Flying to the Bahamas next week to compete in what he says is his most important regatta to date, the 2019 Optimist North American Championships, Tor Svendsen has been killing it on the Opti circuit this past year. He blazed the recent Pacific Coast Championships on the Berkeley Circle, winning four of six races sailed, and has consistently been at the top of the fleet at other Opti events.
Just goes to show, practice makes perfect — Svendsen’s hung with the Opti for some seven years now. At 15, this is his last year in the boat and he’s super-excited about representing the US in Nassau. “It’s my last regatta in this boat and the most important regatta I’ve ever done. I’m just going to do my best and see how well I do,” Svendsen said, with a big happy smile.
A decent performance at the Opti Team Trials held in late April at the California Yacht Club in Marina del Rey earned Svendsen a place on the US National Team. He’s just one of two Opti sailors from the West Coast who will join 21 sailors from around the country also representing the US in the Bahamas. More than 160 junior sailors between the ages of 12 and 15, from more than 20 countries, will race the North Americans, the largest youth regatta in North America and the Caribbean, September 27 to October 4.
Svendsen works with coaches Nico Winograd and Eliza Richartz. In May he attended a US National Team practice in New Jersey, but mainly his training is sailing against other kids. His confidence on the racecourse has really developed over the past year, says Richartz. “The improvement I have seen in him over the past year is recognizing patterns on the water. We discuss them when he comes back to the coach boat. One minute they don’t know anything, then next minute they’re like, ‘Yeah, I saw that shift!'”
Genes may have a part to play in young Svendsen’s love for the sport — in 1963 his grandparents founded Svendsen’s Boat Works in Alameda. His grandfather Svend was an avid and successful sailor/racer, as is Sean Svendsen, his dad. Already Tor is broadening his sailing horizons — just this past summer he’s sailed some 40 days on boats from Lasers to 420s, J/70s, J/105s and Knarrs, and he’s gotten into kiteboarding.
“What we love about sailing (racing) is that it taps into so many disciplines. In this sense the sport mirrors life,” Sean, a very proud dad, commented. “Sailing prepares kids very well for whatever challenges they face elsewhere.”
Tor is optimistic about the conditions he expects to be up against next week. “I think it’s going to be pretty heavy wind in the Bahamas because it’ll be ocean racing, but one of my biggest strengths is heavy breeze because I’m big and I hike hard. I’m excited!”