create bigger swells. In Biscayne Bay, it’s protected and the winds are unpredictable, and there is a lot of chop.”

He plans to use the experience he has learned from being out on the water:

“You learn, you practice and that way you don’t second guess your success yourself,” he said. “You always have to be ready for the unexpected. I will have to be on the top of my game!”

Sailing with the Coral Reef Yacht Club, Shestopalov lives in South Miami and is in high school at MAST Academy and has aspirations of improving his performance from last year.

“I live in Miami, so this is close to my home club,” Shestopalov said. “I have improved. This my seventh OBIYR and there is only one way for me to improve. I know the wind is never what it is supposed to be. The one who wins will be the one who makes the least mistakes.”

The OBIYR, held in Coconut Grove at the Coral Reef Yacht Club, is in its 68th year, and is one of the largest youth dinghy regattas in the world. There are expected to be 689 competitors from 27 U.S. states and 23 countries — the farthest being the Czech Republic. Registration will be Thursday and the races will run each day from Friday to Monday.

“The Coral Reef Yacht Club is proud to be involved in this premier event, which provides up-and-coming sailors with an opportunity to race competitively and become more active within the sailing community,” OBIYR chair Henry Chau said. “Besides the excitement of the regatta, more than half of the sailors and their families come from outside of South Florida and spend an average of five to six nights here, which helps support our local economy in the form of hotel nights, food, transportation and retail sales.”

The four days of competition feature several types of vessels: Optimists, Lasers (Full, Radial, and 4.7), and Club 420s. This year’s regatta already has reached its cap in both the Optimist and Laser categories, and fleets are being put on a wait list.

Awards will be distributed Monday night to the top sailors in each category by government officials, Orange Bowl Committee leaders and Olympians including Magnus Liljedahl, a former U.S. gold medalist who will be presenting the sportsmanship award that bears his name. In addition, this year’s top local Opti sailor will be presented with a trophy sponsored by the Coconut Grove Business Improvement District.

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