Why Optimist Sailing is Where to Start

My love of racing began in an Optimist Sailing on LakeErie


When I was only 8 years old I was allowed to join my older mad much wiser siblings in the learn to sail program at the Cleveland Yachting Club. Our summer “sail camp” was my first big step into becoming my own person in so many more ways that I cold have ever imagined. Sure camp brought us fundamentals of swimming, boating safety, sailing, kayaking, tubing and so much more on the shores of Lake Erie but that was just the icing on the cake that has driven me into my adulthood.

8 year old David in an Optimist Dinghy

When I first stepped into an Opti sailboat, I was thrilled that I would be the one in charge. I would be making the decisions, I would be doing the work, I would be responsible for when, where and how fast I could go…and I wanted to FLY. The beginning of camp was so much more than just getting into the boat and flying though, There were almost 40 other kids my age who were all doing the same thing…some because they wanted to and some because they were told that this is what they were doing but we all shared the camaraderie of being skippers in our own future from this point forward. This isn’t a story about what I did on the water, but about how Optimist sailing has made me the person I am today.

Outside of learning how to rig, sail and take care of a sailboat the big change in my life came from having something in common with everyone I was with…we were all sailors and that formed an instant and lasting bond that will never go away. My oldest sister, Lianne was 16 the year I started sail camp and she started racing a Laser Radial at the Saturday regattas around Lake Erie in the I-LYA Travelers Series.  My dad would drive Lianne and her boat up to the host club each weekend and took me along to watch.

Optimist sailingI remember the first regatta we went to was at Port Clinton Yacht Club and as my dad was helping Lianne unload her boat from the Suburban, I started to wander around the club and found a group of kids rigging the same boats i was learning to sail. I started to help them get their boats off the trailers and rig and instantly made friends…Optimist sailing friends! By the end of the summer I was excited to see all my friends and to spend time on the water with the as we raced around the lake and told stories about our week at camp at each of our clubs.

Yes I enjoyed racing but it was the friendship aspect of racing that made me like doing it, meeting new people each week and seeing those I already knew and having an instant connection with them all made me feel grown up, it made me feel important, it made me feel independent and made me want to be better at racing! As years came and went, I met more and more people, started to travel regionally and all over the country meeting new friends, sailing in new places and wanting to see them more and to win on the water drove me to sail more, to learn more, to try harder and all of it was so I could keep meeting new friends and be able to reunite with those I saw at the last regatta too.David Hein Sailing Optimist Class

The conversations we would have and the basis for our friendships wasn’t based on our parents, or their friends or activities, we developed a kinship based on our love of sailing and our own boats that we raced, we maintained, we cleaned and polished and spliced new lines for. It was a grown-up friendship based on our own interests, our own desires and our own free will to share, to compete with each other and to push each other to be better each and every time we were on the water together.David Hein Sailing Olympic NACRA17 Class

Today as a Junior in College at Jacksonville University who is engaged in a full-time Olympic sailing campaign I realize that my motivation in school, in sports and my drive to be successful in all areas of my life all came from being introduced to Optimist Sailing when I was 8 years old at The Cleveland Yachting Club. My travels to train and compete around the globe have been driven by the opportunity to meet new friends, reconnect with old friends and to be pushed by them all to be better, stronger and faster than I was yesterday and it all started in my Mclaughlin Opti!

Sailing is about friendships, it is about striving to be the best you can be, it is about having fun and it is all about finding what in life makes you want to jump out of bed before sunrise each morning to attack the day with a smile with the ones you are closest with.  I am thrilled that I have all of that and more as I get ready to head back to Jacksonville University for my education, my friends, my sport and my life!