Student-run sailing program competes nationally despite small size

Any boatsman would tell you that a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor, but for the PHS sailing team it seems a warm one never has either. Every fall and winter for the past six years the PHS sailing team, while not an official club or sport for the school, has managed to create a nationally recognized program, travelling to the ISSA National Championship in previous years while braving snow, long drives, and early mornings. The team is made up of six students, with two seniors, two juniors and two freshman rotating to participate in weekly competitions.

From right, Sophie Corrodi ’15, Ashley Dart ’16, Harrison Barfield ’17, and Nathan Drezner ’15 pose for a team photo between races on September 10. Photo: Bentley Drezner

From right, Sophie Corrodi ’15, Ashley Dart ’16, Harrison Barfield ’17, and Nathan Drezner ’15 pose for a team photo between races on September 10.
Photo: Bentley Drezner

The team was founded by a group of former PHS students, and has remained student-run. For weekend-long competitions, students drive to the event on Friday and compete over Saturday and Sunday. Common destinations for the team include Toms River Yacht Club, Shrewsbury Yacht Club, and the US Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut. The time commitment needed to attend a competition means that parents of sailors often need to help out with lodging and transportation.

“We normally carpool and because it’s such a small team we can all fit in one car. Normally our parents will rotate through [driving duty] so one parent will do one weekend … Our parents have been really great in helping us,” said Sophie Corrodi ’16.

A typical competition, or regatta, commences with the team rigging its boat. This process is followed by a sailor’s meeting, and then it’s out onto the water. Each regatta is split into two divisions, A and B, which sail at alternating times in the day. After the race is finished there is a brief awards ceremony, organized by the regatta officials, where places are announced. At qualifiers and large regattas, plaques are awarded to the top finishing teams. At the end of the day, each team is given the total amount of points based off of the finishing places during races held throughout the day. The objective is to have as few points as possible. Finishing in third and fourth place, for example, would earn the team 7 points.

After placing ninth at the NYISA-SE Fall Team Race Qualifier, the team qualified for the MASSA Fall Fleet Champs II – FORT MONROE Regatta, in Fort Monroe, Virginia. There it placed 13th out of 18 teams, and at the end of the day was ranked 31st out of 93 high schools in the Mid-Atlantic.

“We [got] to compete against a lot of teams that we normally don’t get to compete against. There [were] teams from Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania,” said Ashley Dart ’17.

A lack of a training venue nearby means that participants have to come into the team with a previous knowledge of sailing. Most athletes have been sailing for years, following their parents’ and family members’ love of the sport.

“I’ve always crewed for my dad because [he’s] a big sailor so throughout my life I’ve been sailing, but I only really got serious [about it] in high school,” said Sophie Corrodi ’16.

The variety of equipment needed to sail means that the team can only afford so much. The team members own most of the apparel, including a personal drysuit to keep out the frigid waters of the Mid-Atlantic. The rest of the equipment, such as the boat itself, is borrowed from the host venue.

Most of the team members split into two positions when sailing, with one person skippering, or steering, and controlling the mainsail and the other crewing, or controlling the jib and heel of the boat.

“Ashley, Nathan [Drezner ’16] and Harrison [Barfield ’17] are all skippers, [and] I’m a permanent crew member along with Ben Drezner [’19] and Christian Swanke [’19],” Corrodi said.

Sophie Corrodi ’16 and Harrison Barfield ’17 head upwind toward the start before a B-fleet race on September 10. Photo: Nathan Drezner

Sophie Corrodi ’16 and Harrison Barfield ’17 head upwind toward the start before a B-fleet race on September 10.
Photo: Nathan Drezner

High schools such as Christian Brother’s Academy, bring upwards of 20 athletes to each regatta from a team of 40, compared to the Little Tiger’s six athletes. Yet the team does not see its size as a disadvantage—in fact, it likes being small.

“Fortunately for us, because we only have around four people, we get to sail for the whole day,” Dart said.

Despite being small and self-run, the team continues to participate in national competitions, sustaining the program on individual commitments and experienced students.

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