Learning to Sail on the Two Rivers

June 6, 2014
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By Meghan Loder

The summer is almost in full swing and everyone is clamoring to soak up the sun and water. While there are plenty of camps on land for children, how about on water?

Sailing has been increasing in popularity in the high school arena, with Rumson-Fair Haven, Red Bank Regional, Red Bank Catholic, Christian Brothers Academy and M.A.S.T all offering teams for students. Participants in the programs have continued their skills in some of the best colleges across the nation. But sailing is an ageless sport where children can start when they are 8 years old and continue on forever. There are five different sailing organizations in the Monmouth County area that teach children – and some adults – this timeless sport.

In Red Bank, River Rats is an organization that offers lessons for children of all ages. Serving as an alternative to yacht club program, River Rats sets itself apart from others with its unique “balance between a little bit of racing and having fun,” said Lora Sgroi, the chief officer of River Rats.

Sgroi said sailing is a popular sport in Monmouth County. “Some kids cannot find a sport that they like or are awkward, and don’t find the sport that they want. But with sailing, the light goes on and this is what they like doing.”

Most students in the junior program come back and stay for lessons and continue moving though the program. “There is a huge sense of camaraderie with the participants, all of them are working together on a team,” Sgroi said. The sense of camaraderie continues all the way up to the advanced program.

Sgroi said Bill Heath, the former police chief of Fair Haven, is an alum of River Rats and still comes back to help out at Junior Sweeps, a summer regatta for all the sailing organizations in the area.

The Shrewsbury Sailing and Yacht Club (SSYC), located at the intersection of Oneida and Seawaneka avenues in Oceanport, is an organization that also offers youth sailing camps and lessons.

Most children in the organization start in the beginner programs. SSYC offers a mini-camp that will serve more than 50 kids this year. Mini-camp is a five-day introduction to the sailing program with the hope that after the camp, children will continue onto the beginner session.

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The beginner sessions are held over seven weeks and teach children the basics of sailing and helps get them more comfortable under sail. There is even an opportunity for the young sailors to choose to compete and join in “greenie” regattas designed for new racers. There are almost 100 kids signed up for lessons this summer.

The SSYC hopes to serve as a stepping-stone for children in their sailing education.

“The No. 1 goal (of the program) is to have a great time on the water, to move from the beginner level to advanced and to keep moving on,” said Susan Ricker, the junior program chairwoman.

The club wants the children taught sailing “to love it, learn it and see it as a life sport.”

Those who want to learn sailing can also head to Atlantic Highlands. The Atlantic Highlands Sailing Education Program, held on the Sandy Hook Bay, is done in conjunction with Atlantic Highlands Yacht Club and is for children; between 60 and 70 are already enrolled for this season.

The sailing education program is a nonprofit organization with the goal of providing kids access to sailing. “We provided a targeted program for children for all ages,” said Beth Fortier, the spokesperson for the group. “We provide the equipment and offer scholarships so every kid can have access to learn to sail.

The program offers sailing instruction, starting with two-week camps for all ages and skills. There are all different levels from novice to advanced, with kids ranging from 8-17.

“The goal of the program is to teach kids the fundamentals of sailing and to ultimately build a long-term love and interest for sailing,” Fortier said. “Sailing offers children a different level of independence. It gives children an opportunity to learn sailing skills and gain independence.”

Monmouth Boat Club is another program in the area, located on the Navesink River in Red Bank, next to Marine Park on Union Street. The Monmouth Boat Club offers sailing opportunities for children, with an eight-week instructive program with opportunities for all levels and ages.

Members of the Monmouth Boat Club are very passionate about sailing and the programs that they offer.

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“We’re in an area brought up on the water, and it’s a well-kept secret –most people haven’t heard of the Monmouth Boat Club,” said Renee Dasaro, the junior supervisor at the Monmouth Boat Club. “A lot of people in Monmouth County have never been on a boat.”

Dasaro stressed the importance of children learning to sail.

“Sailing allows them to mature over the summer. Most kids are young, 8 or up, and are given a huge responsibility to take care of their own boat and drive a ship all by themselves.”

Dasaro went on to say, “At that age nothing as fast as a boat is legal. You can’t give them the keys to the car.” She also stressed that the goal of the Monmouth Boat Club is “to teach a lifelong sport to young people and for children to learn racing and the rules.”

The Rumson Yacht Club also offers sailing opportunities for children on the Shrewsbury River. The club is a part of the group of clubs that compete in Junior Sweeps, a mini-regatta that demonstrates the camaraderie of the sailing community in Monmouth County.

The sweeps has historically been held the first week of August, when  the Shrewsbury Yacht Club, the Atlantic Highlands Yacht Club, Monmouth Boat Club, the Keyport Yacht Club and the Rumson Yacht Club gather to race against each other for the week. Most of the clubs shut down lessons for the week and focus on the event.

Each club and organization offers something a little different from each other, but all share a common goal: to teach children a skill that will last a lifetime and an appreciation of the sport and the water that is all around them.

Area sailing organizations are:

River Rats

P.O Box 144

Fair Haven, NJ 07704


 Shrewsbury Sailing and Yacht Club

512 Seawaneka Ave.

Oceanport, NJ 07757



Atlantic Highlands Sailing Education Program

Box 123

Atlantic Highlands. NJ 07716



Monmouth Boat Club

31 Union Street

Red Bank NJ, 07701



Rumson Country Club

163 Rumson Road,

Rumson, NJ 07760




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