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A Guide To Your First International Orange Bowl Regatta (Optimist Class)

Never Been To the Orange Bowl Regatta? Read This Guide!

In 2020 we covered the International Orange Bowl Youth Regatta in this video, and an accompanying article HERE. If you've never been to the regatta, and are attending for the first time this year we figured we'd put together a helpful guide to The Orange Bowl Regatta and the area with tips on parking, the format, racing and events surrounding the Orange Bowl. So take a seat and let's dive in!

A Brief History Of The OBIYR

Lester Johnson introduced the idea of a youth regatta on Biscayne Bay in Miami through the established name of the Orange Bowl Regatta in 1978. The purpose of the youth regatta was to organize a youth sporting event during a time when families were looking for a fun pastime during their winter break. The Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta has continued that tradition through today for the last 42 years. The regatta has grown from 450 youth sailors in 2002 to over 600 today. In the past five years, the Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta has reached higher international proportions, attracting competitors from 25 countries and from 29 states in the U.S. This is the largest youth sailing event in North or South America and the second largest event of its kind in the world. In the United States it is considered a top level regatta where Optimist sailors encounter International competition for the first time, and is considered by many Green Fleet Opti coaches as the "test" for graduating sailors to Championship Fleet.

Hosted By The Coral Reef Yacht Club

The Coral Reef Yacht Club was established in 1955 and has hosted the Orange Bowl Youth Regatta since 1978. CRYC is situated on a gorgeous property connected directly to Biscayne Bay and hosts several high-profile regattas yearly such as the Bacardi Cup and the Etchells Jaguar Series. No stranger to high level regattas, CRYC spares no expense in hosting the OB, connecting several sectors of the sailing world together from vendors to college teams.

The Venue

The racing venue is South Biscayne Bay which is pretty straightforward. The weather is driven by cold fronts approaching, and we don’t get as much breeze as we used to because the city’s grown so big. But generally, any breeze from the northeast around through the southwest is great sailing. From this direction, the breeze is usually under fifteen knots, with relatively flat water (chop but no swell). Spring and fall are the best seasons, because Miami doesn't get many fronts.

Dominant wind direction: easterlies

The old rule of thumb is still the case: if the wind’s to the left of the south end of Key Biscayne, you go left. Near the Key, from 120-160 degrees, there is a little more pressure closer to the end of the Key, and also a geographical shift off the land. How favored is somewhat current-dependent; from 70 degrees to 160 degrees with an outgoing current, then left is really good, what we call the “Old Man Highway”. Way down south of Matheson Hammock, there’s less left down there than there is closer to the point of Key Biscayne. So you have to keep in mind where you are on the Bay.


Understanding the current is very important. People think the current comes in and out of the Bay from the east, but it actually runs in and out from Bear Cut. If you get close to what we call the Valves, which are the channels through the shallow areas that on the chart are labeled Biscayne Flats, there is a component of current going in and out of there. But you have to be very close to the Valves for that to be the net effect. Otherwise, the current basically ebbs from the southwest to the northeast, and goes the opposite way when it floods.

As for the timing relative to high and low tide, it could be off by as much as an hour, so we recommend using the tide change hour as a gauge and then keep checking the buoys, all the time. Sometimes seaweed will show lines of current, but the safest bet is to keep checking the buoys and use points of reference on land.

Racing Format

The regatta is technically 5 days long, with 4 days of racing. Plenty of teams arrive a few days early in order to train in the venue, especially if they have not been able to sail much throughout the winter. The regatta is completely in a fleet racing format, with over 200 sailors in Championship Fleet and a Green Fleet 

College Night

A great feature of Orange Bowl is College Night, which unfortunately is not available to Optimist sailors because of regulations surrounding college sports recruiting, but older sailors are allowed to attend to get information from different College Sailing teams and learn about the process involved in college sailing. We recommend attending if you are past optimist age or are bringing a sibling that is sailing ILCA or some other boat as you can meet some of the coaches of different schools and get a sense of what could be next after youth ILCA and 420 sailing. 

2022 Edition

The 2022 Edition will again feature live drone video for the last two days of racing which will be made available on YouTube. This is an exciting addition to the Orange Bowl as it makes the racing viewable for parents and supporters if they are not out on the water viewing. The footage is also invaluable to coaches who can review it and use in debriefing their teams. If you're a coach, check out our 3 part Guide To Video Debriefs to maximize your time with the kids when it comes to reviewing sailing footage.


Unfortunately, parking has become more of an issue in Coconut Grove over the years as there has been much construction but no serious additions to parking space. In 2022 the garages at Grove Harbour will be available which should help parking around CRYC. 

We definitely recommend locating parking before the regatta starts, and leaving your car there if possible. Check out some parking lots and garages accessible to the public HERE

Useful Local Area Knowledge

Where's the Nearest? (Distances from Coral Reef Yacht Club)

Supermarket: The Fresh Market (0.3 miles)
2640 S Bayshore Dr, Miami, FL 33133

Gas Station: Flagship Shell (0.8 miles)
2775 SW 28th Terrace, Miami, FL 33133

Boat Ramp: Seminole Boat Ramp (0.7 miles)
2710 S Bayshore Dr, Miami, FL 33133

Coffee Shop: Panther Coffee (1.0 miles)
3407 Main Hwy, Miami, FL 33133

Starbucks: (0.3 miles)
2550 S Bayshore Dr, Miami, FL 33133

Places Of Interest

Coconut Grove Metrorail Station (Trains to Dadeland and Downtown Miami) 1.6 miles
2780 SW 27th Ct, Miami, FL 33133

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens (3.0 Miles) 17 minutes away by Train 
3251 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33129

CocoWalk and Downtown Coconut Grove (1.0 mile)
3015 Grand Ave, Coconut Grove, FL 33133

The Barnacle State Park (1.3 miles)
3485 Main Hwy, Miami, FL 33133

Our Recommended Restaurants (family and kid friendly)

Bombay Darbar Indian Restaurant - great prices and food
Taco Way - Our pick for varied and tasty Mexican food at a reasonable price
GreenStreet Café - Classic Grove establishment with a varied menu great for families
Atchanas Homegrown Thai - best Thai food in the grove and accommodates large parties. 
Lokal - Family and pet friendly burger spot
Mister O1 Pizza - Best sit down pizza in the grove 
Sushi Maki Coconut Grove - Right next door to CRYC, sushi and all the Japanese-American classics
Varsol By Akashi - alternative to Sushi Maki, in downtown Coconut Grove

Our Top Tips For The OB

  1. Park Early - Walk Often
  2. Sleep! 4 days of racing takes a toll especially on novice Opti sailors
  3. Check up on the Notice Board as they post important information virtually online
  4. Take a few minutes to see the tide tables for the day (current has a big effect on Biscayne Bay)
  5. GET RESERVATIONS ahead of time. Restaurants fill up very quickly as Coconut Grove is now a big foodie spot
  6. Double check your bill at the end of the meal - more and more restaurants add a service charge so you will be tipping on top of the service charge. 
  7. Check out Vizcaya and The Barnacle - great spots to spend time at. 
  8. Make friends! There will be so many teams and groups from all over the world there so its a good opportunity for sailors and coaches. 

Final Thoughts

The Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta is a certifiable unique event that offers a lot to competitors, 4 days of racing over Christmas break is a great way to keep your game sharp and test against some of the best in the Americas. Could it become a mini Pan-American regatta? Maybe!


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