A new organization is providing enthusiastic Optimist sailors in eastern Connecticut an opportunity to become better racers by extending their sailing season. With startup funding provided by the Eastern Connecticut Sailing Association (ECSA) and the Mystic River Mudhead Sailing Association, the MudRatz ECSA Opti Race Team was created to help keen juniors develop and improve their sailing and racing skills.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do for decades, but never found the right people to make it work,” said ECSA Junior Chair Paul Risseeuw. “The program started last fall at the Wadawanuck Club in Stonington, with 18 Opti sailors participating just from word of mouth. We have top coaches, and sailors from several ECSA clubs will be able to train together and feed off of each other. This is a great idea that has passed its initial ‘test flight,’ and it’s ready for prime time.”

“One of the core focus points of this group is to keep it as simple as possible – just getting like-minded kids on the water, having a ball together and learning the finer points of sailing is the goal,” said Brandon Flack, a member of the MudRatz board of directors. These are kids who want more after the season ends (or before it starts), and we aim to give them that opportunity in a local and affordable manner. Our coaches are US Sailing certified Level 1 and/or 2, and they’ll work with sailors from 8 to 16 years old at practices, clinics and regattas, providing a positive and fun environment where sailors will learn advanced techniques and strategies.”

“We want to be careful and not follow the tracks of other teams that have become hyper-competitive at the expense of the local sailing programs around them,” Flack explained. “We want to complement the local yacht clubs by offering their children a chance to extend the season. That’s something most clubs do not have enough student interest to do on their own, but we can easily do it as a group. We want the MudRatz program to move around the area, spreading the wealth and involving as many clubs and kids as possible. We plan to run these clinics on Sunday evenings from 4 to 7 pm, so as to not conflict with other sports, and in the spring and fall so they don’t interfere with our regular sailing programs.”

MudRatz is a US Sailing Certified Member Organization, and there are currently 20 sailors on the roster. With a boat drop-off and pre-season party scheduled for May 11, they’re champing at the bit to hit the water. “We are looking for a host club this spring,” Flack continued. “We have our own insurance, and we just need some docks, safety boats and water. If your club is interested in hosting practice sessions for six Sundays starting in mid-May, please email me at bflack@amconet.com.”

For more information about the MudRatz, including their practice, clinic and regatta schedule – and a very well-stocked team store – visit mudratz.com.