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JR. SAILING PROGRAM

Dear Jr. Sailing Community,

I grew up in a family of sailors. My first outing was on my Grandfather’s Ericson 46, one of a series of boats which he very successfully raced on the Great Lakes and Southern Ocean Racing Circuit in the 1970s. I was 11 days old. So, as you might guess, I grew up racing sailboats. I raced primarily on the Great Lakes, but eventually competed and coached in regattas of all kinds across the country and on four continents. 
 
I joined my first youth sailing program at age five, sailing wooden Optimist Dinghies. In my teens, I sailed FJ’s and 420’s but primarily Lasers. Standout events from my years in youth sailing were medaling at CORK (Canadian Olympic-Classes Regatta at Kingston), finishing 2nd at the Smyth Cup (US Sailing’s Youth Single Handled National Championship), and winning the North American Championship in the Open Division (all ages) of the One Design 14 Class when I was just 15. At the same time, I raced on larger keel boats, primarily North American 40’s and the hyper competitive International 50 Foot Class, including in two World Championships. 
 
I coached in college as my alma mater did not have a sailing team. I still competed in both dinghies and keelboats in those years, inshore and offshore, including several Queen’s Cups and Mackinac races. As an adult, I campaigned a Melges 24—competing at several National Championships, Key West Race Weeks, King’s Cups and many others. 
 
In 2014, I purchased the first of several Fareast 28R sport boats I’ve owned, all named Eagle’s Eye, and have been racing competitively in East Coast regattas between Nantucket Sound and Florida, including Charleston Race Week, Key West Race Week, and the National Offshore One Design (NOOD) circuit of events.

An especially rewarding season was 2016, which I devoted to campaigning with a youth crew, led by a 105-pound, 14-year-old helmswoman and no crew over 17 years old. We won the Sailing World Trophy at Key West Race Week, which recognizes the best overall finish by any boat, in any division, with an average crew age under 30. That season concluded with a trip to the 23R World Championship in Shanghai, China, where we placed 6th. 
 
From 1989 to 2020, every job I held, or business I owned, was connected to sailing and typically focused on youth sailing.
 
If asked about my best memories from a life spent on the water, it has nothing to do with racing. It’s when I was trusted to take the midnight to 6am watch on Nitissima, 15 years old, alone on deck with no land in sight, nothing but stars and the red glow of the compass light and her six-foot carbon wheel in my hand. Or when I was five, and met my best friend on the way to sailing class on the very first day. I knew where he was going and that we would be friends, because he had the same stupid orange life jacket over his bike’s handlebars, just like me. We had a sleepover that night and were inseparable for two decades and are still friends over 40 years later. 

As an adult, it’s almost exclusively about the friends, camaraderie, and misadventures. The happiest I’ve ever seen my father? The day he, as “Admiral,” saw his three adult sons each captaining a bareboat catamaran in Belize, crewed by friends and family, safely and competently under the command of his boys, suspecting that he had won the end game of parenting, while my brothers and I felt the pride that only your father’s approval can provide. Happiest moment as a father? Could be my four-year-old daughter taking me (6’4”, 200lbs.) for a sail in her Opti on a windy day on Lewis Bay, smiling and wearing a pink velvet tutu.
 
We don’t send our kids to sailing class to win trophies. We do it because doing things that are hard and take years or decades to master are worth doing. We do it because our children should understand and meet the overwhelming power of wind and water and know that it can’t be controlled, but it need not control them. We teach seamanship to impress on them the value of meticulous care, preparation, and technical skill, things that will lead to success in a world of constant and unexpected challenges. And most importantly, sailing is really fun!
 
Sincerely,
Matt Wake
HPYC Junior Sailing Program Director

Registration for Summer 2022 is now open!