HomeCommunityYouth sailors navigate practice and regattas during time of social distance and shortened days

Youth sailors navigate practice and regattas during time of social distance and shortened days

Published Nov. 12, 2020

BY KEA YENGST

While the lingering impacts of COVID-19 have made certain youth activities questionable, others are continuing practicing and competing in the offshore sport they love: sailing. 

The Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club has continued holding practices for junior sailors in grades 6-12. Safety protocols include mandatory mask-wearing in places where social distancing isn’t applicable and changing the type of boat used while practicing out in the bay. Protocols even apply to regattas, a series of sailing races open for competition. 

Marina Hobson leans in for success as she tacks the Laser to a different direction. (Photo by Michael Fiala)

“We would be doing regattas against other schools and practicing twice a week, but because of the pandemic, we now practice in single boats,” says Dave MacEwan, a program director for MPYC. “[Youth sailors] were practicing twice a week, but now they practice once a week on Saturdays due to changes in daylight savings.”

In a normal week, students would come to the yacht club to practice after school around 4 p.m. twice a week. Fortunately for Nathan Muck, a Carmel High School senior affiliated with MPYC, the change in the practice schedule comes to an advantage, especially in regards to his schoolwork or other activities. 

“Because it’s one day a week, it’s not hard to manage practice with my other classes,” Muck says. “Practices were switched to Saturdays where we practice in two parts from 11:30 to 4. We still practice well into shore, but they aren’t really that out into the ocean.” 

Flying Juniors, known by MPYC sailors as FJ’s, are sailboats that can hold up to three people at a time. Due to COVID-19, the yacht club switched to Laser boats, which are lighter twelve-foot-long sailboats that can carry only one person. This change of direction for the MPYC came as a surprise for sailors and directors with the lingering effects of the pandemic, especially with the shelter-in-place order earlier this year. 

“The pandemic hit towards the end of the sailors spring program, so the question was what to do for our summer sailing program,” MacEwan says. “Normally, we would have around 150 kids of all experience enrolled, but this year we had a smaller program with only around 13 kids involved, all of which are more experienced with sailing.”  

Meanwhile, some of the more experienced sailors go to regattas farther away from Monterey Bay, like CHS junior Dante Fiala, who recently participated in a Santa Cruz regatta. As an avid sailor for MPYC, Fiala has been sailing since the age of 9 and has been able to balance academics and sailing. 

“I went sailing five times a week, and during this time, time management was important for finishing assignments on time,” Fiala says. “I took the bus to and from practice, and frequently found myself waiting at the bus stop for over 40 minutes.” 

The Monterey-Salinas transit system only ran once every hour, making it difficult for Fiala to go to and from home with just enough time to complete any necessary classwork.

Quinn Weisenfeld, a CHS freshman and experienced sailor, has also gone through the MPYC summer program and sees little difference in practice routines. 

“Nothing has really changed that much with the pandemic,” Weisenfeld says. “It’s still pretty much the same except with masks.” 

Of course, the pandemic and seasonal daylight savings have not prevented the MPYC from planning more regattas for the upcoming year. With their newest shipment of Lasers from earlier in the year, regattas in the coming weeks are looking more promising. 

“There are still regattas going on, ” MacEwan says. “Over the summer and fall, we did two regattas, and we might just do a small regatta with our team on [Saturday], but we have nothing else planned right now due to daylight savings.”

With sailors still diligently practicing the sport they love, it won’t be much of a surprise to see sailors cruising along the Pacific Ocean in the upcoming months. 

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