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On Monday July 25, Marblehead Junior Race Week 2016 kicked off with the largest number of sailors in the event’s 127-year history. With nearly 400 participants, MJRW has grown to be the second largest youth sailing event in the United States. Hosted by Pleon Yacht Club, the first junior yacht club in the country run by and for sailors under the age of 21, MJRW is always a spectacle and a point of pride for the historic seaside town north of Boston, attracting sailors ages eight to 18 from across New England and beyond to compete in three classes of dinghies: Club 420s, Optimists, and Lasers. This year’s regatta is also a regional qualifier for US Sailing’s national single- and double-handed junior championships to be held in San Diego, CA next month.

Last year, the battles were tight at the top of the fleets with divisions decided by meager point spreads and several upsets on the final race day. This year, Optimist Championship and Club 420 Championship divisions are the largest, each with 80 or more boats hitting the starting line. Winning in a fleet of that size will require focus, consistency, and in the case of the double- handed 420s, solid teamwork, particularly for those teams looking to punch their tickets to the national championships. The single-handed national junior championship qualifier will be decided within the 30-boat Laser Radial fleet.

The event provides a wealth of spectating and photo opportunities, particularly during Harbor Start when hundreds of sailboats will head out in what locals like to call “Marblehead rush hour.” Racing will take place in four separate areas off of Marblehead Neck.