By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Mac Brogan has ambitious plans for someone so young.
The 9-year-old already envisions himself becoming a competitive sailor at an advanced level.
“I want to race,” he said, confidently. “Eventually, I want to race a bigger boat.”
For now, Mac is taking beginner lessons at the Yacht Club of Sea Isle City in tiny, dinghy-like sailboats that ply the calm waters of the idyllic back bays.
Ever since the Yacht Club was founded in 1940, it has taught generations of young people, from ages 8 to 18, the art of sailing in a summer camp at the Jersey Shore.
“We’re talking about multigenerational sailors,” said Jesse Price, the Yacht Club’s sailing coordinator.
As it does every summer, the Yacht Club sponsors a camp that introduces children to sailing in an exciting and safe way. Hoping to draw as many children as possible, the camp is also open to nonmembers of the Yacht Club.
“They come from all over the place. Name a state or one nearby and they probably come from there. Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware …” Price said of the young sailors enrolled in the camp.
Mac Brogan actually comes from another country. His parents, Joe and Aileen Brogan, are living in Switzerland while Mac is spending the summer in Sea Isle with his grandmother, Mary Anne McCarthy, who is Aileen’s mother. McCarthy lives in Langhorne, Pa., and has a summer vacation home in Sea Isle.
While watching Mac sail around the channel next to the Yacht Club on Friday, McCarthy recalled the reaction her grandson had the first time he was in the sailing camp last year.
“When I picked him up on the first day of sailing last year, he told me that it was the best day of his life,” McCarthy said, smiling. “He’s only 9. For a guy who is so young, it’s pretty amazing.”
When he brought his sailboat back to the dock Friday, Mac talked about how much fun he had on the water.
“I like to drive the boat and pull in the sails,” he said. “I like to go fast.”
The Yacht Club of Sea Isle City is a participating member of the Mid-Atlantic Yacht Racing Association and hosts a regatta each summer. Participants in the sailing camp can showcase their skills by competing in other races during the summer, Price said.
“The racing environment is a great place to show what they’ve learned,” he said. “It’s a very friendly environment.”
This summer, the sailing camp started on June 13 and will end the week of Aug. 8. The cost is $300. The Yacht Club supplies the sailboats to keep the camp affordable, Price noted.
Price caps the number of sailors at 40 per week – 20 for the morning sailing lessons and 20 in the afternoon.
“For a lot of the kids, like the ones we have today, this is their first year of sailing. One of the things I like to focus on is team-building. Then I like to focus on responsibilities,” Price said of some of the main points he emphasizes to the children.
Price, a former Ocean City resident who now lives in Marmora, formerly taught sailing lessons at the Ocean City Yacht Club and the Ocean City Sailing Foundation.
During their lessons in Sea Isle, the young sailors are under the watchful eye of the sailing instructors as well as safety crews that are out in boats.
Price explained that all instructors are certified in first aid and CPR. They also carry cellphones and radios to remain in constant contact.
As a further safety precaution, the kids are limited in how far they can sail out in the back bay, based on their experience level.
“The big thing is having a safe place to sail and having other people to sail with,” Price said.
“We take safety very seriously,” he added.
As part of its promotional literature, the Yacht Club says that the sailing camps “teach sound basic seamanship skills, build confidence and help our students become proficient recreational sailors, or go all the way to be award-winning competitive sailors.”
“The Yacht Club of Sea Isle City has had a longstanding commitment to promoting sailing lessons along the Jersey Beaches. Since our club’s beginning in 1940, the club has kept sailing lessons and recreational sailing for young people its main focus,” it says on its website.
Some families have been participating in the sailing camps for years. Price noted that some of the children of the sailing instructors have become instructors themselves after growing up.
Ocean City resident Emery Hurst, one of the Yacht Club instructors now, first began taking sailing lessons in the summer camp when she was just 7 years old. She fondly recalled those times Friday.
“When I think of my childhood, everything happened with sailing,” she said.
For more information on the summer sailing camp, visit ycsic.com and click on the “Sailing” tab or call (609) 263-7282.