Young sailors focused on regatta prize, not oil

By Elizabeth Vowell – email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) – Heat and oil may be keeping people inside and away from the beaches, but nothing could keep 16 sailing teams from competing in the Mississippi Sound.

"It's freedom in a way. It's freedom when you're racing. It's power that you have," said Gulfport Yacht Club Sailing Director Sam Vasquez.

Teams representing Gulf coast yacht clubs from Houston all the way to Panama City were in Gulfport competing for the Junior Lipton Cup Championship Regatta.

"It was real difficult, but it was fun," said fifteen-year-old Khloe Ohliger of the Long Beach Yacht Club team.

Teams of two to three sailors all under the age of 18 ran several races.  Each race consists of sailing from one marker to the other and back, two times.

Spectators and supporters follow along side racers, and judges keep an eye out for safety and regulations.

"You're controlling the boat by harnessing the wind through the sails, through the boat, through the center boards.  It's a whole other feeling and when you do good in the wind, It's what keeps you going back, said Vasquez.

At a time when many avoid the water because of oil, these sailors are taking a different view.

"Oil is something we're going to have to live with for years now. I mean we saw pieces out there today. You just spray it off, hose it off, dawn if off the hoist," said Vasquez. "I think we all just want to get past the oil and sail through it. You got to have oil."

"We've been sailing in the oil for the past two weeks.  It's oil, and we just get the boats out and wash it afterwards," said Ohliger.

The Fairhope Yacht Club team took home first place.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.