12-Year Old Opti Sailor Aims to See the World

Twelve-year old Kelly Bates started sailing at a learn-to-sail camp when she was seven years old. Her dad, who runs a sailing club and sails on J/80s and J/105s, thought it would be a good idea for her to learn how to sail. While she was learning, she was falling in love with the sport, and Kelly’s been sailing ever since.

Opti sailor Kelly Bates hiking.

What's your favorite thing about sailing?
My favorite thing about sailing is that it is the most unique sport there is. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be successful. The sport of sailing helps you develop important character traits, such as perseverance, sportsmanship, humility, friendship, and confidence. I also love meeting new friends and seeing old friends at local, national, and international regattas.

What's the funniest thing that's happened while you were sailing (or a favorite moment)?
I think one of the funniest moments while I was sailing was when I was at a sailing camp and we took out our club’s FJs. There was little wind, so instead of sailing we jumped in the water and swam around. We then pirated people’s boats and tried to make them flip. One time I was in the boat and my friend was trying to get back in, and I started sailing. She was dragging in the water and we were both laughing. It was a lot of fun.

What’s the scariest thing that’s happened to you while sailing?
One time in green fleet, I was sailing at a local regatta and the wind was heavy. While struggling downwind, a puff hit me and I flipped. My bow plowed under the waves. As the front of my boat filled with water, it flipped forward and a bit to the left. It almost flipped directly forward, like my boat was doing a cartwheel. I was very scared, being around age ten, and also confused. I was wondering how it even happened. I had flipped before, but the way it happened this particular time was odd. Later my coach told me that the way I flipped was something she had never seen before. 

If you could sail anywhere in the world, where would you go? Why?
If I could sail anywhere in the world, I think I would choose to sail in the Philippines. There are perfect beaches, crystal clear water, and cool wildlife. It would be amazing to be sailing and see a bunch of animals swimming underneath you.

What are your sailing goals?
My sailing goals are to someday qualify for Opti Worlds. I also want to compete in more international events.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
I’m not sure what I want to be, but I want to do something involving the environment. Maybe I’ll be an environmental engineer.

What advice do you have for other new sailors?
If you are a new sailor, remember that the goal of sailing is to have fun. But, if you really want to be competitive, go to practice as much as you can. Eat healthy and stay fit, but don’t push yourself too hard. Sailing gets more fun as you get better and better, so don’t ever give up!

Which sail do you use? Why did you pick that one?
I use the Quantum Green because I can point well and go fast at the same time in all kinds of weather. The material is very sturdy and reliable. In medium and low wind, I am still able to go fast. The Quantum Green allows me to point higher than some other people as well.

Sailor Kelly Bates in her opti.
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