KEMAH — The six-day long Texas Youth Race Week sailing event entered its final day Friday, capping off a marathon of three regattas in one week.
Considered to be the largest youth sailing race in the state, Texas Youth Race Week drew roughly 130 to 150 sailboat racers ranging in age from 6 to 17, according to race chairperson Dee Rogers.
Participants came from across the state and other parts of the country, and some came from as far away as Mexico, St. Croix and Poland, Rogers said.
Karina Falkiewicz said that her two younger siblings, Maria and Piotr Smieya, decided to participate in the race during the family’s Texas vacation.
While regattas are also common in their hometown of Gdynia, Poland, on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, Falkiewicz said getting to sail on the other side of the globe was an irreplaceable event.
“For her and my brother, this is a big experience,” she said.
Texas Youth Race Week is the compilation of three separate two-day regattas. The first was held at the Houston Yacht Club on Saturday and Sunday. After a day off Monday, the second was held Tuesday and Wednesday, and the third was held Thursday and Friday at the Texas Corinthian Yacht Club in Kemah. The Lakewood Yacht Club of Seabrook served as the “hosts” of the Thursday and Friday event.
The competition is broken into three divisions. Younger racers compete in optimists (single-person boats about 7 feet, 9 inches long), with less experience racers competing in a separate “green” division. Older kids compete in lasers (one- to two-person vessels about 13 feet, 9 inches long) in their own separate division.
Dylan Ascencios, 13 of Spring, was in the driver’s seat Friday to win the overall Texas Youth Race Week championship in the more experienced optimist division. Ascencios said this year was his sixth time competing in Texas Youth Race Week, and while he said he has won individual regattas before, this would be his first overall win — following second and third place finishes the previous two years.
“I’ve just trained harder to get better every year,” Ascencios said. “If you keep getting better as you mature more and more, eventually you’ll get to the top.”
Ascencios first stepped foot in a boat at age 5 and began competing by the time he was 8. In order to keep improving at his sport of choice, the 13-year-old said he follows an intense training regimen.
“I usually practice every weekend during the (school) year, and then during the summer, I usually practice four times a week,” Ascencios said. “I also try to keep my weight down by eating better, and I run five miles each morning at 5:30 in the morning.”
After already gaining the experience of competing in the International Optimist Dinghy Association’s North American and South American championships, Ascencio said one of his next goals is to test the waters of the IODA World Championship next year.
The event again lived up to its unofficial nickname of “Texas Youth Rain Week” as multiple downpours led to not-so-smooth sailing. However, Rogers noted that the small army of race volunteers were key in helping the race go on as well as possible.
“I’m just constantly surprised at the people who do this year after year for six days, four of which are during the week, so they have to take vacation,” Rogers said.
The final official results from the race were not available before press deadline Friday night.