By Lauren Wanko
For many along the Jersey Shore, it’s a hobby. However, for Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) students, sailing is a competitive sport. Michael Ehnot, who is on the varsity sailing team, said, “It’s just empowering, you feel connected with the air and the water.”
Twenty sailors are on the varsity team. It’s a dual season, which means students sail from September through November, break during the winter months and are back on the water March through June.
Varsity sailing team coach Jason Lutz said, “For high school purposes, we sail these two-man boats. They’re called club 420s, or collegiate 420s, and they are two-man. We have a skipper who steers the boat, a crew who kind of maintains his weight and does the jib sail in the front of the boat. And it’s a sport where you have to rely on wind. Sometimes it’s super windy, sometimes there’s no wind, so it’s a very condition-based sport.”
Lutz prepares his athletes for competitive races throughout the year.
He explained, “We have about 25 schools in our league, it’s called the New Jersey Interscholastic Sailing Association. Teams like Donovan Catholic, teams like Southern Regional, Red Bank Catholic they all have sailing teams or clubs. We owe a lot of credit back to the league for putting together a schedule that tests us.”
The local competition helped prepare these sailors for an even bigger race. This is the first year the CBA varsity sailing team qualified for the High School National Championship, held at MIT, in May. They finished fifteenth, but they had to finish in the top three in two prior events to even qualify for the nationals. Many of the teammates now compete on a college level, which is what Chris Magno on the varsity team will be doing this fall.
“My father got me into sailing when I really young and I love being out on the water,” he said.
The team practices at the Toms River Yacht Club and they use the Ocean County College fleet of boats. The sailors learn how to use their weight to properly balance the boat in order to maximize its speed through the water. You get upwind by tacking, which is turning the sail side-to-side, and then you get upwind and then go downwind, which is with the wind. So the course is typically you go up wind to a mark, you round mark and go downwind to another set of marks do that a couple times, then you go through a finish line.”
It’s not all about physical strength says Lutz. “The mental component is maybe even more paramount because it’s kind of a mind game, but kids need to learn how the read where the wind is on the water. You can see the dark spots on the water when it’s windier. The darker spots are the more windy spots on the water, the lighter spots on the water is usually where there is less wind, so the kids have to get pretty good at looking ahead to where they are going and seeing where do I want to go next,” Lutz said.
Many of these sailors also experience a sense of peace on the boat. Joseph LaForgia said, “The water is a calming thing distant from the rest of world. It kind of allows you to take refuge from all the stressors and factors that are in your normal life, kind of allow you to separate yourself from that.”
Ryan Mullins of the team said, “I like being out on the water. It’s a really cool sport to be out there.”
Lutz added, “It’s a sport you can literally do for the rest of your life.”
Though these athletes are focused are their upcoming races, which start next month.