A local youth sailing program that lost its momentum is setting sail once again.
The Chula Vista Yacht Club, which created the program in the early ’90s, had a large following then.
“At one time we had a huge juniors program,” club treasurer Jim Ply said. “The whole idea is to get youth roughly between the ages of 8 and 18 and teach them how to sail and about safety on the water. In the process we’ve had a couple of kids who became national champions in racing.”
For years neither the Yacht Club nor the city had a team that could represent it in local races and regattas, but the program is working on that.
In early May, during the club’s sailing season opening celebration, the juniors bridge of officers were installed and three Eastlake High School students took charge of the juniors fleet with the objective to form a competitive team.
Junior sailing director Manuel Moreno currently teaches 12 youth and is looking to get more involved.
“Last year I was given the opportunity to restart the program,” Moreno said. “We are all learning how to run this program successfully.”
The group meets every Saturday for 12 weeks from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and nearly runs year-round.
Anyone between the ages of 10 and 20 can participate, but they must be able to swim or tread water.
“The purpose of the program is to show the kids how to navigate and how to respect our ocean,” Moreno said. “Sailing is a means of transportation that is in force with nature. You just harness the wind.”
Students learn to navigate aboard 14-foot open cockpit sailboats and once proficient are released into smaller nine-footers by themselves.
“I think it’s fantastic to see youth get interested in something like this,” Ply said. “Once they get into it … it really takes a hold of them.”
Ply said the program builds character and teaches them to respect one another.
Ply said that ultimately the goal is to see young men and women grow up to learn about boating and eventually become leaders in the club.
Moreno has been sailing since 1995 and has two children in the program.
Melissa Moreno, 16, has been in the program nearly one year and holds the vice commodore position.
“I get recognized a lot because I am one of the leaders and am able to teach someone else what I know,” she said.
“My responsibilities are to help everyone improve in whatever they’re trying to do and help teach the class on how things work.”
Melissa has been sailing since she was 7 years old.
Jorge Fernandez, 15, is the rear commodore.
“When the main commodore is not there I’m usually the one who takes over to show the younger ones what to do,” he said.
Jorge is a sophomore at Eastlake High School and joined the program approximately five months ago.
“I like it because it’s different,” Jorge said. “Not too many people do it and when you have a nice wind going on the bay it’s a really nice experience.”
Jorge plays water polo and is on the swim team at school.
“When I first started sailing, a few times I would flip the boat, but I didn’t panic because I was able to tread water,” he said.
Jorge said sailing has taught him patience, something he’s not used to in water polo.
“They have matured so much since they started the program,” Moreno said. “That motivates me to keep going and to show this to more and more kids.”