A Stopover at the RS Feva Class North American & JSA of LIS Feva Championships
Cedar Point Yacht Club in Westport, CT hosted the 2021 RS Feva Class North American Championship and the Junior Sailing Association of Long Island Sound Feva Championship on July 29 & 30. The day before the regatta, sailors attended a US Sailing sponsored clinic led by coach Mackenzie McGuckin, to practice and refine their boat handling skills on these sporty 12-foot youth dinghies. Doublehanded teams on 33 Fevas sailed nine races in the two-day regatta, with strong winds and challenging waves on day one, and a shifty, puffy northerly on day two.
I am thrilled to share the news that sailors from my home club, Sachem’s Head Yacht Club (SHYC) in Guilford, CT, had two boats on the podium, with Ike Schutz and Avery Peterson winning the North American Championship and Gus Fichtenholz and Ben Brown taking third place. Ike and Avery dominated the regatta, finishing in the top two boats every race. Our third team of younger sailors, Carter Mikolay and Sasha Fichtenholz, finished in a strong 11th place.
The sailors on the Sachem’s Head Feva Team each represent a different path through youth sailing and racing. Ike (14), Gus (14), Ben (11) and Sasha (9) have come up through the Optimist racing track, but each has navigated a unique path through Opti sailing. With a focus on fun, building skills, practice, and balancing the logistics and time demands of travel Optimist regattas, they have all developed into strong youth racers. All four have spent most of their summers in the Sachem’s Head junior sailing program and as active members of the Sachem’s Head Travel Race Teams. As a team, and individually, they’ve competed in numerous local and regional regattas each summer, and trained in the shoulder seasons with MudRatz. They’ve also taken advantage of training opportunities offered through Rhode Island Optimist Team (RIOT), New England Sailing & Science (NESS), and other racing programs.
Two years ago, Ike qualified for the Optimist Team Trials and was on Optimist Team USA at the International Optimist Regatta in Spain. His Opti career was cut short by Covid (and a growth spurt), but he’s now in his second year of racing a C420 on the regional circuit. Gus has also moved on from Optis and is forging his path into C420s and Lasers. Ben races a variety of youth boats and is looking towards more Feva racing and starting C420s in the near future; he also spends many of his non-sailing days ski race training! Sasha, at age 9, is looking forward to many more years of racing and training in both Optis and Fevas. Their paths are wide, and the options are open.
Avery (13) has spent the last four summers honing her Feva skills, and having lots of fun, in the Sachem’s Head Adventure Sailing programs. She has kept her racing skills fresh by participating in our club-run weekend junior races, sailing in our Friday club racing practices, and also attending Feva regattas hosted by our club and Niantic Bay Yacht Club, as part of Eastern Connecticut Sailing Association (ECSA). She is also found often on the tennis courts, training with the Sachem’s Head Tennis Team. Carter (11) is a newer sailor who learned to race just last year in the new Sachem’s Head Teen Learn-to-Sail program. He is enthusiastic about all things sailing and can’t wait to do more racing next summer.
Each of these six sailors has charted a different youth sailing course over the past few years, but they came together as one SHYC Team for the Feva North Americans, and our club is very proud of them. Between every race, you could find our three boats, with their coaches, rafted together, talking strategy and boat handling, sharing snacks, smiling, and cheering each other on! Our racers, supported by expert coaches Eli Gleason, Izzy Merrill, and Courtland Doyle, showed exemplary teamwork, boat handling, sailing skill, sportsmanship, and SHYC spirit on and off the water.
For winning the North American Championship, Ike Schutz and Avery Peterson have been invited to compete in the 2022 RS Feva Worlds, which will be held in Weymouth, England next summer. RS Sailing will be providing them with a complementary Feva charter boat and racing sails to compete in this championship, which is expected to have over 200 sailors! Ike and Avery can’t wait to race in England; thank you RS Feva Sailing!
Cedar Point Yacht Club is a terrific sailing venue, and Regatta Chair Brian Joyce and his team ran a really great youth championship event. Santiago “Tino” Galán, CPYC’s Sailing Director, welcomed the SHYC sailors to join the Cedar Point sailors on Wednesday for the US Sailing clinic.Scott Hardy and his team from The Boat Locker were at the event, supplying charter boats, parts and supplies. Also on-site was Todd Riccardi, Director of the RS Sailing North America Class Association, providing boat support and doing live interviews with the sailors. The youth Feva sailors were in good hands on and off the water with these industry experts and regatta volunteers.
An important part of this regatta report is highlighting the role that Fevas play in youth sailing. I believe Fevas are a key transition boat for youth sailors, especially kids that are between Optimists and 420s, based on their weight, age, racing interest level, and/or desire to sail with a friend (instead of alone).
We started our Feva fleet at Sachem’s Head in 2018, when we realized we had a group of kids that liked to sail but were not excited about racing Optis and were not ready for 420s. The Fevas have been a huge success at our club, and have helped us retain a critical group of kids between the ages of 9 and 14 that may have otherwise left the sport over the past three years. SHYC leases six Fevas from The Boat Locker, and we use them in our Adventure Sailing classes and Tween/Teen Race programs. Our tween and teen racers train in a variety of boats including Optis, Fevas, and C420s. I think it is important to let kids sail a variety of boat types, and to mix it up often.
Fevas are fun to sail, dynamic in style and responsiveness, playful, and have a quick learning curve for using the asymmetrical spinnaker. These characteristics make them popular with nearly all the kids in our programs, and they’re also the boat of choice for our club’s Saturday morning summer racing series. Nearly every weekend, many of the kids racing at SHYC on Saturday morning are sailors from our Feva Adventure Programs, several of whom were part of the original group that I speculate would have quit sailing if we hadn’t introduced Fevas.
My youth sailing philosophy is rooted in offering choices in both boat types and junior programing options that keep the most kids involved in the sport. There are many different pathways through youth sailing, all of which can lead to developing future racers, college sailing stars, weekend cruisers, sailing enthusiasts, leaders of our sport, and stewards of our oceans. Our sport needs all types of sailors. Our job as youth program organizers is to keep kids involved in sailing so they can chart their own course forward.
In any article about youth sailing, it should never be overlooked how important coaching and coaches are to a successful youth sailing program and to offering a positive experience to young athletes. A story from day two of the Feva North American Champs highlights how fortunate we are to have amazing coaches out on the water supporting our sailors. A boat with two young sailors from another club capsized and turtled at the windward mark of the racecourse. These sailors were behind and about to be lapped by the top sailors approaching the windward mark for their final lap. Their coach was unable to render assistance. With the sailors scared and unable to right their capsized boat, the race committee mark boat radioed for additional help.
SHYC coaches Eli Gleason and Izzy Merrill heard the VHF call and immediately responded. Upon arrival at the flipped boat, they quickly surveyed the scene to plan their safety response. Izzy took the helm of the coach boat, and Eli jumped in the water to help the young sailors. He righted their boat, helped them aboard, and brought them safely out of the way. The entire SHYC membership is proud that our youth sailors are led by role model coaches like Eli and Izzy, and the whole Sachems Head Coaching Team, who are setting an example of sportsmanship, safety, and teamwork every day of the summer. ■
RS Feva North American Championship, Top 3 Overall
1. Ike Schutz & Avery Peterson (Sachem’s Head YC)
2. Zachary Gillman & William Walker (Cedar Point YC)
3. Gus Fichtenholz & Ben Brown (Sachem’s Head YC)
JSA/LIS Feva Championship, Top 3 Overall
1. Zachary Gillman & William Walker (Cedar Point YC)
2. Kai McCulloch & Zachary Wirth (American YC)
3. Aidan Cassidy & Connor Cassidy (Huguenot YC)
A four-time Collegiate All-American at Dartmouth College (’95) and a member of the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team in the Women’s 470 Class in the 1990s, Whitney Peterson is currently found frostbiting SeaDog dinghies in the winter and promoting youth sailing in the summer. The incoming Commodore of Sachem’s Head Yacht Club, she has run the club’s junior sailing program for almost a decade. Whitney started the RS Feva fleet at SHYC and is leading an effort to grow Feva fleets across the ECSA. A few years ago, she authored an article (windcheckmagazine.com/article/offering-options-theres-more-to-junior-sailing-than-optis-and-a-race-to-the-top/), about using Fevas to keep tween/teen sailors engaged in the sport. One young sailor highlighted in that original article is her daughter Avery, the crew on the winning boat at the 2021 Feva NAs.
Whitney is a Senior Vice President of Marketing at Gowrie Group, a division of Risk Strategies, one of the largest marine insurance groups in the U.S. She lives in Guilford, CT with her husband and two teenage daughters.