Jack Barton raced on the Drake High (now Archie Williams) team all four years of high school. Back then, the team sailed out of the Richmond Yacht Club, making their way across the Richmond Bridge several times a week to train.
As Barton, 26, recalls with a smile, “It definitely wasn’t ideal, but we split the gas and toll among the team.”
Barton, 26, now a full-time sailing coach at the San Francisco Yacht Club (SFYC) in Belvedere, also spends two afternoons each week as a practice coach for the Redwood sailing team who train out of SFYC. He’s been helping prepare team members for this weekend’s Anteater Regatta, a Pacific Coast Interscholastic Sailing Association (PCISA) event which will be raced out of the Newport Harbor Yacht Club in Southern California.
High school sailing is different to club sailing mainly because the school kids sail as a team, Barton explained.
“There’s a lot of cohesion with a school team and more of a social focus. We pair different sailors together throughout racing depending on conditions and skill levels which gives the kids a mix of experience on the water, and a regatta result is a combined score of both A and B division teams.”
Redwood is currently one of two active high school sailing teams in Marin along with San Domenico (Marin Academy is in the process of re-grouping, according to Nellie Ross, team captain).
Some 90 schools in California and Hawaii are registered with PCISA, the west coast organizing body for high school sailing. Eligibility is open to students in eighth through 12th grades. The Northern California (NorCal) region runs up to ten regattas each school year and PCISA annually holds five regattas throughout the state.
Shawn Bennett, a SFYC member, has been behind the scenes with the Redwood team since his son Conner, now a senior, joined Redwood’s sailing team as a freshman. He’s been helping coach and chaperone the team to travel regattas.
“As a parent I was trying to stay away from the coaching part of it but last year during COVID when we wanted to get the program going again there was a shortage of coaches in part due to COVID protocols,” Bennett said. “The kids had been stuck for so long without anything going on, so I decided to jump in. We have a great group and its really rewarding to see some of these kids blossom through the experience.”
Bennett continued, “High school sailing feels a lot like college sailing in terms of the type of sailing we do, the types of boats we sail — doublehanded dinghies called “FJs” (Flying Juniors) — and the rules we sail under,” Bennett explained. “Anyone at high school who wants to sail can show up and sail.”
The Redwood team will be one of 60 high school teams at Anteater and Bennett is hopeful that the Marin team will do well.
“We’ve got a lot of good talent coming through and Redwood is certainly a team to beat in NorCal right now but there are seven teams in So Cal that could easily beat us,” he said. “A challenge is our training conditions – it’s hard for us to find consistent flat-water consistent lighter breeze conditions like the So Cal teams train in and where the kids are off the dock in five minutes with a productive practice going quickly. That’s not always the case here.”
Currently the roster at Redwood is 18 kids. Meeting at SFYC after school, a classic practice day for the Redwood team starts with rigging up, then discussing what skills they will work on that day. On the water, the boats up and start sailing upwind to work on whatever goals they’re targeting for about 1 1/2 hours of sailing.
“The high school sailing in California is competitive and tough,” Barton said. “The So Cal teams are super good so for us to go down there and compete with them this weekend is valuable experience.”
Allison Lee will be racing Anteater on the Redwood team this weekend. Her dad put she and her sisters into summer sailing camps as kids, but she didn’t sail much again until high school. Now a junior, she’s been on the sailing team since her freshman year.
“I wanted to do a sport outside of school, so I went back to sailing and I love the freedom of it,” Allison, 16, commented. “I try my best to learn more and be a helpful crew – I’ve been learning to look for puffs on the water, and in practices we’ve been working on boat handling like where to put our weight, and on race strategies, especially starts. I think our skippers are really good and our crews are working hard to do better this year so I think we should do well.”
Reid Willens, 18, a senior at Redwood, had always been interested in sailing having done camps when he was in middle school. He learned how to join the high school team through friends and has been on the team since he was a sophomore. Willens is now a skipper and has raced many NorCal events, enjoying that the team continues to improve in a large part due to the coaching they’re fortunate to receive.
“I like the tactical aspects of sailing and those skills that you need,” Willens, 18, said. “It’s also really interesting to me to understand the weather conditions and form a race plan from that. The feedback from our coaches is super helpful – they’ve taught me everything I know.”
– Regatta info at