While most students devote their time to playing typical high school sports like soccer or basketball, some have spent their lives pursuing a more unique pastime: sailing. They navigate through rough water and violent winds, all while racing other ambitious sailors, longing to claim victory.
Head coach Bob France said high school sailing was not a common activity in the past, however, it has become more accessible in recent years.
“For a long time, all we had in Columbus was a junior racing program in the summer,” he said. “High school sailing came to Columbus about 10 years ago, so it’s still pretty new to the area.”
Sophomore Henry Elmore said he has been sailing with his family his entire life, but he started racing two years ago.
“When I started learning, I was really young, so it was actually stressful and scary because I didn’t really know what I was doing,” he said. “But once you get over your fear, it’s a lot of fun.”
The regular sailing season is the summer, Elmore explained. However, he said he wanted to put together a team to be able to participate in high school competitions in the fall and spring.
Elmore said the team practices at Leatherlips Yacht Club after school Mondays and Wednesdays. They sail and run drills for a few hours, usually focusing on a specific target skill each practice, he added.
“The sailors pay to participate, but our yacht club provides the venue and boats,” France said. “We also get donations.”
Freshman Hadley Langolf said she also grew up sailing with her family, so she was eager to join the high school team.
“I want to go to a college with a good sailing program,” Langolf said. “It’s something I’ll probably do for the rest of my life.”
Sophomore Owynn Lafollette started sailing towards the end of eighth-grade, long after her teammates, she said.
“It was definitely difficult because I started later, but I think I have learned how to adapt to the different challenges,” Lafollette said.
France explained that the team competes in regattas, series of sailing races, where the four sailors split into an A team and a B team.
“Two of them go out to sail two races together; then they come in and the other two sail two races,” he said.
In each race, the team finishing first earns one point, the second place team earns two points and so on, Langolf added.
“You add up the A team and B team’s scores for a total team score, and the team with the lowest points wins,” France said.
Elmore said he enjoys participating in these events to see and compete against friends he has met through sailing.
“My favorite part of sailing is how much control you have over your own boat since it’s just you in a boat with your crew,” Langolf said. “There are so many people around you, but all that matters is what’s going on in this fourteen-foot bubble.”
Sophomore Wren Ruckel said she takes in new information every time she sails, making it feel like one long learning process. Her involvement in the sport has helped her gain a strong sense of independence through the years, she added.
“You’re kind of isolated out there,” she said. “I mean there are other people near you, but you’re in charge of your own boat.”
The team is still fairly young, and they are continuously improving, France explained. He said they hope to find success in future regattas that could qualify them for larger regional events.
France said their main priority is to expand the team by finding more people who are interested in sailing.
“I hope that more people will join so it isn’t as stressful when we go into regattas,” Langolf added.
Since many people do not know about the team and how sailing works, they often underestimate how difficult it is, France said.
“It is a really strenuous and vigorous sport, so when you’re out on a blustery, wavy, cold day in November, it’s a challenge,” he said. “It’s not a Carnival cruise.”