By Kathryn Ryan

Pettipaug Sailing Academy hosted its annual Paul Risseeuw Pettipaug Junior Sailing Regatta on Sunday, August 4 at Pettipaug Yacht Club in Esssex, CT. Fifty-eight junior sailors representing four area clubs participated in racing on the Connecticut River. The weather cooperated and the sailors competed under sunny skies with relatively steady winds out of a northerly direction. Sailors competed in eight different divisions on three different racecourses.

This annual regatta is hosted by Pettipaug Sailing Academy towards the end of their junior sailing program. Each year the Academy is host to over one hundred junior sailors ranging in ability from beginner to advanced racer. Instructors are local high school and college age sailors who have a love of sailing. The regatta honors the memory of Paul Risseeuw, who served as Director of the Academy and Junior Advisor of the Eastern Connecticut Sailing Association prior to his passing in 2015. Paul is best remembered at Pettipaug for his passion to ensure children in our area would have a place “to have fun messing about in boats.”


Free cotton candy is a highlight of this regatta. © Sandy Sanstrom

The youngest sailors participate in the Green Fleet racecourse comprised of Optimists and Optimist Prams. These sailors are typically still learning the rules of racing, and their skippers meeting included an on-land demonstration of what starboard and port tacks look like in their boats. The sailors could be heard throughout the clubhouse as they practiced the skill of declaring “Starboard!” loud and clear so their competitors could acknowledge the right of way. To make this race even more interesting, the sailors rounded marks that included dalmations, sharks, and orcas as they made their way around the triangle course.


Racers representing Pettipaug Sailing Academy, New England Science and Sailing, North Cove Yacht Club and Sachem’s Head Yacht Club competed in this year’s Paul Risseeuw Pettipaug Junior Sailing Regatta. © Sandy Sanstrom

For young sailors with more advanced skills, there was the Optimist Red/White/Blue fleet as well as the O’Pen BIC fleet. These boats are singlehanded by the sailors and this course gives them plenty of opportunity to practice their skills and improve. Among the challenges the sailors at this level face is learning how to sail with the river current and not get swept across the starting line before the horn. Sailors compete directly against other sailors in their age divisions in Pettipaug’s Optimist fleets, allowing sailors to race through age of 15.The most advanced sailors of the day were in the 420s. There was both a spinnaker and non-spinnaker division to encourage sailors of varying skill levels to try these double-handed boats. These sailors sailed north of the club in the deeper water and completed eight races throughout the day. Sailors in the 420 fleet have to pull together skills learned over several summers to be competitive against their peers.

The racing was followed with a family cookout and Pettipaug’s tradition of free cotton candy for all. An awards ceremony concluded the day. First place trophies were awarded to sailors from both Pettipaug Sailing Academy and New England Science and Sailing, while sailors from North Cove Yacht Club and Sachem’s Head Yacht Club joined them in taking home second and third place trophies. This entire day was made possible by tremendous volunteer support from approximately 20 adults from the Pettipaug Yacht Club who ran everything from registration to lunch and cookout to race committees to awards ceremony.

Pettipaug Sailing Academy has joined the race to restore our oceans by implementing Sailors for the Sea’s Clean Regattas program, which enables sailors to protect our local waters. Pettipaug Sailing Academy is doing its part to ensure the safety of the fragile ecosystems of the Lower Connecticut River and Long Island Sound. ■

Kathryn Ryan is the Commodore of Pettipaug Yacht Club.