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Schools: Waccamaw High ready to launch sailing team

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

With the addition of lacrosse this spring, Waccamaw High offers every sport sanctioned by the S.C. High School League. But that’s just a starting point.

Organizers of a sailing team met with school and district officials over the summer. Close to 130 students signed up for information during school registration earlier this month.

“Anytime our students want more opportunities, I can’t say no to putting that opportunity out there,” principal David Hammel said. “There’s always room for one more.”

The club was the idea of Griffin DesMarteau, a sophomore whose family moved to Pawleys Island last year after sailing from their former home in Oregon to the East Coast. He was looking for more sailing opportunities and his mother, Ashley, urged him to make some. His first effort led to the creation of a sailing school at the S.C. Maritime Museum in Georgetown this summer.

“He walked in Day One with the mindset, ‘We’re going to have a team,’ ” Ashley DesMarteau said.

The summer camp created a core of young sailors, many of whom are too big for the camp’s plywood boats.

Griffin races in the Charleston area and offshore, so the DesMarteaus approached Charleston Community Sailing about buying some of the club’s used boats. Instead they came away with a donation of four racing dinghies. The boats, known as 420s, are a mainstay of youth sailing programs and competitions. Two more boats are promised.

Those boats will form the core of a fleet that will be based at Hazzard Marine in Georgetown, where space has been donated by the Tiller family. Those boats would be available to sailing clubs and the county’s public and private high schools, DesMarteau said. “We won’t have a high school coach per se, but we will race for the school,” she explained.

“There are still some issues to work out with liability and insurance,” Superintendent Randy Dozier said. But those aren’t insurmountable.

“We do it with the archery club,” he said. “It’s not our program, but they’re our students.”

The program needs approval from the school board, Dozier said. That could come next month when the sailing club will make a presentation to the board.

Hammel said extracurricular activities are an important way to keep students engaged in school. “Those involved in extracurricular activities tend to do better academically,” he said.

Of course, it’s also fun. Dozier recalled having a canoe club at school when he worked in Greenville. The idea of a sailing club has appeal. “I’d want to do it,” he said.

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