By Gavin Menu
Far from any video game, smartphone, house chores or homework, students from the Ross School, Pierson and East Hampton High School gather on fall afternoons to rip across the water in Sag Harbor Bay. Just outside the breakwater and beyond Sag Harbor’s fleet of multi-million dollar yachts, the sport of high school sailing is alive and well.
“I practically live here,” said Wyatt Moyer, a student at Ross who is on both the fall and spring sailing teams and participates in the Breakwater Yacht Club Junior Sailing Program during the summer months.
While many of their friends play more traditional interscholastic sports like soccer or field hockey, members of the local sailing teams call Breakwater their home base and travel to competitive regattas across Long Island.
Moyer and four other Ross students, along with five sailors from East Hampton and two from Pierson, currently make up a collective team from the East End. They also compete, at times, as individual schools depending on whether a regatta is structured as a team event or designed for individual boats.
“More are welcome and recruiting is in process, possibly with sailors from Southampton, Bridgehampton, Sagaponack, even Riverhead,” said Sean Elliot, the sailing director at Breakwater. “High school sailing at Breakwater is open to anybody middle school and up who is interested in getting involved.”
Sailors on Monday took advantage of 18-knot wind gusts and jockeyed for position during a series of practice races, which take place daily from 4 to 5:30 p.m., rain or shine. Watching from the club’s usual race committee boat, Elliot spoke about a student who walked into the club cold a week ago, said he was tired of sitting around after school every day and hasn’t missed a day of practice since.
“A lot of the kids who come out stick with it, and that’s basically what the club is all about,” Elliot said about Breakwater, which charges junior sailors just $30 per year to become members, with no additional costs to be a part of the sailing team. “Rather than sitting around on the couch, they’re out here on the water learning to sail. It’s an amazing experience.”
Breakwater also serves as host for the high school spring season, which is much larger, according to Elliot, with about 25 sailors expected to compete starting in March of next year. The fall season runs until Thanksgiving, even as temperatures begin to plummet.
“You’d be surprised what some of these kids can endure,” Elliot said, adding that the club helps with equipment and foul-weather gear.
The team this fall will attend regattas at The Stony Brook School and The Waterfront Center in Oyster Bay, with Elliot and two other coaches— Martin Monteith and Dwight Curtis, who are both from Ross—hoping to compete with The East End Youth Sailing Foundation, which is based out of the Old Cove Yacht Club on the North Shore and is the home base of the Mattituck High School sailing team.
“High school sailing is booming nationwide and we are glad to help promote it to the fullest extent,” Elliot said. “Besides being a great sport for young sailors, building confidence and team unity, it is also great for the their college applications. College coaches are consistently checking on local high school events and we have some great connections at that level.”
Students interested in getting involved can call Breakwater at (631) 725-4604.
Adults on The Water Too
Breakwater’s Wednesday Night Fall Series will come to a conclusion next week as the club’s bigger boats continue to battle for local bragging rights. Fred Stelle sailed Witchli to a win in Division 1 last Wednesday, September 17, posting a corrected time of 47:28. David Betts and Charlene Kagel, aboard Instant Karma, finished second in 49:24 and Lee Oldak, aboard Purple Haze, finished third in 50:22.
In Division 2, it was Jim Smyth and Derrick Galen sailing White Lightning to victory with a corrected time of 50:07. Osprey, captained by George Martin, finished second in 51:28 while Wave Equation and captains Bruce Dinsmore and Joan Worthing finished third in 56:46.