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Kids from across South Jersey share love of the water on CRYC youth sailing team


If one were to drive along the Cooper River in Collingswood or Cherry Hill this summer during a weekday afternoon, they may see a team of sailboats sailing along the water.

These particular boats are not piloted by adults, but rather kids, ages 9 to 18, from around South Jersey. The kids come from as close as Haddonfield and Cherry Hill to as far as Sewell and Medford. They have different backgrounds, attend different schools and have different groups of friends. However, together they share a common bond in their interest in sailing.

These kids make up the Cooper River Yacht Club Youth Sailing Team. The team competes in the Mid-Atlantic Yacht Racing Association series on Thursdays during the summer, racing other kids from across New Jersey and around the region. The team will be hosting a regatta on July 30 against the association’s other teams.

The team members all have had different journeys into the sport. Some have been sailing for more than five years, some for as little as two or three. However, all 11 members talk of their team as its own little club.

“Meeting new people is really awesome,” said Annalise Rowling, 15, of Haddonfield. “As far as I know, I’m the only person in my school or grade that sails.”

Cherry Hill resident Skye Mada, 11, said she didn’t know anyone in her school or group of friends who sailed prior to starting.

“When I started, I didn’t really know anyone,” she said. “Everyone was so nice to me.”


Haddonfield resident Leo Brickner, 12, said he got into sailing because he wanted to do a unique summer activity.

“It’s fun to always have something to do rather than sitting around doing nothing,” he said. “It’s fun saying I sail.”

Head coach Robert Graham of Moorestown said sailing requires a high level of patience. He complimented his team, saying all members have grown in maturity since they first started.

“Some people, it takes too long for them to like it and that’s when they quit,” he said. “There’s a certain level of maturity that’s required.”

Cameron Acito, 17, of Cherry Hill said he was attracted to the sport because of the patience and maturity required to master it.

“I definitely like the independence factor that your actions are reciprocated through how you perform,” he said.

“It’s really fun having a big responsibility like this,” said Cameron’s younger brother, 11-year-old Nathan. “I like learning how to race and keep your boat nice for all of the regattas.”

“I like the freedom,” said Aidan Ryder, 14, of Medford. “We were alone in our own boats having a good time.”

Just like other sports teams, there’s a large time commitment with sailing. The team practices at Riverton Yacht Club on Mondays and then at Cooper River Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Thursdays are competition days where the team will leave as early as 5:30 or 6 a.m. to travel to another yacht club in the region, not coming home until night. Then on Fridays, the team is back on the river for another practice.


“We try to start right when school ends,” Graham said. “We get some practice time so we’re ready to go.”

The many hours of practice has paid off for a number of the sailors. Cameron Acito finished in first place the Laser 4.7 series at the Brigantine regatta on July 16, with Rowling not far behind in third place. Zachary York of Sewell won the Laser 4.7 category in Stone Harbor on July 9, and Chaz Burnham of Collingswood finished in first place in Laser Redial on that same day.

The team is hoping to draw a crowd of sailing fans and those new to the sport at Thursday’s regatta. The team has grown over the past eight years from just three kids to an average of 10 to 12 annually. Cameron Acito hopes the team attracts a few more fans this week.

“We have a social atmosphere to help bring people in,” he said. “Then we want them to stay because we want them to sail.”

For more information on the Cooper River Yacht Club and the youth sailing team, visitwww.cooperriveryc.org.

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