Northern Vermont High School Sailing Team: a sailor’s delight

Members of the Northern Vermont High School Sailing Team wait for the countdown of the race to begin during last year’s home regatta. Photo by Sarah Lavoie
Members of the Northern Vermont High School Sailing Team wait for the countdown of the race to begin during last year’s home regatta. Photo by Sarah Lavoie

By Sheri Duff

The Northern Vermont High School Sailing Team set sail for the fall season on Aug. 24. Hosted by the Community Sailing Center and under the direction of its Associate Director, Jen Guimaraes, coached by Colin “Tanner” Proctor, assisted by Brian Baker and Pierre Dillon, 45 teens sail the beautiful waters of Lake Champlain three times a week practicing skills and competing most weekends with other high school sailing teams throughout New England.

The conglomerate Northern Vermont High School Sailing Team is made up of sailors from Champlain Valley Union, Burlington, South Burlington, Rice, Essex, Colchester and Montpelier who sail internationally sanctioned 420s during the eight-week season. The 420 is a two-person boat. One person is the skipper and the other is the crew.

Between the two roles, students learn important life skills, Guimaraes said. “They learn how to give and receive instruction,” she said. “And unlike other sports, the sailing team bridges the gender and school gap. It’s unique because it brings a diverse group of students together.”

CVU junior Alex Merrill said, “I enjoy sailing in the fall because it’s usually pretty windy. When the wind picks up, you really get moving out there.”

Merrill, 16, has been sailing since the age of 8, so the team was a natural progression for this student. Merrill is joined by two dozen other CVU students who help fill the sailing team’s roster.

Emma Hawko of Shelburne said sailing sounded fun so she decided to give it a try. “My dad sails for the Navy, so I’ve been sailing for four or five years,” she said. “I like meeting the kids. Not just the CVU kids, but the kids from other schools too. My favorite part about the team is that I get to sail at least three times a week. It’s an outlet for competition.”

Everyone on this year’s team has sailing experience but beginners are also welcome, Merrill said. While the team has already competed in regattas in Portland, Maine and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., the team will host a home regatta on Burlington’s Waterfront Oct. 3 and 4.

“Community Sailing Center’s mission over the past 20 years has been to eliminate barriers and create access to Lake Champlain,” Guimaraes said. “Our goal is to instill a sense of stewardship of the lake, and not just to the high school sailing team, but to all members of the community.”

For more information call 864-2499 or visit www.communitysailingcenter.org.

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