When Dan Marino asked for consideration for a sailing team at Chatham High School at a recent Board of Education meeting, he was a little unsure of what the next steps would be. These days his vision for the future is more clear.
"We're going to meet with the head of the Boating Club, and we're waiting to hear back from the athletic director," Marino said. "We're trying to get the word out, trying to let people know this is possible and see if people have an interest in sailing."
Marino did not grow up sailing, nor did his wife. But when their two daughters were old enough they started taking them to Barnegat Bay in the summers and the Lavallette Yacht Club. The girls have been sailing since they were young children. Now, all three say, they can't imagine their lives without it.
Marino's two daughters Juliana and Marisa are students at Chatham High School and Chatham Middle School, respectively. Every Tuesday father and daughters drive an hour and a half each way from Chatham to Oceanport to take sailing lessons at the Shrewsbury Sailing and Yacht Club. Their instructor, Paul Stevens, sails for Monmouth University and gives instruction at Shrewsbury.
"We have so many good friends from all our experiences, and so many memories from all our regattas," Juliana said. "The overall experience is so much fun. You learn so much."
An easy nearby model for a sailing club or team at Chatham High is right next door at neighboring Summit High. "Summit started a team a few years ago as a club and just recently finally awarded varsity status. Now they have 17 kids sailing on this team," Marino said.
It's easy to understand sailing's appeal. High school teams use a Flying J boat for their regattas, which take two people to sail and compete.
"You only need two kids on a team. Obviously we’d love to have four, six, eight, however many," Marino said. "And the great thing is because there’s only two kids you don’t necessarily need sailing experience."
It is also one of the few sports where boys and girls can compete on co-ed teams. More importantly, "It's a lifelong sport. Once you learn how to sail, you can sail the rest of your life," Marino said. "You can sail until you die."
Not only that, Juliana said, people who sail tend to want to share their passion with other people who sail. "Not a lot of people do it so they want to share it," Juliana said.
"The other great thing about sailing at the high school level is you don’t really need any equipment. When you go to a regatta, the host provides all the boats. All you really need is a life jacket and apparel," Marino said. "It’s not like you have to buy an expensive boat. The yacht club where you’re practicing or the schools where you’re racing provide all the boats."
Last of all, like rugby (and honestly, who would have thought sailing had anything in common with rugby?) sailing is both a fall and a spring sport.
"The league competes in the fall and the spring, and each school decides which regatta they want to compete in or not compete in. It is something very flexible, very open to anyone with or without sailing experience, and co-ed as well," Marino said.
Marino went before the Board of Education to ask about establishing a sailing team at the high school. They advised him to speak to Athletic Director Bill Librera and the PTO, and look at other teams that started as parent-funded teams such as the fencing or girls golf teams.
"It might be something that starts as a club and if there's enough interest hopefully it will become a varsity sport," Marino said. "People are generally supportive of starting a club."
There are 18 high schools in New Jersey with sailing teams, including Summit High. Should Chatham High authorize a sailing team, students would compete in the East League of the Midatlantic Scholastic Sailing Association. Most of the schools are located near the Jersey Shore, but a few, such as Summit, are further inland.
"We go down to Barnegat Bay in the summers and we run into other families from Chatham who sail down there. We know there are other families in town who sail. It's not a new idea, just a function of how many kids would be interested," Marino said.