Sailor Spotlight: James Kopack
James Kopack is a 6th grade student at the St. Joseph's school in Toms River, NJ. James has sailed Optimists for a few years now, and he is most known for his dedication and love of the sport. It is not uncommon to see James practicing by himself after school or working on his Optimist. James' positive attitude and desire to do ANYTHING that is sailing related are tell-tale signs that he is going to have a fantastic sailing career!
Last weekend, James sailed in the Optimist Team Racing Midwinters in Hilton Head, South Carolina. We checked in with James to hear how the regatta went.
Name: James Kopack
Year In School: 6th Grade
Yacht Club: Mantoloking YC and Toms River YC
1) James, you just got back from the Team Racing Midwinters. Tell me about the regatta and how you guys did.
The TR Midwinters was unlike any regatta I have ever done before; it was a whole different concept. First of all, we all had our different teams. I was on CERT Red. The first day we got on the water and go the hang of things having not sailed for a while this winter, but we fought hard. Sadly, we missed Gold fleet in a three-way tie! We would have made it into Gold fleet but we (along with the other team Lakewood YC) all went to the wrong mark in one race and were penalized 24 points per sailor!
Day 2 we were placed in Silver fleet and didn't do as well as we wanted, placing 7/11 in Silver.
Day 3 we went out confidently on the water to see who would get the 7th and 8th place spots in a knock-out round (best of 3). We went up against Lauderdale 2. My team and I fought hard and beat them 1-2-3 two times. This time we won! Even though we did not get into Gold, my team and I did an amazing job for our first time together. All in all, it was a great experience!
2) What do you like about team racing and what do you like about fleet racing?
Team racing and fleet racing are both some of my favorite things to do, but I have to say I do like team racing a little bit better. In team racing, you have a team to talk to and somewhat rely on if you're in a bad spot. I also enjoy setting mark traps and helping my team fight for the winning combination.
On the other hand, in fleet racing you don't have to worry about messing up your team. You don't have to worry about setting mark traps - all you have to do is sail your own race.
I like both team racing and fleet racing a lot, but I think I like team racing better!
3) POP QUIZ: Opti Team Racing is 4 vs 4. Your team is in a 1-2-7-8. Are you winning or losing?
You're losing! If you're in a tie, the team with the first place spot is losing. Any combination with the 7-8 is losing. The 1-2-7-8 is very easy to get out of though. Just ask a teammate to set a mark trap and your team is winning! [Editor's note: James is 100% correct]
4) James, I have witnessed firsthand how hard you work in the off-season. You started sailing after school by yourself, then with a friend, then with more friends. Tell me why you do that and describe how it's turned into a popular activity.
First of all, I do this because I love sailing. I would go sailing right now, but unfortunately the river is frozen! Second, I do this because the best kids down south in Florida go out every day after school. They basically can sail non-stop, and the only way we're going to catch them is by spending time on the water. You might not know it, but every time you go sailing you get a little bit better. Even if you just go out and do a dozen tacks and gybes, you will get a little bit better. I think this activity became popular because kids who live on the Toms River saw me sailing and wanted to go out too. Then, my friends told their friends and it became sort of a trend!
5) What are your goals for 2018?
I have many goals for 2018. My main goal is to qualify for Team Trials at the upcoming Valentine's Day Regatta. My second goal, even though this isn't results driven, is to mast my tacks. In the summer of 2017 I got SO much better at my tacks. Now that my tacks are somewhat decent, I need to MASTER them. My third goal is to work on my starts. As some of you may know, I tend to be really good at getting Black Flagged! This year I need to perfect my starts!