PLEASANT BAY - It was the first official nice day of spring, and after months of wild weather, downed trees, power outages, and a winter that seemed to never end, the excitement of the Monomoy Sailing Team to get on the water on May 2 was palpable, sharp as the snap of the sails in the wind on Pleasant Bay.
The day was a stark contrast to those of early March when the team first took to the waters, but such is the case with high school sailing. You just can't practice proper tacking in a gym.
Though to many the Monomoy program might seem new, it's actually the extension of the original from Chatham High and is still coached by Greg Kelly, who said that sailing is becoming one of the most popular spring sports.
“It's actually one of the fastest growing sports in high school,” Kelly said. “It used to be the privy of private schools because public schools just didn't have access to the water. As things have changed yacht clubs have opened up their clubs to area high schools.”
Kelly said the local team used to sail out of the Chatham Yacht Club and now enjoys a partnership with Pleasant Bay Community Boating, where Kelly previously served on the board.
“When PBCB began I was involved in the program from the beginning,” he said. “Now we host the team.”
There are 13 teams in the Cape and Islands League, including Monomoy, which this year showed improvement in its numbers. Last year the team boasted just seven sailors, and this year is up to 11.
“In Chatham, the sailing team was actually the largest spring sports team,” Kelly said. “Since the merge to Monomoy, Harwich has always really been a baseball town so we don't have as many kids as we used to, but it's building. It just takes time for people to realize that this is a legitimate sport.”
It is a sport that gets kids on the water, often before the snow melts, with Kelly and assistant coach Jonathan Cahoon teaching student sailors the subtle nuances of the sport necessary for victory. So far, they've seen success against Sturgis, Falmouth, and D-Y, though Kelly explained that as the D-Y program is still finding its own footing and those races were more about experience than competition.
“Sailing's not just a physical game, it's a mental game,” Kelly said. “It's sort of like chess on the water. There are some very competitive teams on the Cape.”
Kelly credits his sailors for making the program something to look forward to each spring.
“The kids have been terrific over the years,” he said. “What really is impressing me this year is that a couple of new members have really taken to it and have really improved since we started in the middle of March.”
Kelly cited senior Eddie Goggin as the team's top sailor, but noted that junior Jan Lapinski is proving his might, as well.
“He is my No. 2 sailor and almost creeping up to be No. 1,” Kelly said. “He's also very interested in improving. He really seeks out suggestions on how to improve his game, which is a little unusual in a high school kid, to be so open to instruction.”
Newcomer George Spalt is the team's No. 3, with Kelly dubbing his improvement “incredible.” Joining Spalt are Cameron Carlson, Peter Casey, and Trey Cox. And don't rule out the impressive young women on the team, Lindsey Mellett, Maddie Pitts, Julia Rioux, Sarah Blake, and Kaitlyn Germann.
Kelly said Mellett is a stellar crew for Lapinski, while Pitts is excellent in wind and heavy weather. Rioux, another newcomer, crews for Goggin and has really “taken to it” according to Kelly.
“Those are really outstanding kids that are working hard on the team,” he said. “I'm happy with how the team is progressing. It really does take a kid dedicated to the sport.”
Kelly said the difference between Monomoy sailors and those on other teams is that many on the other teams sail throughout the summer months, something MRHS sailors aren't always able to do.
“Most of our kids do not sail for local yacht clubs,” he said. “The only time they really do sail is with the high school team, so sometimes it's hard for us to compete with other teams on the Cape. That being said, we have been competitive.”
Kelly is hoping to see that competition continue the rest of the season. On the calendar are races against St. John Paul II, Sturgis, Nauset, and Nantucket. Fans can cheer on their Shark sailors at the final home races on May 10 starting at 4 p.m. against Sturgis off the beach at Pleasant Bay Boating Club.
“We live in the best place in the world to learn to sail with Pleasant Bay,” Kelly said. “I look forward to improving our record.”