To the editor:
Interscholastic sailing is a relatively new sport in Gloucester and Rockport, despite our history as a maritime community and widespread racing at yacht clubs during the summer.
There is, in fact, a school sailing team that competes with high schools from Winthrop to Brookline.
Sail GHS is not sailing at the high level of the much longer established team at Manchester Essex Regional High School, but this year the team finished its season with a record of 2-5, a good start for a relatively new program.
The type of race that Sail GHS participates in consists of six boats competing around a triangular course with three boats per team. Each boat is manned by a crew of two, with the skipper in charge and the crew operating in concert but controlling a different sail.
The skipper controls the tiller (steering) and the main sail (the larger of two sails), while the crew deals with the jib (the smaller sail located in the front). Both skipper and crew generally sit on the same side of the boat and try to keep it level, and in high winds hike out over the side of the boat to keep it from capsizing. When heading away from the wind, the crew sits in the middle while the skipper stays on the side.
At all times during a race, each team is attempting to gain position over the other, either by taking their wind, forcing the the other team off course, or by passing other boats when possible.
Sailing is an extremely competitive sport, with the drive to win often the deciding factor in close races. It is very common to hear racers from opposing teams yelling at each other for the right of way.
The rush you get from sailing fast in wind that could easily knock the boat over is pretty high on the thrill scale. If positioned correctly, it's possible to literally surf swells in high winds, pushing the boat to speeds that can be scary. This only happens when going with the wind, but it is sometimes even more fun heading into the wind.
If the sails are trimmed correctly and the sailors are in the right positions, the boat will heel over to ridiculous angles and move almost as fast as the fastest swell will carry it. When this happens, the crew and skipper must hike out far over the edge of the boat to keep it from capsizing.
Although high school sailing is a relatively new sport in this town, it is worth a look. It can be more fun than imagined if you haven't tried it, and is definitely more competitive than one might imagine.
At the very least, it is good experience for a student in Gloucester and is well worth the effort. Any student or parent who is interested should contact Patti Page, the program administrator, at firstname.lastname@example.org
High Street, Rockport