Setting sail

Ahead of the 2021-22 season, sailing looks to assert itself as a prominent Redondo Union sport

PHOTO+COURTESY+OF+RICHARD+VAN+DER+WEYDE

PHOTO COURTESY OF RICHARD VAN DER WEYDE

Football; volleyball; basketball; tennis—all well known sports at Redondo. Still, for a school located on the California coastline, Redondo lacks popularity in one its most coast-dependent sports—sailing. 

For years, RUHS has had a sailing team, but in the past, it has had low attendance, according to this year’s head coach Richard van der Weyde. In hopes of changing this statistic, the program is trying to market and advertise to parents and students alike in order to draw more interest.

“Redondo has actually had a sailing team for a while, which most people aren’t aware of. In fact, it has a very good history of sailing. When I was sailing in high school, I actually sailed against Redondo, and I have some really good friends who were on the team,” van der Weyde said.

For Redondo and 63 other high schools along the California coast, there are two racing series to participate in: the SoCal series and the Pacific Coast International Sailing Association (PCISA) series. 

“The SoCal series is a great place to start racing because it is a very low-stress environment where the whole point is to get people introduced to racing. You have coaches on the water with you and you get more time to practice races and get comfortable in that environment,” van der Weyde said.

The PCISA, on the other hand, van der Weyde says, is more competitive. It consists of five series of races, called regattas, each at different locations along the coast: Monterrey, Newport, Long Beach, San Francisco and Santa Barbara. Then, at the end of the year, there is the championship.

“The high school circuit is a great one because it gives you a new experience with all these different places with different types of conditions to sail in. Whether you want to pursue sailing as a career or just do it for fun, you get comfortable in these different conditions,” van der Weyde said.

All races in the series are competed for time, with a point system awarding each team with the same number of points that they ranked. For example, the first place team gets one point, and the fifth-place team gets five points. The lower the score, the better.

At the beginning of each race, the teams are given a three-minute warning, during which they prepare so that they can cross the starting line at full speed when the timer hits zero. And head upwind toward the first mark, called the windward mark. Once the boat goes around the windward mark, the team heads downwind to the second mark, the leeward mark. The number of times that the team repeats this varies on the race, and once the required number of rounds is completed, the sailors head toward the starting line.

“Sailing is really challenging because you sail in all these different venues where the conditions are drastically different,” van der Weyde said. “For example, sailing in Newport is almost the polar opposite of sailing in San Francisco. In Newport, you have to be more tactful and graceful and have a bit more finesse, whereas in San Francisco, the winds are very high, so it is more physically demanding.”

In order to practice for the different regattas settings, the team works with other schools and areas along the coast that mimic those sailing conditions.

“We have little pockets of ‘gold mines’ up and down the coast of California. Traditionally, Redondo Beach has a lighter, less windy venue, which gives good experience for the lighter regattas like Newport. We also have really good relationships with other schools and clubs. For example, if we’re training for a windy event, we can go to San Pedro and practice,” van der Weyde said.

But, regardless of where they train, the athletes learn to hone in on the skills that they do have and use them to help navigate races in conditions that they are not as familiar with.

“The wind is never a promise; forecasts might be wrong. So, you have to make the best out of what you get. Even if you only ever sail in a light wind, you pick up on different skills and advanced techniques that you can carry over into a windier event,” van der Weyde said.

The team practices from 3:30 to about 7:00 after school for three days a week. Even for those completely new to the sport, van der Weyde says, learning to sail is fairly easy with the right attitude and some dedication.

“I would say it takes about a semester to get the hang of sailing, but it ultimately comes down to the individual person. You can pick it up fairly quickly, but you get what you put into it. Once you establish where your comfort zone lies, I would say you have a good understanding of sailing. That may take three weeks or three months,” van der Weyde said.

The sailing season at Redondo starts on Sept. 13 and, excluding winter holiday, lasts year-round.

“I hope everyone has fun this year and tries to learn as much as possible,” van der Weyde said. “Once you know how to sail, it opens up a lot of opportunities and is a skill you can utilize for life. I just hope that anybody starting sailing finds the same spark that I did when I was in high school, and falls in love with it.”