After four years away at Binghamton University, Shelby Bacchioni decided to come back to Sea Cliff Beach, having spent her college time away from sailing.
“We live so close to the water that we should learn how to sail,” said Bacchioni, 22, of Glen Head, who joined the Sea Cliff Sailing Club at age 12 and returned to instruct sailing camp this year. “We teach them how to have that confidence to go out on their own.”
Joe Roman and Charles Hansmann, members of the club, supervised and instructed 50 kids, ages 11 to 17, to sail 14-foot Sunfish sailboats from June 27 to July 13 at Sea Cliff Beach.
“This began in 1973 with the director, Ward Bell, and Al Young,” said Roman, of Sea Cliff. “What they do here is learn to rig these boats and they have to take a swimming test. They learn to sail to the wind. They learn to be safe. Nobody sails without a lifejacket.”
The water was calm Friday morning, with barely any wind to fill up the sails. Sailors spent 10 to 15 minutes out at a time.
“If you can’t sail with dead wind, you can’t sail at all,” Roman said. “We take a day when there’s no wind at all and flip the boats over and the kids have to learn how to turn them upright again.”
Carolina Pardo and her sister Natalia have belonged to the club for more than two years.
“It’s fun to do something different than just staying home over the summer,” said Carolina Pardo, 14, of Sea Cliff. “We started because our older sister Andrea did it.”
Both girls are now junior instructors and volunteer to teach the younger sailors.
“It’s really calm out there and nice to teach them,” said Natalia Pardo, 16, of Sea Cliff. “The scary part is when they get too close to boats and we’re not the ones steering. It’s also easy to capsize, so we practice capsizing the first week.”
Ascher Werz, an incoming senior at North Shore High School, has been sailing since age 6. Like Bacchioni, he is also an instructor, showing the younger sailors the ropes.
“One summer, three years ago, I crewed a ship from Oyster Bay to Mystic, Connecticut and back with six other teenagers,” said Werz, 17, of Sea Cliff. “For me, the perfect day to sail is right before a storm. It’s not so rough that you can’t sail, but there’s enough wind to go fast.”
For Bacchioni, a perfect day of sailing begins when the wind picks up, the boat easily cuts through the waves and a brief spray of water hits your face.
“I feel like the hardest part is believing in yourself that you can do it,” she said. “I was nervous to come back after all this time, but once I got out here it all came back to me.”