As the end of the school year quickly approaches for seniors at Olympia High School, many students are trying to determine their next move. To determine the best college options, students are creating short lists based on the most important criteria.

For an increasing number of students from Olympia High School and local middle schools, sailing has become incredibly popular. While many students grew up sailing on Puget Sound, others had no experience on the water whatsoever prior to joining the program.

Seniors who have spent years sailing on the high school’s Olympia Yacht Club team realize they can get involved with sailing in college. In particular, both Western Washington University and the University of Washington have amazing programs.

SailingCurrently, the high school’s Olympia Yacht Club sailing team has 34 members, comprised of 22 students from high school and 12 students from middle school. Although the program is relatively young, officials are impressed with the growing numbers. However, officials connected with the yacht club firmly believe that as more students learn about the opportunities within the program, the numbers will climb even higher.

As expressed by Sarah Hanavan, team coach for the high school’s Olympia Yacht Club sailing team, the growth that students experience is exceptional. While many students have shown interest in the program for quite some time, only five sailors were involved this past spring and of those, none were from local middle schools.

In comparison, the summer program has been very successful, with approximately 400 kids involved in 2015. The goal has always been to bridge the gap between the high number of kids involved during the summer and the various sailing programs offered year round.

The sailing team for Olympia High School gets it backing from the school district, faculty, parents, and the Olympia Yacht Club. Students in seventh to twelfth grade have the chance to practice on Budd Inlet but also compete in regional regattas.

Hanavan went on to say that many people still believe that yachting is limited to the summer, opposed to being an activity to enjoy all year round. In addition to being a career option being considered by many high school seniors, sailing is a sport and lifestyle.

Any seventh or eighth grade student, as well as those in high school who want to learn about sailing can sign up for summer classes. Initially, students are taught the basics but the ultimate goal is to create a competitive team for racing. Hanavan explains that sailing heightens demand and as more students learn to master yachts and the water, that demand opens doors of opportunity for college and careers.

In just the past year, the number of students who have signed up for the Olympia Yacht Club program has quadrupled. In fact, recently the team hosted its very first regatta, which is quite an accomplishment. Known as the “It’s the Water Regatta”, the event held this past March had close to 160 young people participants. If Hanavan has her way, this will become an annual event.

In addition to the competitive season that runs through the Memorial Day weekend, there is plenty of practice time for the young sailors. To keep up with the growing number of students joining, the Olympia Yacht Club will host numerous programs during the summer months.

The bottom line, the Olympia Yacht Club program, which includes the high school sailing team, offers a rewarding experience and tremendous potential for the future.