It looked like ballet.
Juneau Youth Sailing Foundation students Evan Twelker and Erik Pedersen were competing during an informal series of weekly races Wednesday night, when the pair decided to tack their 420-class sailboat into the wind.
Both sailors leaned back to get the boat to lean one way, then they gracefully ducked under the swinging sail as the boat began to list almost to the point of capsizing. About the time they made their shift, the sail caught the wind and the boat righted itself and sailed off in another direction.
Twelker and Pedersen worked like a well-oiled team on Wednesday, winning three of the four races held on Gastineau Channel near Aurora Harbor. But they won't be a pairing this morning when the Juneau Youth Sailing Foundation hosts its second annual Commodore's Cup near the Juneau Yacht Club.
The Commodore's Cup is a day of sailing races, nautical games and a barbecue to celebrate the end of the JYFS summer of classes. The day opens with a series of open races starting about 9:45 a.m. for adults, instructors and Level 3 youth sailors using the JYFS 420 boats -- basically skiffs with sailmasts. A skipper's meeting is at 9. The Commodore's Cup -- for Level 3 youth sailors only -- starts at 12:45 p.m. (skippers' meeting at noon), and land-based contests will start about 2 p.m.
``There's definitely going to be some racing,'' said Commodore's Cup organizer Dan O'Connor, a student from St. Lawrence University who spent this summer as the first paid sailing instructor for the Juneau Youth Sailing Foundation. ``But we're also going to give some of the other folks in the program a chance to go out with their parents and show them what they learned. We wanted to make this an end-of-year celebration.''
Berths for two boats (four sailors) at the upcoming Junior Olympics sailing championships will be up for grabs today, with the local winners earning trips to compete at the Northwest Youth Sailing Championship Aug. 25-27 in Seattle. The Seattle regatta serves as the Junior Olympics (JO's) qualifying meet for the Pacific Northwest Region, and this year the JYSF raised money to send two two-man crews to the regatta.
``This is the second year of the Commodore's Cup, but it's the first year we've been able to win trips to JO's,'' said Twelker, who will be a freshman and will sail at Middlebury College this fall. ``The very first year, they said we could send a team, but we'd have to buy our own tickets.''
``Unfortunately, only four (sailors) can go to Seattle,'' O'Connor said. ``When I was younger, I used to go to JO's (in Rhode Island) and I learned most of my sailing at those meets.''
Wednesday night's successful Twelker-Pedersen partnership will split for the Commodore's Cup. Twelker said he plans to race today with James Voelkers, while Pedersen will race with Matt Voelkers. The other pairing to win a race Wednesday - Karl Twelker and Carl Brodersen - will hold for the Commodore's Cup.
All four of the young sailors have crewed on a J-30 sailboat owned by the Twelker brothers' family - the 30-foot Nirelle skippered by Eric Twelker - and in June the boat was the first one to finish the 200-mile Around Admiralty Island Race (another boat with a better handicap actually won the race). The Twelker brothers and Pedersen competed in the 1998 Around Admiralty race, and this year the Twelker brothers and Brodersen were on the crew.
Pedersen said sailing the two boat types were similar, but different, like driving a nimble sports car vs. a rough-handling large truck.
``The keel flattens you out in the big boats,'' Pedersen said. ``You get to steer more in the little boat. The big one's more of a team effort.''
``These (the 420s) are a lot more nimble than the big boats, and it seems like you're going faster,'' Karl Twelker said.
The older Twelker brother, Evan, said he just enjoys being out on the water. One of the reasons the 2000 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate decided to attend Middlebury was because of its sailing club team, and the JYSF is helping out with a partial scholarship.
``It's good karma,'' Twelker said. ``It's fun to be out on the water.''
O'Connor said several of the older youth sailors helped out with the beginning and intermediate classes, including all four of the sailors to win Wednesday night.
``I believe our official title was `grunt,''' Brodersen said. ``I don't know how we'll do Sunday. How can I put this politely, we're going to kick butt.''
Eamon Conheady, 14, was one of the younger sailors competing on Wednesday. He teamed up with O'Connor, but was the lone sailor bringing his boat out of Aurora Harbor while O'Connor used a motorized skiff to mark the course with buoys. O'Connor then anchored the skiff and climbed into the sailboat when Conheady brought it aside.
``I sailed a little bit last year,'' said Conheady, who went back and took the Level 1 and Level 2 classes again this year. ``I've been on the water three times this week, and I hope to do better in the Commodore's Cup this year. Last year was a complete nightmare in the Commodore's Cup. A wall of wind came down the (Gastineau) Channel and it was blowing 40 knots. It's fun. It's awesome.''