Nobody in Owen Harrod’s family was a sailor, but when he saw the boats prancing on White Bear Lake at age eight, he decided, “I want to try that.”
His parents, Jim and Debbie, enrolled him White Bear Sailing School, and he’s been there ever since. And now, at 15, Harrod is one of the top teen sailors in the state.
The Mahtomedi High School sophomore-to-be is listed as one of the Minnesotans to watch in the state’s biggest youth sailing event, the Inland Lake Yachting Association X Class Championships, coming up on Lake Minnetonka, July 24-27.
“I like being on the lake, being with my friends,” said Harrod. “I also like that it’s an individual sport, where you don’t have someone telling you what to do. You’re on your own, making your own decisions.”
In his most recent event, Harrod skippered his X-Boat to second place in the Upper Midwest Junior Olympics Festival in Wayzata Bay, June 16-18.
His partner in the two-person boat this year is Josie Guidinger of White Bear Lake. Harrod steers the boat, makes the decisions — starting line strategies, picking upwind tacks, where to go on race course, downwind jibes — and maneuvers the main sail. Josie, as the “crew,” operates the jib, or smaller forward sail.
Harrod’s resume, as presented by ILYA in its press releases, includes the 2018 White Bear Yacht Club X Boat championship, the 2017 Club A Series championship, second place in 2017 ILYA X Junior Championship, and first place in the 2017 Twin Cities Youth Sailing Regatta. Last year, at the ILYA race, he placed eighth among 45 entrants in the Senior fleet.
Kate Cox, his coach for three years, assessed:
“Owen is very determined. It’s been cool to see how much progress he’s made. He works hard on refining his boat speed and his tactics. Every day, he’s out on the water, in one boat or another, whether someone’s there to coach him or not.”
Tactical maneuvers, boat positioning, reading wind direction and speed, figuring out where “the next puff” will come from, are among the skills he has refined, she said.
Also, sailing is a “big mental game,” comparable to golf, said the coach.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and a lot can go wrong, so you have to stay calm after whatever disaster comes along, which Owen does.”
Harrod, 5-10 and 160 pounds, also plays hockey, year-round. A defensemen, he played for Mahtomedi’s AA Bantams this past season, and juggles sailing with the Zephyrs summer hockey program and one at St. Thomas Academy.
The upcoming ILYA is one all the sailors point toward.
“This is the biggest race of the season,” Harrod said. “My goal is top five this year.”