The news site of Hinsdale Central High School

Devils' Advocate

The news site of Hinsdale Central High School

Devils' Advocate

The news site of Hinsdale Central High School

Devils' Advocate

Come sail away


At 7:30 on an October morning, the Sailing Club rigs their boats. Soon thereafter, the team meets with their coaches, and the skippers come together to understand the rules and the course ahead. An hour later, as the harbor gun goes off, the committee boat sets out. In yet another hour, the team finally sets sail, ready to embrace one of numerous regattas, the sailing races that they have grown fond of as members of the Hinsdale Central Sailing Club.

In the fall of 2010, juniors Mary Claire Kiernan, Samantha Foulston, and Elizabeth Foulston and senior Taylor Wilder began what is now the Hinsdale Central Sailing Club, a parent-sponsored club that is run independently of the school. When sisters Samantha and Elizabeth Foulston moved to Central as freshmen, they were eager to organize a club devoted to sailing. In doing so, however, they faced a dilemma. “[Our attempt] wasn’t really successful because we didn’t know many people and the people who we met couldn’t sail because of other conflicts,” Samantha said

Then, in their sophomore year, Kiernan, who had previously been sailing in the downtown area herself, transferred from Benet Academy and contacted them. “That was really helpful because she knew more people at Central, so we were really able to get it started with her help and Taylor,” Samantha said.

They approached Paul Moretta, the athletics director, and he investigated some of their options about a potential sailing club. “Then various people in the community had contacted me about how it would work. They really did so much of the legwork. They did the hard part. My role was really connecting them to the school and how we could support them, how we could promote the program, how clubs kind of interact with the athletic department and the school,” Moretta said.

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Prior to being approached by the Foulstons, Moretta had been approached by a community member who was interesting in coaching a sailing team, so he joined the two parties so that they could translate their ideas into the Hinsdale Central Sailing Club.

The uniqueness of the practice sessions makes school sponsorship of the club somewhat challenging. “The reason it’s not through school is because it’s literally impossible to have a teacher drive down with us all the way to Belmont Harbor every single practice. That’s what they’d have to do every single practice just so we could be a team,” Wilder said. At the Chicago Yacht Club at Belmont Harbor, the Hinsdale Central team practices alongside schools such as New Trier and St. Ignatius.

According to Moretta, sailing is also an expensive sport, so it would be challenging for it to be school-sponsored. Moretta said, “It’s not a regulated sport at all [by the athletics department]. The parents do the brunt of the work, and what we do is give them an opportunity to promote it through announcements or maybe we’d even provide some transportation if worse comes to worse.” Like hockey and fencing, sailing is not an IHSA sport; although they are technically sports, they do not have IHSA seasons. Still, since many students demonstrate interest in sailing and other such activities, the school helps support and promote the clubs.

Carolyn Foulston, one of the parent sponsors of the club, played a role in starting it on a simple premise: “Kids love to sail, and we wanted to have a competitive team.” When the club was in its initial stages, the parent sponsors had to understand the criteria provided by the school in addition to providing financial support and coordination with the Chicago Yacht Club. Last year, amongst the most important duties of the parent sponsors was driving and accompanying the participants to their practices and regattas. With the growth that the club has experienced and as students have returned for a second year, these duties have become more easily coordinated.

The original members appreciate the growth that sailing club has experienced over time from what started as a four-person team. “Now we’re a full-blown team,” Kiernan said, as four sailors must be present in order for a group to be considered a team. This increased involvement is evident now, as the sailing team competes nearly every weekend at events as far away as Minnesota.

In the fall and the spring, the team participates in regattas, in which it competes against around 15 to 20 other school teams. Since most regattas take place in Chicago, the Hinsdale Central Sailing Club does not have to travel particularly far, while other teams must come from as far as Michigan and Minnesota to participate. These races occur under the umbrella of the Interscholastic Sailing Association (ISSA), and the Central team falls under the Midwest division (MISSA). There are three major competitive divisions in sailing: Varsity A, Varsity B, and open division.

The Foulstons and Wilder began sailing at the age of 10. According to them, sailing does not require special training and is relatively simple to learn. Elizabeth said, “For example, we have kids on our team who have never sailed before and they’re learning, and for high school sailing, I’d say it’s pretty easy to pick up. Anyone can try and do it if they want.” Samantha agreed with her sister. She said, “I would definitely say that the people who didn’t know anything who came to our team have definitely been a great asset to us because they’ve all been really quick learners.”

According to Kiernan, “There’s a place for everyone in high school sailing.” Still, students who would like to hone their skills are able to attend sessions in which they can participate in developmental activities and learn how to race.

While some sailors begin sailing in high school, others like the original four club members, have spent much of their lives on the water. For Kiernan, who has been sailing for around eight years, sailing has always been a family activity. “I’ve always raced against my cousins and my brothers and sisters,” she said. When she came to Central, she was eager to get the club started, and it continues to represent a significant part of her life.

Aside from the practices and regattas, members of the club appreciate the unique quality of the friendships that they have been able to solidify over time. Wilder said, “My favorite aspect is probably all the friends I’ve made. When you’re all doing something that you’re super passionate about, something that you just love, it’s easy to just come together and have a good time, and everyone’s super friendly.” While the team’s competitive drive is apparent on the water, on land, they have formed lasting bonds.

For the Foulstons, who have moved around frequently, sailing club allows them to see familiar faces wherever they live. “Because we’ve moved around a lot, it’s really helped us make friends no matter where we moved. Every place we’ve moved, we just go straight into sailing, make new friends, and then when we travel around the country in the summer sailing, we see those people, so it’s really nice to constantly see our friends,” Samantha said.

Elizabeth agreed. “The sailing community’s really small, so you’re going to see the rest of these kids for the rest of your life if you choose to sail.” Kiernan, who has formed lasting friendships with sailors from as far away as Wisconsin, realizes this particular quality of sailing. Because of the various regatta locations, for many, sailing has facilitated numerous ties between sailors from geographically distant locations, serving as a common interest with an expanding social circle.

At the same time, while creating a network of friends throughout the country, sailors can realize their passion for sailing beyond high school, too. “It’s something that if they’re interested, they can do in college,” Carolyn said. Kiernan wholeheartedly emphasizes this particular aspect, the fact that it is an activity that can be pursued regardless of age. Like her, some people have sailed for as long as they can remember, but still, in the end, they are not limited by their years.

In the future, Moretta would like to see sailing club continue. “The hard part is transitioning because the nature of high school is the parents move on and the kids move on, so you have to have someone willing to take the mantel of the program, so you need to get younger kids involved and their parents,” he said. Because of the nature of the sport and the fact that team members have to go downtown multiple times in a week, it is challenging to organize the sailing team. Therefore, in order for sailing club to continue prospering, leadership will be important. Carolyn realizes how crucial student involvement is to the club. She hopes that more students, including eighth graders who are interested, join alongside freshmen and others. “I would like it to be a legacy sport,” she said.

To Kiernan, who will be graduating in two years, it is crucial that freshmen on the team be able to maintain the spirit and success of the team. “Usually, after the founders leave, the whole team disappears,” she said. “I want to break the cycle.” For her, the most enjoyable aspect of high school sailing is far from winning. Rather, much of the joy is rooted in assisting fellow sailors and ensuring that everyone is improving with time. Kiernan hopes to pursue sailing in college, but in leaving the Central team one day, she hopes that the spirit of the team never falters.

At the end of the day, sailors in the club would like others to know that sailing is a sport that anyone can learn, and they hope the club is able to expand as the years go on. Wilder, who will graduate from high school in May, said, “I just hope that it keeps prospering and [that] it just keeps growing because it’s something that anyone can do.”


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