Four high school students will be representing Whidbey Island at an upcoming regatta in California.
Some varsity members of the Wildcat Sailing team are bound for the Rose Bowl Invitational Regatta in Long Beach, Calif., on Jan. 8-9.
It’s a first for the team, which has never traveled so far before.
Shawn O’Connor, the head coach for Wildcat Sailing and a 2017 Oak Harbor High School alum, said the Californian event is the largest regatta of its kind in the US. Nearly 70 high school teams have signed up so far.
“We hope this sets a good building block for our program for what has probably been our most successful season to date,” O’Connor said.
Unlike most other sports, there are two seasons per year for sailing. The upcoming event will close out the fall season. The spring season will begin in March.
O’Connor said the fall season has been challenging this year, because of windy weather and some exposure on the team – but no cases – of COVID-19.
But on the flip side, the pandemic has allowed for more sailing time, as events have been smaller and focused on smaller teams.
A core group of seniors has brought home recent wins for Wildcat Sailing, including a 6th place finish at the district championships and a 7th place finish at the fall championships. Sophomore Colin Byler, the lone South Whidbey High School student on the varsity team, nabbed a 4th place finish at a single-handed event in Ballard, a personal best for the team.
“A lot of it’s just time on the water,” O’Connor said. “We have this group of sailors who have sailed together since middle school and they’ve worked through some of the growing pains of sailing in this region.”
Out of the eight sailors on the varsity team, four were available to travel to California.
“It’s a great group of four,” he said. “They’ve been really instrumental parts to the team. They’ve all sailed in varsity events at some point in their high school careers.”
Senior Emelia Boilek is one of the four bound for the Rose Bowl Invitational Regatta.
She sails as crew, meaning she manages the smaller sail on the boat and the control lines. Senior Ryan Metz is the skipper on her boat, who drives and controls the large sail.
Boilek and Metz have sailed together over the fall 2020 and spring 2021 seasons of sailing.
Boilek is a team captain who has been sailing her entire high school career.
“I think that this is a great way for our team to kind of expand and promote ourselves as a more up-and-coming team,” she said of the upcoming regatta. “I think traveling and competing against regions we don’t normally compete against will help us improve overall.”
Besides Boilek and Metz, Byler and Junior Shelby Lang will also be traveling to the Rose Bowl Invitational Regatta.