NSA starts new sailing club

Published 6:40 pm Monday, April 19, 2010

When Nansemond-Suffolk Academy eighth-grader Christine Comer decides she wants something, she knows how to go about getting it.

Christine was the driving force behind starting a new sailing club at the school. The club now has about 10 students involved.

“I love sailing,” said Christine. “Some of my friends were interested, too.”

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Christine circulated a petition in the school, gathering a few dozen names of students who would be interested in participating in sailing. She then took it to Kollette Hillard, who now coaches the club with her husband.

“She is the one who pushed it,” Hillard said of Christine. “She started a list of all the students who were interested.”

After getting approval from the administration, the club officially organized and began to meet. The first week of meetings, however, was entirely dry.

“We spent three to four days in the classroom learning,” Hillard said. The students, some of whom had prior experience sailing, learned about the parts of the boat, how to sail, competition rules and other facets of the sport.

A total of about 10 students wound up joining the club. Some who were initially interested could not participate because of other sports or commitments.

After taking a swim test, the students finally got on board the boats. The first practice, however, did not go as planned.

“Two boats capsized, one went aground and one hit the deck,” Hillard said.

Since then, however, the students have been steadily improving.

NSA senior Lauren Gersbach admitted to being nervous before the first practice, but later found that sailing has been fun.

“I definitely want to stick with it,” Lauren said. “I’m just having a good time and meeting new people.”

Thomas Ball, a junior, joined because his family regularly goes sailing on vacation, and he has enjoyed it.

“I wanted an opportunity to go sailing more often,” he said. “I just enjoy being outdoors. Sailing allows me to do that.”

The club plans a spring schedule of participating in regattas with other clubs and teams throughout the Hampton Roads area. Members practice at the Hampton Yacht Club, and compete against clubs and teams from schools such as Walsingham Academy, Smithfield High School and Norfolk Collegiate.

Hillard said the group likely will remain a club for a couple of years before moving up to become a varsity team.

“It’s been kind of cool,” Hillard said.

As for Christine, she is glad the school took her suggestion, and is having plenty of fun sailing with her friends.

“I like how there’s no noise,” Christine said. “It’s just water and wind and you and your boat.”