There was no one more surprised at nine-year old Pablo Muñoz’s victory at the recent Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta than his mother Maria Nieves Montes.
“He just started sailing 18 months ago, when we enrolled him in the Key Biscayne Yacht Club’s youth sailing summer camp,” she said. “One of the appealing features of the camp was that the club provided lunch. We signed up for convenience and had no idea he would take to sailing.”
Tom McCormick, chair of the Key Biscayne Yacht Club Youth Sailing Committee, said their program has two goals: “We teach racing skills and water safety, but we also stress fun, good sportsmanship and teamwork.”
McCormick said they want to nurture the kids to be well-rounded sailors, but also to remember that “life is more than a competition.”
“I just sail for fun,” said Pablo Muñoz.
Pablo’s dad, Pablo Muñoz Sr., agreed that the program has achieved its goals with his son.
“Learning to sail has been a positive experience for our son,” he said. “He is learning important life skills like: sustained focus, and perseverance. Sailing is a team sport and Pablito has made some good friends through sailing.”
The Orange Bowl Regatta is the largest youth sailing event in North America and is contested each year between Christmas and New Year’s on Biscayne Bay. Even with COVID-related limitations this year, 256 boys and girls aged 8 to 18 competed recently, using either Optimist boats (for beginners), Lasers (fast Olympic-class boats), or Club 420’s (favored by scholastic teams).
McCormick served as “Principle Race Officer” for the Green Fleet -- the group of the youngest sailors.
Race tactics included devising a strategy to cross the start line just as the gun sounds, managing wind and water conditions, and boat-handling to maximize speed around the course.
The triangular course is about one mile from top “windward” mark, to the downwind “leeward” mark. A typical heat lasts about 30 minutes.
Muñoz placed first in the Green Fleet among 54 sailors. He earned his title by maintaining his advantage across 12 heats over three days. Heat results are combined for a final cumulative score.
Pablo’s KBYC teammates also won heats, including Lorenzo Andollina, Pierpaolo Baldassari and Gabriella Mascardenas. The team, coached by Alex Van Pufflen, finished in the top-half of their class.
“Many people do not realize that the KBYC’s youth sailing program is open to all Key Biscayne residents and it is not necessary to be a member to participate,” added McCormick.
For additional information on either a learn-to-sail program or race team contact email@example.com.