Two days a week, Hamden Hall Country Day School students unload their backpacks and suit up in lifejackets for a late afternoon of rigging, jibbing, and tacking on the whistle.
Hamden Hall’s premier Sailing Club has set sail for the season and the young student sailors are taking to the new offering and its challenges faster than the hoisting of a mainsail.
“I’ve learned a lot and practices have been fun,” said freshman Chad Jennings of Killingworth. “I wanted to join because it’s a sport that involves two of my favorite things in the world: water and boats.”
The nautical-minded students – all of whom had to undergo a swimming test prior to diving into the new program – sail with a fellow shipmate while their captain, a U.S. Sailing certified instructor, mans a nearby motor boat and issues instructions.
For senior Miranda Kay of Milford, the experience has been an exhilarating one – from the mastering of the basics, like rigging and derigging the boats, to racing around leeward and windward marks.
“We are learning team spirit as well as the importance of individual reliance,” said Miranda. “On the water, you can feel as if you are alone with only one other sitting beside you in the boat, but there is an entire fleet of others who are depending on you and that need you to act in the best interest of everyone. It’s a really neat feeling.”
The new club, which is expected to eventually become a team, sails at the Yale Corinthian Yacht Club in Branford on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and is made up of a mix of Middle and Upper School students. The aspiring sailors run through drills and then face off in their 420 dinghy sailboats in intramural races. A third day required of the club members is spent tackling a fitness component.
“This is a program that will only get better as it goes along. The kids are enjoying it and learning a lot. High school sailing clubs are somewhat rare and Hamden Hall is fortunate to be able to offer one,” said Hamden Hall Athletic Director David Doyle.
Club members have a wide berth of sailing experience, from the true novice to the more advanced. According to Chad, sailing is a sport at which he’s good.
“It’s a sport I’m decent at and I’ve been able to learn a lot and sail with people who have different approaches,” he said. “I have learned how to properly sail competitively and also how to right a boat when it has capsized.”
Hamden Hall Country Day School, the nation’s fourth country day school, has been helping students reach their full potential academically, socially, physically, and artistically for 100 years. Since its founding in 1912, the school’s mission has been to challenge PreSchool through Grade 12 students to develop a strong sense of personal integrity and social responsibility while preparing them for demanding programs at the collegiate level. Hamden Hall is a coeducational college preparatory school that enrolls students from over 35 communities.