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Nearly 200 Jr. Sabot sailors parade San Diego Bay for Dutch Shoe Marathon

by Casey Allocco 19 Jul 2019 19:33 PDT 19 July 2019
2019 Dutch Shoe Marathon © Carol McKnight

Nearly 200 sailors, both junior and senior, competed in the annual Dutch Shoe Marathon (DSM) on Friday. This iconic regatta begins at the San Diego Yacht Club and finishes at the Coronado Yacht Club, a trek that for most junior sailors is their longest distance race yet. This year marks the 47th annual running of this Southern California right-of-passage.

Mission Bay Yacht Club's Paige Tillson, 11, (C Fleet) came in first with a solid lead throughout the entirety of the race. Behind Tillson in second place was Siena Nichols (C Fleet) of Balboa Yacht Club, who pulled into the position in the second half of the race. Battling hand in hand with Nichols was Caleb Everett (C Fleet) of Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club. The three were able to hold their position in the front of the fleet right from the start.

When asked how it felt to win the Dutch Shoe Marathon, Tillson answered, "It's exciting, but I'm also really tired."

"Starting in C Fleet definitely gave me an advantage," she continued. "My best moments in the race were my start, the first windward mark, and coming up around the point to Coronado. We've been practicing at Mission Bay Yacht Club so we could be better prepared for the long downwind legs."

The race kicked off at 12:00 PM from La Playa cove. A cluster of sabots lined up for a series of four starts - C Fleet, B Fleet, A Fleet, and Seniors - to begin their three-hour long race through the San Diego Bay. Sailors saw perfect conditions on the water with blue skies, sunshine and 9-12 knots of wind. However, as the fleet reached the middle of the race, the breeze came in puffs and the current fought against them, challenging these young sailors to stay patient and use their best techniques.

Sailing next to Paige Tillson was her older brother, Shane, 13, (A Fleet), who finished near the top of his fleet and was able to catch up fairly well to his sister who had a 6 minute head start with the C Fleeters. "I've sailed the Dutch Shoe Marathon four times. I just love this whole race. It's so different from everything else," started Shane Tillson.

"The hardest part is where the Navy ship is because there is a big wind shadow there. You have to be really patient because you can either pass a lot of boats or they can pass you," he finished.

An army of coach boats rode along side the racers, assuring their safety and advising them to stay hydrated, stay relaxed and stay focused during their trek down Coronado Roads and through Glorietta Bay. As per tradition, juniors filled their boats with the best snacks, candy, sandwiches and Gatorade. Most coaches have been DSM participants themselves for many years of their childhood.

SDYC's Head Coach, Molly Pleskus, commented on today's race. "The first few boats got pretty far ahead and there was a lot of overlap between fleets really quickly. Before we even got out of La Playa we had A-Fleeters catching up and passing everybody... A long day like this can be a little much for some of the small sailors who were already exhausted and the tide was against us, but they all did really well."

In addition to our first, second and third place finishers, there are many more DSM awards presented to the juniors and seniors after the races. One of the most iconic awards is First to Capsize, won this year by Conrad Cook from Newport Harbor Yacht Club, racing in the A Fleet.

"We only had one capsize that didn't keep sailing," started Pleskus. It shows great spirit and a good level of character from all of our junior sailors that for the most part, everyone picked their boats back up and kept on sailing."

Awards were announced at the Coronado Yacht Club around 4 pm along with a celebration commemorating a huge accomplishment for the sailors of the DSM. Sailors and their families enjoyed light bites and beverages, relaxing after a hard-days work.

Please visit for 2019 results or for more information.

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