After losing three seniors at the end of last season, including now-national sailing champ Krysta Rohde, Richmond Hill High School Sailing was prepared for a rebuilding year.
Much work was done over the summer last year with many sailors participating in Savannah Sailing Center’s summer sailing programs. The season began with again a large jump in the number of interested participants. Thirty one sailors hit the water in August with an almost even split of 14 with prior sailing experience and 17 new members.
The seventeen rookie sailors hit the waters of Savannah Sailing Centers Lake Mayer facility twice a week during the fall. Basic Sailing principles were taught, and out of this group many would join the group of more seasoned sailors in the weeks to come. The more seasoned group continues today to practice on the Midway River – sandwiched between Sunbury and Richmond Hill.
Richmond Hill’s racing team has far out performed the expectation for a ‘rebuilding’ team. They have participated in six regattas this season thus far – sailing against the very competitive Charleston teams, Brunswick, Beaufort and Savannah teams.
As the season began at the end of September, the team sailed to a seventh place finish at Brunswick Marina. They improved on their performance with a sixth place finish Nov. 10 in Charleston. On Nov. 17, the Savannah Sailing Center hosted their first ever high school regatta sailed in the waters off of Sunbury – at the sight where the Richmond Hill team practices.
Thanks to the generous help of the Sunbury Crab Company Restaurant, the regatta was a huge success. Eleven teams traveled to this area to take part in the event. The Richmond Hill team improved again on their previous performance – finishing this time in fifth place overall. An outstanding performance in B division in this regatta by freshman Devon Rohde and senior Avry Gutkowski finished third and brought home an individual Division trophy.
After that, the Savannah Sailing Center then hosted a Jan. 19 regatta at Lake Mayer in Savannah under cold and rainy conditions with shifty winds. The team again improved and finished in fourth place. This event saw the B division team excel again to achieve a second place division finish.
The following weekend the team was back in Charleston. RHHS junior Ryan Tillman and sophomore Kyle Brewer sailed B division and brought home a second place trophy for their performance.
This past weekend the team was back up in Charleston and this time sailed against not only the tough Charleston competition but also two teams from Lake Norman, North Carolina and one from Tennessee. These teams from the inland portion of the district will compete against Richmond Hill again at the Gold regatta in mid-March – which puts the top 8 coastal teams up against the top 8 Inland teams.
Richmond Hill High beat all three. The forthcoming Gold Regatta, however, will be sailed in Lake Norman which will give the inland teams a home court advantage.
Richmond Hill finished in sixth place overall for this most recent event. Conditions started out with very light winds and a ripping current and changed throughout the day – ending up with about 15 knots of breeze. Emerson Stephens skippered B division to a fifth place finish. He sailed with three different crews throughout the day: sophomore Kyle Brewer, sophomore Nitzan Hershkovitz, and freshman Becky Slack.
As the Richmond Hill High School Team moves forward, they will spend some time practicing on Lake Mayer to get ready for the very light very shifty conditions that they expect on Lake Norman for the prestigious Gold Regatta. For that event, the top eight coastal teams will meet the top eight inland teams. The top six teams from this event will go on to the District Championships, to feature the top six North Points team (those from North Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee) against the top six South Points teams (the rest of Florida and the Virgin Islands). The Districts this year will take place in Jacksonville on April 5 and 6. The top three teams from Districts will go on to the National Championships.
"The team is very much looking forward to sailing hard at the Gold to qualify to sail in the District Championships, a freight they didn’t think was possible at the beginning of the season," Coach Carrie Rohde said. "They are also looking forward to practicing on the Midway River with the rest of the team that has spent the first half of the season learning at Lake Mayer. Many siblings of our sailors have asked to get started prior to high school which is a good sign for future seasons. We are excited to announce that Savannah Sailing Center has agreed to offer a Middle School Sailing program for all Savannah area schools starting in March and going through April. The program will feature four-hour lessons on Saturdays in an effort to help interested young sailors get a jump start prior to high school."
Savannah Sailing Center also offers a full summer program. For information on local sailing programs, call Coach Rohde at 727-5315.