My competitive sailing career is fast moving, exciting and takes me all around the world at 17 years old…but it all started when I was 8 and had my first introduction to dinghy sailing at the Cleveland Yachting Club’s Sail Camp!
Since my siblings are all 7 and 8 years older than I am, my earliest memories of summer were of them getting excited as they got dressed and grabbed their life jackets to head down to CYC for sail camp. As each year passed, and I got older I can remember wanting to be 8 so that I could go to CYC and sail a boat for myself! When the time came and I was old enough to join camp I can remember going down to the cub for the signup party, meeting other kids my age who were going to be at camp and talking to everyone about how amazing the summer was going to be.
That first summer, I climbed into an Optimist Dinghy and I fell in love! Making friends who were all on boats, in charge of our own destination (and struggling to get there with no knowledge of boathandling or sail trim). We were amazed at the freedom, at the chance to go out in the river and chase ducks around. We even got to sail windward-leeward “club champ” races each Friday! I made the best friends ever and we all had so much fun taking control of our destiny and getting the freedom of the Island and hearing the call of the wind for the first time in our lives!
That introduction into the sport of sailing taught me a ton of lessons. Some about sailing, but as I look back today I realize that most of what I learned about at sail camp were lessons about life. It is important to keep your boat “ship shape”, you have to clean your own boat and make sure it is ready to sail before you put her to bed at the end of the day. I clean boat is a happy boat, the more junk you leave in your boat today, the slower it is tomorrow. Shipmates are forever, I met so many new kids at CYC that summer, and most of them are my best friends today. Getting there is only half the battle, running down the river with the breeze at your back may be fun, but you are going to have to turn around and sail back up river so you best know how to trim that sail and tack to stay in the breeze! CYC Sail Camp was the beginning of my sailing career. It was the beginning of my independance and it was the start of my lifelong love of competitive sailing. Most of all, camp was the place where I learned that I could achieve anything at all in life as long as I was willing to work hard to make it happen!
Sailing Optimist Dinghies has literally taken me around the world. From sailing in the North Basin to the Rocky River and then onto the I-LYA Travelers Series (did you know that the Optimist is the largest fleet at most I-LYA regattas?) I have sailed across the USA from Boston to Seattle and from Lake Michigan to the Florida Keys. My foundation in sailing at CYC Sail Camp gave me the skills and the drive to make the US National Team and sail Optis in Europe, the Caribbean, South America and the Middle East. Every place I sailed, I made new friends. Every time I travelled I knew that it was sailing in the Rocky River that jump started my passion for sailing.
Today I know that it was CYC Sail Camp that gave me the foundation that I have carried with me throughout my sailing career, and it is that foundation that gave me the strength, the drive and the ambition to sail an competitive Olympic Campaign for the Rio Games in 2016. Today I am on the water 5 days a week year round training with top coaches and competing against the best sailors in the world! I sail in fierce conditions ranging from 4 knots and calm seas up to 30 knots with huge 18 foot rolling seas, and I love every minute of it. I am living the life today that every 8 year old at camp dreamed about the first day we set that first Optimist into the water and learned how to put the mast in the step and clip the mainsheet onto the boom! I am sailing every day and working my way towards Olympic Gold in our sport!
Sailing is a little bit like work today. Early mornings, long debriefs, sailing in ugly conditions and meeting with endless managers, coaches, trainers and advisors to get me to sail at my best and to become the number 1 sailor in the world. But all of that is okay because I love every minute of my life! I am competing in the best sport ever and am sailing with legends in the sport as we all work to better ourselves and strive for Olympic Glory in Rio! I travel to 15 countries during the course of a typical year in my Olympic Campaign and I sail in some of the most amazingly beautiful and challenging venues on our planet. The lessons I have learned through this sport are all lessons that I will have with me for the entirety of my life, and they all started when I was 8 years old at Sail Camp at Cleveland Yachting Club. I know that the sign up party is coming up in about a week, and that camp will fill up quickly as it does every year. I strongly encourage every young person to find a local sailing program and spend your summer on a boat. The friends you make and the dreams you create on the sea will stick with you throughout your life and you will have memories that you will never forget from your first summer on the water! Sailing is the most awesome sport in the world and sailors you meet will be part of your life…forever! Sign up for sail camp today!
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