For the last four years, the San Pedro High School Sailing Team has been stronger than ever, with a dedicated team that has beat many well-funded and private schools. San Pedro High School (SPHS) is a Title 1 school that serves a higher number of a lower-income population.
The sailing team began approximately 15 years ago and is run through a partnership with the Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club. The Club provides a wide range of youth sailing year-round to all interested children and schools in the area. Participants do not need to own a boat or be a member of the yacht club to sail.
“The CBYC Youth Sailing Foundation grants more scholarships than most yacht clubs. Economics [do] not limit how often somebody can sail here,” says Alex Smith, junior sailing manager.
The team practices after school twice a week off Cabrillo Beach in an area nicknamed Hurricane Gulch, known for strong winds and flat waters. Practicing in forceful winds gives SPHS an advantage over other schools that do not have as much wind where they are based. Sailors share that sailing may seem like a calm sport but, in actuality, can be exhilarating.
The students sail in FJs, two-person boats with a skipper who drives and a crew member. There are also opportunities to use larger boats as the team learns all aspects of sailing. The sailing team competes up and down the coast of California in a series of races called regattas. Earlier this month in Long Beach, they placed first in the Silver Division out of 18 teams across Southern California and Arizona.
Many of the students from the high school team were introduced to sailing at CBYC’s summer camp and Friday Sailing Program, open to youth ages 7-18. Camp sessions are one to two weeks, and the price is typically less than daycare. All CBYC Junior instructors are certified by US Sailing. Coaches that grew up attending the youth programs often come home from college in the summer to work at Summer Sailing.
Cade Morris, head coach, started sailing at CBYC Summer Sailing when he was seven. Working at CBYC was his first job, coaching in the summer. Through sailing, he learned about the college he attended, College of Charleston, where he sailed on their variety team.
He has come full circle, returning to CBYC to work after graduation. “Sailing has offered a lot for me. There are many opportunities, [including] networking with people from all walks of life. It is great to be at a job that I love,” says Morris.
“When younger kids start sailing in our programs, they are in a one-person boat called an Opti. They learn to be fully independent and self-reliant,” states Smith. “When they sail with two people, they use teamwork, communication, and independence as they make a wide range of decisions while not relying on the coach when they race. There is no radio on the boat during the regattas, so it is up to the sailors to decide what side of the course they will go on or when to make a maneuver.”
The SPHS team is independent and self-funded, with little to no expenses for San Pedro High School. The students are learning life skills on the water and off while competing from San Diego to San Francisco. SPHS does not recognize sailing as a sport, while more affluent schools like Palos Verdes do. It creates obstacles for the team, and it’s why they are a club. They are hopeful this will change in the future.
To learn more about CBYC youth programs, visit cbyc.org or call (310) 519-1694. San Pedro High School Sailing can be contacted through Instagram @sphs_sailing. SPHS Sailing is open to students grades 8-12, and practices are open to anybody wanting to try it out. spt