Eighth grader Dutch Byerly started sailing Optis after admiring his older brother sail. Dutch decided to try it too and was instantly hooked. At 13-years old he’s approaching the end of his Opti career, but he’s set big goals for himself as he prepares for another run at making the national team.
When did you start racing? Why? I started racing Optis about five years ago because my older brother Dane was sailing and I thought it was really cool. I wanted to try it, so I went to Opti camp and it was awesome.
Where and how do you train? I train at the Lakewood Yacht Club, one day a week during the school year and every weekend. During the summer I spend a week at sailor camp and sail every day. This summer I will be a counselor at Opti camp, teaching younger kids to sail. Then I go to Forth Worth camp, where I’ll be a counselor for a week and sail for a week. Then there’s Texas race week, Nationals, and practice in between.
What’s your favorite part of racing? The enjoyment of doing well in a competition.
What’s the hardest part of racing? Staying focused in the last few races of the day. When everyone else is tired and you’re tired, you really want to go in, but you keep going and have to stay focused.
What was your biggest failure? What did you learn from that experience? My biggest failure was team trials this year. I hoped to make North American team, but I got an OCS on last day. That put me down a lot, and really put me out.
I learned that I need to stay more in the game and that every race counts. You should never count on your drop to bring you back up to where you want to be.
What’s been your greatest success? What did you learn from that experience? My greatest success was the last team trials in Connecticut, when I succeed at my goals, and when I made the US Optimist National Team. We ended the trip by spending an extra day in New York. It was my first time there, and we did everything we could in 24 hours.
At team trials I learned that I do have the ability to compete with top sailors, and even do better than some of them.
What are your sailing strengths? I consider myself pretty athletic, allowing me to move around the boat and not get too tired. I’m also pretty good at pointing. I can point a little higher than most people and still go pretty fast.
When did you start using Quantum® sails? Why? I started using Quantum sails about a year into sailing because my older brother was using them. I kind of got the hand-me-downs, but as I got older and got more experienced, I liked how they really let me point and still go fast compared to other sails.
How have Quantum sails helped your racing? They’re good, solid, all-around sails that let me point and still go really fast.
Who supports and encourages your sailing? How? Mostly my parents and coaches. My parents encourage me to sail, even when I don’t want to. My coaches push me to improve and help me learn a lot.
Do you have other interests beyond sailing? I play basketball and football for my school. I recently got my boaters license.
What’s next for you? Next year at team trials will be my last year in Opti. My goal is to qualify for Europeans, at the minimum, and make the National team one last time. After I age out of Opti, I’d like to sail FJs and International 420s for my high school team. I hope to qualify for high school nationals and the Sears and Rose Cups, like my brother Dane.