SCYC’s Sailing Program is Picking Up Speed
Author: Becca Edwards
Newman would also tell you sailing is a family sport. “With sailing, it is not like you have one kid in baseball, one in soccer. Usually, if one sails, they all sail. The whole family gets involved.”
After having married a sailor who convinced me to raise our girls as sailors, I can vouch for the family bonding aspect of sailing—from racing to cruising. Every time I watch my daughters—beaming with confidence as the breeze turns their ponytails into wind indicators—pull in lines, adjust the sails or take a turn at the helm, I am reminded how beneficial it is for children to commune with nature.
Newman, who has been sailing since age 12, is the seafaring bi-product of a youth who is all the better for having learned to sail. “I grew up in upstate New York and started sailing on the Finger Lakes. Sailing is a sport that teaches you about yourself, how to be weather conscious and how to dedicate yourself to something,” he said.
Since Newman’s hire last October, the junior sailing program at the SCYC has been picking up speed. Numbers have quadrupled in the past year from 40 youths to 137. SCYC now also trains a sailing team and competes in SAYRA (South Atlantic Yacht Racing Association). “We are excited to be getting kids as young as eight. They love being on the water and we are able to mold them to where they want be,” Newman said.
In summer, participants practice Monday through Friday and compete Saturday and Sunday; in winter, they practice on Friday and then compete on Saturday. Parents like Dennis Monts have really seen a difference in their children’s command over the sport. “As a result of the SCYC junior sailing program, our children have developed what I expect to be a life-long love of sailing and water sports. Their skills have developed tremendously over time, but most importantly, they have found many friendships, work ethic and a lot of fun along the way,” Monts said. (Note: Monts’ son, Matthew Monts earned a spot on the U.S. Optimist Team.)
In November, Newman collaborated with Zim sailing and was able to revive an OPTI (Optimist Pram Team Invitational) racing regatta. The race brought in international competitors, pitting SCYC against such esteemed yacht clubs as Fishing Bay Yacht Club, Chicago Yacht Club, Florida Yacht Club, Royal Canadian Yacht Club, and Edgewater Yacht Club. Even though Fishing Bay Yacht Club won the regatta, the press from the event awakened people to the fact that Hilton Head is an ideal place for future regattas—and not just junior racers.
Did you know we have some of the best sailors in the world living here? Chuck Millican, who is originally from Bermuda, is an Olympian, and John Rumsey, who recently started a youth sailing program at the Hilton Head Island Community Rowing and Sailing Center, is an America’s Cup champion. These guys have more than salty stories to share. They have the prestige and the experience to continually bring in high caliber racers and events.
“We have hidden gem rock stars living here,” Newman said. “And they are helping to put [Hilton Head] on the map for sailing.” During the Harbor-20 East West Challenge, which again brought in big name yacht clubs from places such as Santa Barbara, Newport and Annapolis, Chuck Millican and Ned Nielsen, another well-known sailor, brought home the trophy—proving Hilton Head to be a fierce competitor.
As the SCYC sailing program continues to gain momentum, Newman says there has been an explosion of purchased boats by members, therefore expanding the SCYC fleet and the number of people, regardless of age, who are ready to get their feet wet sailing. “More and more we are seeing a new and upcoming group of young adults coming out for the Wednesday night Harbor-20 races every week,” he said.
This also bodes well for other local yacht clubs and sailing centers. Surprisingly, many people do not associate Hilton Head Island with sailing. Sure, we are known for our beaches, our golf courses and as of late our “Gold Award” biking community. But many people are not aware that Calibogue Sound is the “boom vang.” (Okay, so a boom vang is a line that runs from the boom to the base of the mast, but you get the point.) Beyond being pristine and beautiful, Calibogue checks off all the sailing must haves: It’s protected, it’s deep water, it’s navigable and it’s large enough to be maneuverable. “We’re a boater’s paradise,” Newman said. “We are a day sail to Savannah, Charleston or Beaufort. We’re five miles from the Intracoastal Waterway. We have great southerly winds in the summer and northerly winds in the winter. And it doesn’t hurt that there are tons of dolphins.”
If Hilton Head continues on this course, and more and more people recognize us as a sailing destination, islanders like Newman and myself believe we will not only elevate our tourism industry, but the type of people traveling here. This will contribute to Hilton Head Island’s mission to establish itself as a lifestyle community, which as the sailing expression goes, would be “fair winds and following seas” (i.e. a good fortune).