HARWICH – The three sailboats resting upside down on the dock at Stage Harbor Yacht Club might appear to be no more than vessels awaiting the coming summer, but to the Monomoy Regional High School sailing program they are a symbol of generosity and of hope for a successful 2019 season.
The three boats, Vanguard 420s, were donated recently to the sailing program by the Stage Harbor Yacht Club Sailing School. According to SHYC Commodore Drew Carlson and Monomoy sailing coach Jonathan Cahoon, the three boats had been in storage at the club. Cahoon inquired about the possibility of using the boats on loan, and when Carlson brought the question to the SHYC board, he was pleasantly surprised when one of the board members suggested gifting them to the MRHS program.
“We are super supportive of high school sailing and were happy to do so,” Carlson said. “We have a long history of supporting the local community, I think unlike any other club in Southern Massachusetts. Since the mid 1980s we have offered between five and 10 scholarships for our sailing school.”
Those scholarships were once aimed primarily at Chatham kids, but upon the regionalization of the Chatham and Harwich school systems became open to prospective sailors in Harwich as well.
“We've been operating since 1932, and I think we feel very strongly about being good stewards of the waterfront, and teaching students how to sail and how to hopefully develop a lifelong love for sailing and seamanship,” Carlson said.
The hope is that more student athletes will want to join the Monomoy program upon reaching the high school level. Meanwhile, the new-to-Monomoy sailing boats will go a long way toward improving their levels of competition this season.
“We don't really have a budget to buy a boat, or any boats, because they're pretty expensive,” said Cahoon. “You need six for what we do, team racing. These three will definitely help. They're better by leaps and bounds. We're ecstatic. I can't tell you how grateful to the yacht club we are for this.”
Cahoon said that the boats the sailing team currently uses are showing their age, taking on water during races, losing parts and proving a challenge to keep sail-worthy. A new 420 comes with a price tag of roughly $8,000, which makes the SHYC donation significant.
“The boats are old that we have,” he said. “When they start losing parts, it's hard to repair them. We needed newer boats is the bottom line. It was getting to the points where the boats were leaking. They break down and aren't meant to last forever.”
The new boats will mean a more competitive season for Shark sailing.
“It means that we'll have more competitive boats,” Cahoon said. “They won't take on water like some of the others. The boats will react quicker, and it'll be a better, more athletic competition.”
Carlson said the sailing school and yacht club are thrilled to support the Monomoy program.
“We're super excited about this,” he said. “The boats that they've been sailing for the last decade plus were donated by us a while back. These three [newer] hulls are lightly used, and we're happy to have that connection with the high school. We look forward to making another donation the next time we're rotating three out.”
Making the sailing team more competitive is an exciting prospect said Cahoon, since it means not only more student involvement, but also the possibility of more spectators cheering the Sharks on at home events, which take place on the waters near Pleasant Bay Community Boating.
“It's been part of Chatham since 1995, and Harwich started a program around the same time,” said Cahoon. “It's not like it's new, so I'm surprised that more people don't gravitate towards it. I know March is cold, but once May rolls around, and even after April vacation, you're on the water and having a great time.”
Cahoon said the beauty of sailing is that it's something people can do into their later years.
“I consider it a life sport,” said Cahoon, who stepped into the head coaching position after longtime head coach Greg Kelly retired. “You can do it into your 90s. I'm not trying to say anything bad about other sports, but you can do this one for a very long period of time, and there are different levels you can try.”
Armed with new boats and the perspective that comes with being head coach, Cahoon is eagerly anticipating Monomoy sailing's 2019 season.
“I'm very excited,” he said. “I'll be doing the same things I've been doing in the past, but with a little more responsibility. It's not a huge transition, but it's a transition nonetheless. I relish the opportunity to do what I can to have the kids make sure they're having fun, and I want them to be competitive as well.”
To those looking to catch a race, Cahoon urges them to come on down to PBCB for a home event.
“They should come down and watch us one day,” he said. “It's good viewing. We usually try to have the races right offshore. It would be good to have some audience. It's so much fun to watch, and what's better than being on the water doing what you love?”