YORK — Sailboat No. 1, crewed by York High School sophomore Kylee Hockaday and Marley Kaufman, a fifth grader at Seaford Elementary School, finished a lap ahead of three other boats.
Kaufman, 9, had only a week's experience sailing Tuesday. But already she can sail her own boat.
The girls, along with eight other children ages 8 to 17, are participants in Seaford Yacht Club's Junior Sailing program. The end-of-season regatta is Saturday. On Tuesday, the group practiced in Back Creek.
Zane Morris, 15, a York High student, has been sailing since he was 8. His grandmother got him started, he said.
"I love messing with all the steers and sheets," he said. "It's real relaxing."
Morris, as well as several other participants, sails for the York County club team. He said he's spent most of his summer on the water.
"I like to skipper," Morris said referring to the person who steers the boat with a manual rudder and ropes attached to the main sail. "It teaches you to stay relaxed and concentrate on what you are doing."
As skipper, Morris said it's also important to communicate well with the other crew member, who works the smaller, front sail called the gaff. The crew member often has to switch sides of the boat to keep it from tipping — which happens plenty with inexperienced sailors, Morris said, but not with him.
"As long as you have a knowledgeable skipper, you can get away with a crew that's never sailed before," said program director Richard Eilenfield Sr.
A self-proclaimed salty sailor whom everyone calls "Red," Eilenfield has been sailing since 1959. This is the program's fourth season.
Eilenfield starts the program with sailing basics and safety tips. By the end of the summer, participants are learning physics, geometry and a whole new language.
"Get rid of that land-lover-ese," Eilenfield told one of his proteges. "You're a seafarer. Now you can say you're multilingual."
Olivia Gilmore, an 8-year-old Poquoson Elementary School student, the program's youngest participant, said her first week was tough.
She struggled learning the new language, as well as all the new skills, she said. Now with a week under her belt, and her older sister with her, Gilmore is taking her second class of the summer.
"They start off not knowing bow from stern," said Al Cummins, a past commodore for the Seaford Yacht Club. "By the end of a week, they are sailing."
Eilenfield said one of the most important parts of the course is boat accident analysis, where the students go through local Coast Guard reports breaking down the decision making.
"We hope that type of exposure will help them whether they are on a boat, or learning to drive," Eilenfield said. "If they learn those lessons young, they have a better chance of staying safe."
For more information about the program, contact the Seaford Yacht Club at 757-898-8439.
Rockett can be reached by phone at 757-247-4942.