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Tommy Sitzmann and His Mismatched Socks Are Making Waves in the Opti Class

Ten year old Optimist sailor Tommy Sitzmann had a “white hot” summer winning several White Fleet events, often by large margins. Sailing against mostly older competitors, Tommy tied for the overall win at Rock Hall, placed in the top three at the Oxford Annual Regatta, and is first overall in the Chesapeake Bay Optimist White Fleet standings. He took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to talk with us about his sailing, his success, and his socks.

When did you start sailing, and why? I was five or six, and I started because my whole family liked it. I sailed on our big boat and enjoyed it, so I started sailing Optis.

What’s your favorite thing about sailing? I like roll tacking – sailing faster upwind while you’re turning. I like jumping to the other side. It’s pretty fun.

You won five races in a row this summer. Which was your favorite? The Junior Olympics. Winds were 20-25, so it was really windy and there were lots of boats. It was a pretty big regatta.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned this year to help you win all those regattas? I’ve learned to not go to one side too much, to tack out to one side and then come back – not all the way, just enough so you’re not in the middle, but not on the other side too much. Once you get closer to the mark, tack more so you can make it.

You chose the Quantum XR-1 Green sail this year. Why? My dad used to work for Quantum, so I started watching TP 52 videos. When the boats were lined up and you could see the head sails, the Quantum sails looked a lot better than the other sails. I did a lot of research, tried a few, and decided I wanted a Quantum. The cross cut is fast and really easy to tune and trim.

What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you while you were sailing? I was sailing with my mom and was hiking upwind when the wind just died. I heeled to windward and fell out!

Was there ever a scary moment for you while you were sailing? In one Opti regatta it was really windy, and I’m pretty light. I was hiking out pretty hard and I’d let the sail out a little. I was really nervous because I’m not good in heavy wind. When I came around the windward mark, I couldn’t keep the bow down and I almost capsized.

It was really scary because I was going fast and my boat was filling with water, some of the boats crashed around me. I had to turn my boat up, then turn back down and ease my sail out super-fast.

Do you have any superstitions? I never wear matching socks.

Is that for good luck? No, I just don’t like to sort them when they’re cleaned.

If you could sail anywhere in the world, where would you go? I would sail to Bermuda. It’s a nice place to sail and there’s lots of wind most of the time, so it wouldn’t take forever.

What are your sailing goals? I want to be a very good sailor, hopefully one of the best when I grow up. I want to sail long distances, like across the Atlantic Ocean.

Do you want to be a sailor when you grow up? I want to design sailboats and help build big racing boats that do the Transatlantic Race. Hopefully I’ll get one and sail it.

If you could give advice to other kids who are thinking about sailing Optis, what would you say? Sail fast, but don’t think about it too much. Just sail and stay calm.

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