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Opti Win Positions Youth Sailors for Italy World Championship

Lakewood Yacht Club's youth sailors captured first place in the USODA Team Race Midwinter Championship held in Seabrook, TX. Welcoming 142 youth sailors from around the country, Lakewood proudly hosted the Midwinters Championship this year. Racing over three days on Clear Lake, the 31 teams competed for a highly-coveted invitation to Venice, Italy to represent the USA at the Trofeo Marco Rizzotti World Championship in June of this year.

The opti class victory came in a tight final round against the Lauderdale team who went undefeated through the qualifying rounds. In the finals, Yumi Yoshiyasu, Dutch Byerly, Zane Rogers, Paul Houston, and Michael Burns pulled ahead for a first-place lead. Lakewood's sailing team fought hard to break a tied series. It was a decisive race, and the team dominated the competition to win the championship.

At 14, Dutch Byerly can't believe he's actually getting to compete in Venice. "I am VERY excited about going to Italy. I've never been. It'll be a long trip, so  I'll be watching lots of TV on the way. The most exciting thing is that I get to go with the team."

The Midwinters Championship is open to kids under the age of 15 who sail in the optimist dinghy class. A one-person vessel for beginner sailors, the opti remains the boat of choice for youth racers who want to broaden their racing skills and expand their competitive edge.

Byerly, who's been sailing optis since the age of eight, trains every weekend with Lakewood's coaches and attends the club's Opti Camp in the summer. Sticking to a rigorous training regimen has paid off for Byerly. "At first, I didn't like the water that much. But it didn't take very long for me to really start liking it."

The 3-day race was followed by an outdoor awards ceremony where each team member received an engraved trophy. Byerly couldn't wait to add his new team sailing award to all the mounting basketball trophies in his room. "This was the first big win for our team. We've been trying for a win for three years now. And we finally won!"

Topping out at nearly 100 sailors, Lakewood's Youth Sailing Program trains athletes who sail in opti class, laser class, and even the Olympic-grade 470 class. Directed by former Olympic competitor Marek Valasek, the Lakewood sailing team enjoys coaching expertise from international competitors as well as winners of top-ranking national regattas. Program opportunities are available for youth aged six and older. For information about Lakewood's Youth Sailing Program, contact Marek Valasek here.

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Anne Bechard 
Digital Marketing Specialist

I'm thrilled to be a part of Lakewood's marketing team! From an early age, I started showing signs of becoming an auspicious writing geek. Today, I'm a columnist for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Business Insider. I get excited about exploring new ideas, communicating in a creative way, and solving problems that stump me. It's especially thrilling that I get to do all this in a place that personifies one of my greatest loves -- nature and the outdoors. I'm looking forward to growing our digital marketing techniques and meeting your communications needs with excellence!

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