Youth campers prepare to sail with College of Charleston sailing coaches.
The distance between the USS Yorktown and the College of Charleston Sailing Center is less than a football field.
After years of only sharing proximity, officials from both sides have finally extended a friendly hand to each other. Patriots Point education director Keith Grybowski, who oversees the 25,000 campers each year that visit the Yorktown, and Cougars sailing director Greg Fisher helped start a partnership for a youth advanced sailing camp last week.
Twenty campers, of ages 14-18, attended the Tuesday-Thursday session that included guidance by College of Charleston coaches and sailing team members, as well as overnight stays on the Yorktown. The children came from all over, including Wrightsville Beach, N.C.; Orlando; Atlanta; Stuart, Fla. and Guatemala.
“We're hoping this leads to more sailing opportunities with kids on the ship,” Fisher said. “They (Yorktown) want to offer sailing to them, so this relationship is great.
“This works out great, because there's so much to see on the ship with the history and everything.”
Grybowski said campers enjoyed meals at the Fantail of the ship, and during Tuesday night's dinner, they were able to spectate the College of Charleston Sailing Association's weekly community dinghy racing night.
Jacob Raymond, assistant dockmaster with the college, started the Tuesday racing night as a way for association members to have a social experience with one another while competing in friendly racing. Non-members can also participate for a small fee.
Grybowski said the campers soaked in the scenery and the experience to interact with a sailing program fresh off another national championship title. “In talking to them, they're realizing where they want to go to school and how competitive this team is,” Grybowski said. “About 90 percent of them have intentions to not only apply at the College, but this is their first choice.”
The camp isn't about recruiting future Cougars, but the camper from Guatemala – Irene Abascal van Blerk – will be coming to College of Charleston with intentions of joining the sailing team.
Tuesday night, the youth sailors also interacted with Daniel Williams, trainer of the sailing program. Fisher called him “one of our greatest strengths,” adding that Williams customized workout regimes specifically for the team after studying the boats.
The campers raced with the College's FJ and 420 boats. “They're a talented group,” Fisher said.
“They got to talk to people who just won a national championship,” Grybowski said. And they acted like Cougar sailors too.
Lunches from a local Jersey Mike's is a regular occurrence for College of Charleston sailing athletes, and Fisher extended that tradition to the youth sailors.
They sailed in strong wind conditions and weak ones, receiving all the Charleston Harbor offered. The campers developed relationships with current sailing team members. As early as next fall, they could become teammates.
Grybowski said the partnership with the College of Charleston opens the door to complement his existing camps. The Yorktown hosts a 3-week-long science camp with the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department, as well as a Girls Scout camp. Grybowski hopes to add in an opportunity for those campers to stay later one of the days and sail with the College of Charleston.
Local yacht clubs heard of the partnership and also want in. According to Fisher, the Hobcaw, James Island and Carolina clubs could add to the relationship in the future and pave the way for additional clinics that would extend the range of skill level camps offered.