April 2 will see the first race of the Stamford city-wide high school sailing team. It is not only the first regatta of the season, but the first since the team’s inception earlier this year.
The team is sponsored by the Stamford Youth Foundation, in partnership with the , and includes 13 high school students — both male and female — from , , , the , and . Earlier this year the team was accepted into the Fairfield County Sailing League, which is comprised of ten teams and six yacht clubs from neighboring towns. The team began after a group of parents and students expressed interest in having a competitive sailing team, and with support from the Stamford Youth Foundation, Stamford Yacht Club, Young Mariners Foundation, and parents and faculty throughout the city, the idea became a reality.
“The support from the community has been overwhelming,” said Mark Ryan, program director for the sailing team and a member of the Stamford Yacht Club. According to Ryan, the amount of volunteers to help the team in coaching, safety, and administrative tasks is a 4:1 ratio to the students on the team.
Jamie Perkins, a teacher at Darien High School, coaches the sailing team. “This has been a huge community involvement. We have a long time heritage with Long Island Sound and sailing,” said Perkins. “Sailing is both cognitively and physically very challenging, so students really thrive on their time on the water.”
“This is another great piece that the Stamford Youth Foundation can add to their portfolio. I think this will be a wonderful opportunity for students to learn and compete in an area that they might not have been able to before,” said Superintendent Joshua Starr at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting.
Also present at the Board of Education meeting was Peter Gunn, program director of the Young Mariners Foundation in Stamford. The Young Mariners Foundation is a nonprofit organization that helps low-income students learn to swim, sail, and teaches math, science, and social studies maritime lessons—which all align with Connecticut state standards. The foundation partners with five elementary schools in Stamford and continues to work with students through middle school. According to Gunn, the racing team is a way for students to continue sailing into high school and utilize what they’ve learned competitively.
“This will give students the opportunity to do some racing and sailing that they wouldn’t normally; have because they don’t belong to yacht clubs,” said Gunn. “This is a great experience and a tremendous opportunity that you’ve afforded children in this town.”
One problem, says Priscilla Young, development director at the Young Mariners Foundation, is the high fee of $1,000 to join the high school team.
“There’s a high cost for being on the team. Hopefully there will be some scholarship aid for low-income kids that have the capability, interest and would be a benefit to the team, but don’t have $1,000,” said Young.
Ryan said that through the Stamford Youth Foundation, students that are on free or reduced-price lunch programs receive a 25 percent discount to their programs. One scholarship of $500 was also offered to students.
There are currently 13 coed students on the sailing team, although Ryan says there is still a small window of time for other student sailors to join.
“We’re thinking that 16-18 students are the right number for the team. Ideally, in the future, if we had a large audience coming we would have tryouts and cuts like any other varsity team,” said Ryan. “Most of the students have prior experience, but it’s not necessary and there’s certainly room for novice sailors.”
While spring is the racing season, come fall members involved with the team are hoping to see it expand to allow more time for students to learn to sail.
“People want to see this happen and we’re throwing around a lot of ideas right now. It’s been going at a really quick pace,” said Ryan. “It’s going to continue and build over the next couples of years.”