Jacksonville waterways good proving ground for youth competitors

Jacksonville waterways good proving ground for youth competitors
Stanton Riverbank Rowing Club’s gold-medal winning team of Hannah Moody, Haile Taylor, coxswain Sarah Gayle Thornton of Ortega, Olivia Schueth of Avondale and Regan Fernandez. They won the Women’s Varsity 4+ at the city championships April 1 on the Ortega River.

Growing up within sight of the water, it seems natural that youngsters would be drawn to St. Johns River-based recreational activities. That is indeed the case for a number of local girls and boys who participate in competitive sailing and rowing.

Aiding these youngsters in their desire to explore sports on the water is the existence of entities such as The Florida Yacht Club, Epping Forest Yacht & Country Club, The Rudder Club, Jacksonville Rowing Club, and the Stanton Riverbank Rowing Club.

Tim Monahan with his winning daughters, Mary Katherine, left, and Bridget, as they receive the Burroughs Trophy at the 2016 Yachtsman of the Year Award Banquet at Florida Yacht Club. Mary Katherine won for Top Green Fleet Opti Sailor, while Bridget was Top Advanced Fleet Opti sailor for 2016. With the Monahans are Caroline Burroughs and her son, Chandler, who presented the Dick Burroughs Memorial Trophy.

Tim Monahan with his winning daughters, Mary Katherine, left, and Bridget, as they receive the Burroughs Trophy at the 2016 Yachtsman of the Year Award Banquet at Florida Yacht Club. Mary Katherine won for Top Green Fleet Opti Sailor, while Bridget was Top Advanced Fleet Opti sailor for 2016. With the Monahans are Caroline Burroughs and her son, Chandler, who presented the Dick Burroughs Memorial Trophy.

For the Monahan children of Ortega Forest, sailing has become a family endeavor. Reedy was introduced to the sport as a 4-year-old attending a camp at the Florida Yacht Club in 2006. Sisters Bridget and Mary Katherine were each 6 when learning the basics at different FYC camps in subsequent years.

“The awesome camp counselors would teach us the basics by making it fun with swim breaks, prizes and games,” Bridget Monahan, now 13, recalled. “When I was younger, I sailed in multiple regattas and did okay, not dead last, and these races would teach me how to be more aggressive to focus on starting, out-maneuvering others, along with how the boat works.”

Reedy found success right out of the gate and has been hooked on the sport ever since. “My first regatta was in Daytona at the Halifax Youth Sailing Center. I remember winning one of the races. I was surprised to find myself in the front of the fleet and was even more surprised when I won it.

“Being on the water and the competition at the bigger regattas makes me want to do it,” said Reedy, now 15. “Learning from the kids at the top of the fleet has helped me become a much better sailor.”

Added Mary Katherine, now 11: “I like sailing because it’s an individual sport and team sport that is unique and it allows you to travel around the country and sail in some really cool places.” 

Will Weinbecker learned to sail as a 7-year-old in New Orleans and by the time his family relocated to the St. Nicholas area three years ago, he had already competed in a pair of national championships. Weinbecker also qualified to attend the 2015 U.S. National Team trials in Miami.

Honing his skills on the St. Johns River, the teen continued to excel and last year traveled to San Francisco to sail in the national team trials.

Will Weinbecker, left, Reedy Monahan and Wes Myler at the 2016 US National Team Trials Regatta in San Francisco last May.

Will Weinbecker, left, Reedy Monahan and Wes Myler at the 2016 US National Team Trials Regatta in San Francisco last May.

“I finished 74th out of 290 of the best sailors in the country and made the U.S. national team’s developmental team,” said the 14-year-old Weinbecker. “On this team, I have had the opportunity to practice around the country with the top sailors and train with the top coaches.

“What I like about sailing is you have to improve both your body, physically, but also mentally. There is a lot to know to compete in sailing and it requires lots and lots of practice as well as good coaching.”

Not a sailor, Olivia Schueth of Avondale instead got into rowing as a high school freshman after participating in dance for 12 years when her friend, Sarah Gayle Thornton of Ortega, decided to take up rowing.

“Rowing really appealed to me because it was a sport in which my taller body type was actually desired, unlike in dance where it is best to be short and small,” said Schueth.

Now 16, Schueth has competed with the Stanton Riverbank Rowing Club in two spring seasons and one winter season, in events ranging from eight-person boats to four-person boats. Her Women’s Varsity Four team won city championships and the club also won the award for total points, something they haven’t done for six years.

“Overall, that regatta was a major success, and it just goes to show that even though we may be smaller than some of our competitors in Jacksonville, we can still compete on their level,” she said.


By Robert DeAngelo
Resident Community News

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