‘Old Man’ Opti is for the young at heart

Rescheduled event has smooth sailing weather

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The adage, “The best things come in small packages,” was emblematic of this unique sailing event, which also proved the aphorism that “The best things come to those who wait.”

On Tuesday, July 19, the Bellport Bay Yacht Club held their rescheduled third “Old Man” Opti Race, after the previous week’s event had to be postponed due to the wind limit being exceeded. This time, the singular event, which put the “fun” in fundraiser, was smooth sailing on a warm, sunny day by the bay, which brought the kid out in everyone. Hundreds of spectators came out to enjoy the lighthearted race, amid an idyllic day by the water. This year, 33 boats entered the Opti event, which was first held in 1995 and resumed, after a long hiatus, last year.

The “Opti,” a diminutive of the Optimist, is a small single-handed dinghy, intended for youths, usually up to the age of 15. However, the race’s participants are required to be age 30 or older. This makes it much more challenging for competitors to sail, and even more amusing for spectators of all ages to observe.

Anthony Ettorre, a trustee of the yacht club, and his wife, Christina, attended the pet-friendly event with their affable pup, Webley. “We came last year. It’s awesome. The whole community came down,” said Anthony. Christina noted how the inclement weather at the previous year’s event couldn’t dampen the excitement for the revival of this amusing occasion. “The weather is nicer than last time. It was cloudy and rainy, and we still went.”

Many in attendance were placing fundraising wagers on which competitor they thought would be the best “Old Man.” Laurence Berman placed a bet on his buddy Kyle Binnington, who was sailing Berman’s Opti.

“He’s a trooper. I don’t know if he’s the best, but he’ll look the best,” he quipped, adding, “He’s too big for the boat, but that’s kind of the point.”

Of course, everyone there was in the same proverbial boat. Berman also gave a nod to the female participants.

“There’s a lot of heart in this race,” he said, “Considering it’s called the ‘Old Man’ race, we have good women representing.”

The two women acting as “senior sailors” that day were Bayley Everitt, whose husband, Eric Everitt, is the commodore of the BBYC, joined by fellow competitor Tammie Mentzel, who said proudly that the good sports were “sailing moms.”

Binnington’s wife, Sara, was there with their son, Drew, 12. She was betting on her husband to win as well and said, “He’s going to be fine,” conceding, “my son’s freaking out.”

One sure bet is that a good time was had by all, and we’re optimistic that next year’s event will be an even bigger success to raise funds in small boats for the Bellport Bay Sailing Foundation while showing that you’re never too old to rock the boat for a good cause. 

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