In many ways, the young sailors of the Naples Community Sailing Center are like athletes in every other sport. They train three days a week, they have to be quick, and have good hand eye coordination. Although they are quite similar, their playing field isn’t a grass field, hardwood floor or ice; it’s the open water.
The Naples Community Sailing Center (NCSC) Youth Racing Team consists of boys and girls up to 15 years old. At that age, the sailors use an optimist boat. These boats are small, single-handed sailing dinghies and are intended for sailors under the age of 15. There is not much time in the year where the team isn’t training and according to coach Chip Page, that’s not a problem.
“They can spend countless hours out on the water,” said Page.
The team trains on Naples Bay nearly year-round. Their practice begins with Page conducting drills where the young sailors practice turning and how to work with the wind, which can change at any moment. If they make a mistake, they’re back to the starting line again with some coaching from Page.
“At that age, their mind is more like a sponge,” said C.C. Cramer, the instructor for first year racers.
In competitive sailing, the countless hours of training goes toward getting ready for a regatta. A regatta consists of several teams competing against each other in a race on open water. For a lot of the young sailors in the NCSC fleet, the United States Optimist Dinghy Association (USODA) Southeast Championship will be their first regatta. The race, which takes place on Marco Island Oct. 7-10, will be a culmination of all the training the team has done. One of the key attributes these sailors will have learned is independence. Even though they practice as a team, they are racing against each other.
“You’re in control out there,” said Cramer.
The team will be facing national and some international competition in the race and the race is where the coaching pays off, according to Cramer.
“To watch a kid go through the finish line in the top three and the feeling they get, the excitement, runs through me,” said Cramer.
The sailing isn’t over for a lot of these kids after their time on the NCSC Racing Team. Page has coached sailors that are now in collegiate programs, some in the Naval Academy, and others training for Olympic campaigns. The learning never stops, but a lot of it started in Naples Bay.
“They’re great learners,” said Page. “They’re fearless, they love the water and they’re durable.”
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Connect with Scott McIntyre at www.naplesnews.com/staff/scott-mcintyre/