Quantum sailor Ivan Shestopalov is making a name for himself in the world of Optimist sailing. The 13 year-old started racing Optis in 2007, and has continually improved since he began. In 2011 he won one of seven events. In 2012 he improved to two of ten. Last year, Ivan won seven of ten races, including the Junior Olympic Sailing Festival and the Orange Bowl Regatta. Having spent most of his life sailing, Ivan can’t imagine doing anything else.
QS: When did you start sailing?
IS: Our family had a day cruiser, and we would go out on Biscayne Bay. That was my first introduction to sailing.
QS: When did you decide you wanted to start racing?
IS: I started sailing Optis in the summer of 2007. I got into it because of my sister. She sailed a little bit at Coconut Grove, and I went to some of her regattas. It looked like a lot of fun, and I was eager to do it, so I decided to join the summer program. I joined the Green Fleet, enjoyed it, and it snowballed from there.
QS: What is your training schedule like? Do you have a coach?
IS: I practice 2-3 times a week, usually Saturday and Sunday, sometimes during the week. My coach, Lior Lavie, is a great coach. We practice on Biscayne Bay doing different exercises.
QS: How did you meet your coach?
IS: My old coach was from Argentina, and he decided to go back. I met Lior through the club. He’s great. He’s very insightful, very smart. He has a lot of experience with Optis and other boats, so there’s a lot to learn from him. He’s also a very nice person.
QS: Do you have any sailing role models? Who inspires you?
IS: My coaches. I’ve had three coaches, and they’re all inspirational. They’ve all sailed Optis, have all progressed in the ranks, and all done really well in their sailing careers. I look up to them. I would like to have sailing as a career, like they do.
QS: What are your sailing goals?
IS: Probably the same as every Opti sailor, I would like to place in the top three at Worlds. This year they will be in Argentina.
QS: What about this year? What will you be doing?
IS: There are team trials in the spring for the North Americans. Depending on how I do in the trials will determine what I do this summer. Until then, I’ll just keep practicing and keep trying to improve.
QS: How do you stay focused on sailing with school and everything else in your life?
IS: Sailing is really a release for me. When you’re out on the water, there’s not much stress or worry. I don’t have to think about school. You’re just on the water, practicing to become better. You have a concrete goal in mind of what you want to achieve, so you know what you’re working for. It’s fun.
At the Orange Bowl Regatta, Ivan Shestopalov won 9 of 11 races using a 2nd place as his
throw-out race. Photo by Tim Wilkes.
QS: You had a good year last year. What are your top highlights from 2013?
IS: The most exciting thing was winning the South Americans in Brazil. That was my first international regatta where I placed in the top five. It was great. Everything was great. You can’t go wrong when you’re sailing 12th at Worlds. I also won the West Coast Championship in California, and one month ago I won the Orange Bowl Regatta, hosted by my club. That was always a goal of mine to win it, and I managed to do it. I’m looking forward to doing even better this year.
QS: You’re currently sailing with Quantum sails. When did you start, and how have they helped you succeed?
IS: I started racing with Olympic sails. Those were great when I was young, but as I got older and progressed, I decided to try Quantum sails and they worked for me. I started with a radial light, then radial medium, and recently moved up to radial heavy. Now they have the XR cut, so I’m using the XR heavy.
Quantum sails are very versatile, yet give you a lot of power. I feel really comfortable with them – they’re good, all-around sails. The Orange Bowl was my first race with the XR heavy. It felt really fast on the downwind, and that was a major advantage. Quantum sails are very good, they last a long time, and I feel comfortable with them.
QS: If you weren’t sailing, what else would you do?
IS: I don’t know. I’ve sailed for so long that I really haven’t had much time to focus on anything else. Right now there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.
QS: What’s the most valuable life lesson you’ve learned from sailing?
IS: If you strive for something – if you really want it – that, coupled with a passion for being on the water and knowing what you want to achieve, produces great results. If you’re set on doing something and willing to work for it, however long it takes, you can achieve it.