2009 All stars 368
The youth sailing scene in the United States is creating a remarkably large talent pool, one that is both deep and broad. Numerous local sailing programs and junior sailing regattas I know of were at capacity last summer, and many of our youngest sailors are now receiving professional-level coaching and mentoring. The result is a generation of sailors capable of great performances, both on and off the water, at home and abroad. This, of course, is a good thing for our sport’s future. But it doesn’t make any easier the challenge of recognizing sailing’s young standouts for my annual Junior All-Star squad.
I’ve recognized the country’s best junior sailors every year since 2001 (missing more than a few great, unheralded young sailors along the way, I’m sure), and it’s been immensely satisfying to watch them develop into outstanding competitors. Thus far, I’ve been on target with my selections: In 2009, for example, nine of 13 college All-Americans were Junior All-Star alumni. I’m sure many of this year’s standout sailors will follow suit. Allow me to introduce my All-Stars, each brimming with talent and an undeniable passion for sailing.
Kieran Chung, 16, of Newport Beach, Calif., only started sailing four years ago, but given his results of late, you’d think he’d been honing his skills for far longer. Before taking up sailing, he played water polo. “My mom convinced me to sail on the Corona Del Mar High School sailing team,” says Chung. “I went to the Gaucho Regatta as a first-time crew in the silver fleet. It was blowing 25 knots; I became addicted to the excitement and adrenaline rush of sailing.” Since that breezy introduction, Chung has been on a roll: In 2009, he won the Bemis Trophy [U.S. Junior Doublehanded Championship] with his regular crew Ryan Davidson, placed third in B division at the Mallory (the Interscholastic Sailing Association’s doublehanded championship), and was sixth at the Baker Trophy (ISSA team-racing championship).
When asked if there are parallels between sailing and his other athletic outlets, he says: “The only similarity with water polo is that both require water. Water polo is satisfying physically, but sailing really stimulates my mind. Once I found the Laser, the physical aspect of the sport became satisfying.”
Chung credits his quick rise to Nathan Dunham and Zander Kirkland, who coached him in the Sabot. He also credits coaches Caleb Silsby, Michael Menninger, and Michael Anderson. “On a peer level,” he says, “I try to mimic my good friend Chris Barnard in Laser boathandling.”
When asked about any embarrassing moments, he laughs. “In one race at the Baker we had the winning combination. As I was preparing to hike, I missed the strap and did a backflip out of the boat. All I could think about at the time was not losing the winning combination.”
Scott Hoffman, 17, of San Diego, was an honorable mention in our All-Star lineup in 2007. At the time, his potential was clear, and in 2009, he made his mark, winning the Sears Cup for the second time in three years-this time with twin brother, Evan, and Colleen Hackit. Demonstrating his versatility, Hoffman also finished second in the U.S. Youth Multihull Championship (sailed in Hobie 16s) with crew Ryan Porteous.
Hoffman started his competitive career by racing around moored boats against Evan. “That was the best time,” he says. Today he races a wide variety of boats, including Lasers, Ultimate 20s, Solings, Santana 20s, Snipes, and International 14s.
“Fast is fun, but I love them all,” says Hoffman with a smile. Off the water, he and Evan play guitars in a rock band, and when not sailing, he hits the volleyball court or the nearby trails on his mountain bike. “Both work my body and mind,” he says.
As is the case with each of our All-Stars, Hoffman intends to sail in college, and an Olympic campaign is on his list as well. Hoffman credits his father, Richard, and Pete Hunter at Mission Bay YC, for helping improve his skills, and the club’s many members for loaning him boats to race.
Kevin Laube, 17, of Point Loma, Calif., is another top sailor from the West Coast. In the summer of 2009, Laube won the Smythe Trophy (U.S. Junior Singlehanded Championship), placed second in the US SAILING’s Chubb U.S. Junior Sailing Championships in the Club 420 (with crew Reece Bernet), and was second at the Baker Trophy. He also won the ultracompetitive Laser Radial division at Canada’s CORK Regatta. Laube spends a lot of time on the water, sailing, competing with a swim team, and playing water polo; the later two, he says, help him stay fit for sailing. His immediate goal is to attend a college with a top-ranked sailing team and focus on that. Beyond college, he envisions a Laser Olympic campaign.
A major contributor to his success, says Laube, is Steve Hunt, a collegiate All-American, top 470 sailor, and coach for Laube’s No. 1-ranked Point Loma High School sailing team, for which Laube is the team captain: “He has taught me almost everything I know about racing and is always able to offer great advice.”
Antoine Screve, 16, of San Francisco, started sailing an Optimist dinghy at age 9. The 29er is currently his favorite boat, however, and it’s one on which he certainly excels: he won the 29er division at the U.S. Junior Sailing Championships and at CORK, both with crew James Moody. Earlier in the year, he won the Club 420 Midwinters with crew Willie McBride. Screve and Moody race on the same high school team at The Branson School. He is also currently a member of the Under-18 U.S. Sailing Team AlphaGraphics and aspires to attend the Games in the 49er.
For Screve, sailing hasn’t always been competitive. He has cruised extensively with his parents, including a six-month expedition through the Bahamas. “I am told I steered a sailboat before I walked,” he says.
Chris Segerblom, 17, Costa Mesa, Calif., has benefited from racing nationally and internationally over the past 10 years. Of late, he won B division at the Mallory Trophy, was on the winning team at the Baker Trophy, and 11th at the International 420 Worlds as crew for Judge Ryan (a 2008 Jobson Junior All-Star). In talking about other sports he plays (basketball and cross country), Segerblom says that one of his crews once made an interesting analogy between sailing and basketball: “The sports would be similar if the ref was allowed to blow the whistle and all of a sudden your team was supposed to score on the other basket [her interpretation of a wind shift].”
Chris Williford, 15, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has been a perennial standout in the Optimist class. Over the past year, he competed in Ecuador, Brazil, California, and Europe. Williford won the 2009 North Americans, was second at the Nationals, and won the Trofeo March Rizzotti Team Race Champs, and the Semana de Mar Del Plata in Argentina. He was 18th at the Worlds (top American) and second in the U.S. Optimist Team Trials. In October, he was the youngest skipper at US SAILING’s Championship of Champions in Carlyle, Ill.
Williford got his start in the protected waters of the Lauderdale YC, then his instruction moved out into the ocean where he says it can be very challenging. The most instructive experiences, he says, have been racing on a Melges 32 in a program called “Take a Junior Sailing Day,” created by LYC member Jeff Ecklund. Williford has also cruised with his family, most notably in the San Juan Islands of the Pacific Northwest. When not sailing or traveling, he plays tennis. Next year, he is looking to transition into an International 420 or 29er.
Ed.’s note: Gary was elected president of US SAILING in October ’09. He tells us he has ambitious plans for the organization. You can learn more about his initiatives at www.ussailing.org