“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Using nature and your natural gifts in harmony while learning life skills and having a good time is the name of the game for Key Biscayne Yacht Club youth sailors.
It’s a sport, an activity and social scene that is hard to put into one category, according to KBYC Sailing Director Adrienne Patterson, who has taken the program to new heights, creating a buzz around attracting the interest of potential sailors and casual observers alike.
“The sailing program is all-of-the-above, “ Patterson said, sitting pool side at the Yacht Club while describing the appeal of the program. “We have outings with the kids and their parents like at Stiltsville. We do little barbeques here at the club with parents and sailors. We have programs for those who have never sailed before, and we have programs for the highest level of racing so it’s social, it’s fun, and it’s competitive.”
Whether it’s teaching small kids or training children ready to race around the world, the KBYC sailing team has developed into a program that seemingly has something for every sailing interest.
“Three years ago our goal was to develop a really strong base for the program to really focus on our Learn To Sail program,” Patterson said. “It was to really focus on our Green Fleet race team, and we did a good job developing that program.”
That commitment to create a strong foundation for the program and nurture the talent on the team has led to plenty of success on the high seas. The competitive side of the club includes competition in regattas locally, nationally and internationally.
The KBYC South Florida Regatta circuit includes competitions in Biscayne Bay, Key Largo, Lauderdale Yacht Club, Ft. Myers, Jensen Beach and St. Petersburg.
The program is gaining momentum thanks in-part to the KBYC purchase of four new boats providing even more options for kids who want to participate in the sport. The two-person crafts, called Club420s, are 4.2 meters long and are known for speed, agility and as a youth development boat in 43 countries around the world.
Patterson pointed out that, unlike other activities at the Yacht Club, participants don’t have to be a member of the club to join the sailing team. She believes the sport provides a bevy of benefits on and off the water.
“The sport of sailing helps kids learn a lot about personal responsibility at a very young age,” Patterson explained. “There are so many things you have to remember to come to practice. It’s not just your cleats, your shin guards and your soccer ball; there’s probably 20 things you have to remember to have a successful practice and that helps the kids at a very young age become responsible and self-reliant.
“The kids are out on their own 7-foot boat, maneuvering the boat by themselves. There is no one else in there, and the coaches are not allowed to tell you what to do, so you have to captain your boat all by yourself, so it’s a big boost in their self- confidence. “
Sailing, according to Patterson, is a great teacher and a great equalizer. It is one of the few sports where boys and girls compete against each other without any differences.
“Sailing’s one of the sports where men, women, girls and boys can compete at the same level. There’s not a division for the females, they all race together,” Patterson said excitedly recounting the impact it’s had on her own life. “As a female myself,
at a young age it taught me girls can go for the gold at work, at school, on the water wherever. It gave me the opportunity at a young age and it taught me, I can beat these boys, and I brought that into my whole life; at work, at school, so that’s a another nice thing about sailing
“With hard work and dedication you can accomplish your goals.”
Eleven-year-old Emily Mueller, who is originally from the UK, is learning those same lessons as she navigates her way through early adolescence realizing gender doesn’t need to matter.
“I do like competing against them,” said the St. Christopher Montessori School fifth-grade student said about sailing against boys. “It doesn’t make a difference if you’re a boy or a girl because it’s the same sport and everything. I mean, sometimes, you have to be strong, but you have to read the wind and understand the wind too.
“I like showing that girls can be as good as or better than boys.”
Muller also enjoys the team atmosphere she shares with the boys and the girls her team as they all work to be their best.
“The teammates are amazing, the coaches, I love sailing, I love being out on the boat alone by myself. I love being in control and I love being out on the water. “
Javier Garcon, 10, started attending sailing camp about three years ago, and has learned to be responsible for his own activity.
“I learn responsibility,” the Gulliver Preparatory School fifth grader said. “After sailing, we have to put the boat on the trailer and you have to take your sails apart, that kind of stuff.”
Garcon said he enjoys a variety of sports, but sailing is starting to get the edge.
“I play tennis and a little soccer,” he said. “I like sailing more because I don’t know, I just like it for some reason, I like hearing the sound of the water and I like moving fast.”
Sebastian Clark knows about sailing fast. The 14-year-old Optimist sailor was the talk of the KBYC team when he represented Key Biscayne on the national team in Palamos, Spain, at the XXV Troeo Vila de Palamos.
Clarkes father, Martin, who traveled with his son to Spain, said Sebastian has benefited greatly from his sailing activities.
“He’s a lot more independence and more ability to be confident and make his own decisions,” Martin Clark said. “You notice that when they have to go out there and figure it out by themselves.”
Sebastian was quick to give credit to Patterson.
“She’s a great coach,” the Belen Jesuit Academy eighth-grade student said. “If I stayed with the same coach before her I would not be here at all.
“She has brought me skills and taught me a different prospective and it’s amazing how far I’ve gotten with her. I’ve done better with her than any other coaches I’ve had combined.”
For more info on the siling program, call 305-361-9171.