BY WENDI REARDON PRICE
Clarkston News Sports Writer
Diego Kittinger is a natural born sailor.
Kittinger, a sophomore at Clarkston Everest Collegiate High School, is a fourth generation sailor. He began sailing with his dad and grandpa before he started Kindergarten.
“I was lucky,” he sad. “Sailing is part of my family.
“Sailing is a diverse sport harnessing the wind and the elements to propel you from one point to the next,” he explained. “On the same body of water you can have a day that is sunny and mild that produces the most relaxing feeling I could ever imagine. By contrast, add a little wind and everything becomes lively and very physical, commanding your boat to become one with the wind and propel you through the water at exhilarating speeds. I have read of other sports that harness what God provides us such as surfing and there is almost a religious experience to be so in tune harnessing nature.”
Kittinger expanded his interest to his school and started the Everest Sailing Club.
“I have always sailed larger boats with my family,” he said. “When I entered high school I wanted to get into racing with kids my own age. I did my research on the internet and found out about high school sailing programs in the area.”
He asked his dad if they could find out more about the clubs. He tried out with the Cass Lake Pontiac Yacht Club.
“I was hooked,” he shared. ” After sailing with the other high schools I wanted to form a varsity sailing team at Everest. My dad and I put together presentations about what I was doing and presented them to the Everest principal and athletic director. They agreed to make sailing a sport at Everest. From there, I have been working to recruit additional members to join me at practice or regattas.”
One of the competitions for the club was at Pontiac Sailing Center in Keego Harbor. Everest competed against teams from southeast Michigan including Detroit Country Day, Detroit Mercy, Seaholm, West Bloomfield, and Troy. Teams to competed in 14 races through the day.
“Competitions for me are exciting,” Kittinger said. “I like to push myself that extra bit when I know that I am not only competing for myself but for my school.”
He explained competitions are ran by different sailing centers around the country and organized into regions. A typical regatta will be on the weekend with 10-15 high school teams competing in two groups.
The regattas can be local or require travel to places like Chicago and Toledo.
“They start Saturday morning by rigging the boats and attending a competitors meeting,” Kittinger explained. “Then, we head out to a course on the water that is marked by large yellow inflatable pyramids called marks. To start a race there is a line formed by two of these marks with a 3-minute countdown sequence. The goal is to be at the line when the clock strikes zero to start the race. Then, the boats proceed around a series of marks, usually two laps or 15 minutes in time, and finish at the same start line. We run two races like above and then we switch out teams on the water and then run two more races and the process continues through the day until racing is finished.”
He added a goal is to take the less experienced sailors and pair them with an experienced skipper to race in the B fleet while the more experienced skippers and crews race in the A fleet.
“This way everyone gets to compete and work on improving their skills,” he said.
He added sailing is also more than just using wind and water.
“It is also a sport that brings a high degree of comradery to people who enjoy the sport,” Kittinger said. “What you learn on a 14-foot boat directly translates to the fastest and largest sailing yachts in the world. They all use the same physics to move through the water. The boat we sail in high school is a 4.2-meter boat with two sails (jib and a mail). The boat is run by two people, skipper and crew.”
The club practices during the week and races on the weekend. Practices are organized by skill level from someone who has never sailed a boat to top competitors.
He explained each group focuses on developing skills to allow participants to graduate to the next group.
Everest Sailing Club is also open to students at Clarkston High School.
Those interested in the Everest Sailing Club can contact Ann Lowney at email@example.com.