Hou Caps Storied Summer With Sabot Nationals Win

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Joseph Hou, 11, was 1st overall at the 2011 Junior Sabot Nationals held in Newport Harbor last week. This is traditionally one of the toughest junior sailing events, and regularly attracts more than 150 of the top junior sailors from throughout Southern California. He is a 6th grader at Newport Elementary School, and sails for Newport Harbor Yacht Club. Photo by Lily Hou

Joseph Hou won three prestigious junior racing titles this summer.

Joseph Hou is 11 years old.

At 5:45 pm on Aug. 11, the 2011 Junior Sabot National Championship final results were posted. Hou had won by two points over San Diego Yacht Club’s Jack Ryan. A surreal moment, to say the least. This 11-year-old had battled Ryan, fellow Newport Harbor Yacht Club sailor Jimmy Madigan and SDYC sailor Scott Sinks, all veterans, for the title. Light breezes may have been a factor. However, young Hou kept his composure and didn’t let the pressure or the variable breezes get to him.

But, that wasn’t Hou’s only accomplishment this summer. Hou swept NHYC’s Summer Gold Cup with another close win in A fleet. Hou bested the veteran Madigan by only 1 point overall.

Then Hou turned around and dominated the Sabot II Invitational hosted by Mission Bay Yacht Club. Sailors 11 years old and younger compete for that coveted title, and this year Hou dominated the regatta. He won four out of the six races. Dropping a second place as his worst finish, Hou finished the Invitational with just six points overall. The next competitor, BCYC’s Max Mayol, had 18 points.

Clearly, Hou is a force to be reckoned with.

Hou began racing sabots in the Newport Harbor only two years ago. He kicked off his sailing career at Lido Isle Yacht Club in the beginner program. He rapidly moved up in fleets, passing quickly from C3 to the Sabot B flee. And just two years later, Hou showed serious promise in the Sabot A fleet. He also boasts being one of the youngest at that level.

His results show maturity and motivation.

At last week’s Sabot Nationals, he got off to a rough start – placing 12th in race one and 6th in races two and three. But he pushed on. Hou won race four, slowly creeping up on favorite Madigan’s heels. On day two of racing, Hou took a huge hit with a 21st–place in race five, forcing him to take that score as his throw-out, and putting an overall win in serious jeopardy. But as the last race began with the veteran Ryan in the lead, Hou did what he needed to do and took a fourth.

Scores were up in the air considering the light conditions and potential throw-outs across the board. The fourth-place finish in the last race was just enough. Hou narrowly took the win in Gold Fleet, just points ahead of second-place Ryan. Madigan took third.

Hou’s natural ability has been proved. Spectators and sailors alike wonder what he will accomplish next.

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