JOHNSBURG – Treading water next to a turtled sailboat, three Johnsburg High School students grabbed the keel, using their weight to pull it onto its side and eventually right side up.
Flipping the sailboat was scary at first, 17-year-old Christy Corbeil said, but by her third day on the brand-new Johnsburg High School sailing team, she was volunteering to practice the maneuver.
The exercise did its job, teaching the new sailors the limits of the boat and exorcising fears, assistant sailing instructor Cortney Kingsley said.
The team is sponsored by the Community Sailing School @ Pistakee, which hopes to get teams going at other area high schools, said Tom Kartheiser, who led the effort to rebrand and open up the sailing school last summer and sits on the school’s five-member board of directors.
That first summer, the sailing school had 70 enrollees in its weekly classes, which are open to kids as young as four years old to adults, Kartheiser said. This past summer the number increased to 147.
Capitalizing on the growth, the school approached District 12 about creating a competitive sailing team, and after receiving the go-ahead from the administration, sailing school representatives attended freshman orientation where they were “mobbed,” Kartheiser said.
That’s where junior Jack DeStephano heard about it.
He was volunteering and having never been out on a sailboat, thought it would be something different.
“It’s easier than I expected,” he said. “I thought it would be this, this and this, but learning the ropes wasn’t that hard.”
Corbeil thinks she’s going to stick with the team.
“I was so excited [when I heard about the team],” she said. “I’m a senior, and I’ve always lived on the water. I’ve always wanted to learn how to sail.”
It’s not clear sailing yet though.
The sailing school is looking for a coach to continue the training that its summer instructors have started.
Kingsley, who led the practice Monday morning, is headed to Northern Michigan University soon where she’ll join their racing team.
And while it looks like the Johnsburg High School team has enough students to qualify for a Tier 1 competition, the other two teams – for Grant Community High School in Fox Lake and Wauconda High School – need more students, Kartheiser said, adding the sailing school also is open to establishing teams at other area high schools.
In the meantime, the students will compete in Tier 3, which allows them to bring in sailors from different high schools.
Participation in the sailing team has the same activities fee that other Johnsburg High School programs have, said the program’s director, David Rigby, a retired District 12 seventh-grade science teacher. That fee can be waived through the school’s scholarship program if the student cannot afford it.
“I think it’s just a fantastic opportunity for kids to get involved, to try something new,” Rigby said.