The South Carolina Yacht Club has long been respected locally for their mastery of Lowcountry waters and for teaching both young and old how to better navigate and appreciate the sport of yachting. Now, the club is gaining worldwide acclaim after a world-championship summer.
The club’s 2022 summer youth training program had 275 participants this year, fielded four race teams that traveled from the local Atlantic waters to the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas of Europe, and took home one national title and two world championships – an unprecedented feat for any club.
“It has been a stellar year, for sure. We are so proud of the work these kids and young adults put in,” said SCYC Yachting Director Mark Newman. “They have shown that if you put in the work, incredible things can happen.”
According to SCYC booster Lee Lucier, the club has long been a strong competitor in Southeast competitions, but club officials made a commitment eight years ago to expand the program by bringing in Newman to helm the effort.
“It has been a transformation that we are so proud to see. Mark has continually improved the depth of this program, and we’re so thankful to the time and energy that these kids and their families have dedicated,” Lucier said. “This was a new high for us this summer and we’re excited to keep building the program.”
The summer program is nearly 300 strong – a tenfold growth since 2014 ¬– and has become a destination for kids nationwide to take their skills to a world-championship caliber level.
James Pine is the latest example of that strength. The 14-year-old grew up in Texas and Charleston before his family moved to the island during COVID.
In his third year with SCYC, Pine led a four-person team to a world title at the Optimist World Championship in Bodrum, Turkey, on June 28. He also finished second in individual fleet racing, losing the overall title on tiebreak points.
More than 120 boats and 530 sailors from across the world competed in the Worlds. The “Opti” is a class of small, single-handed fiberglass boats for youth sailors ages 8 to 15, and is the most popular youth racing class in the world with more than 150,000 registered boats.
“James is a truly special talent. He has a commitment and a work ethic that’s second to none,” Newman said of Pine. “He gets up and wants to be in a boat every day. And every time he gets in a boat, it’s a race. He’s always working to improve.”
Pine went from regional and national dominance to putting himself on the world title radar this summer. Lucier and Newman said Pine is now seen as a strong U.S. Olympic team hopeful for the 2028 Summer Games.
He was also part of a national championship in August when his crew won the United States Optimist Dinghy Association (OSODA) national team race championship in Hampton, Virginia.
James Thurlow, a SCYC home-grown talent, won the club’s second world title just weeks after the first. He and fellow SCYC sailor Michael McCorkendale of Team Fortitude took home the J/24 sanctioned junior boat title at the J/24 World Championship in Corpus Christi, Texas.
The SCYC Elite sailing team also achieved a first of its kind, sending nine ILCA (International Laser Class Association) single-handed race dinghy sailors to the world championship this year. ILCA 4 sailors Bella Duer, Louise Martin and River Keyser went to Portugal to compete in the largest ILCA 4 world championship in history. More than 530 boats competed over five days of racing.
The club also will send racers to nationals in Houston and Michigan this summer. Will Rucker and Reed McAllister finished seventh and eighth place respectively out of 22 competitors at the U.S. Sailing Chubb Single Hand Championship at the Macatawa Bay Yacht Club in Michigan.
“These kids train on much calmer waters on Hilton Head, we only get a five-foot rolling wave at the end of the island once every six months. And then they’re taking on those waves around the world,” Newman said. “The results are a true testament to the work they have put in. These kids have helped established a new level of respect nationally and worldwide for SCYC.”
SCYC is now attracting world title hopefuls from across the country to train in the summer program annually.
“The island is gorgeous waters, but in terms of training for competition, St. Augustine and Fort Lauderdale have always been the destination for contenders to train. We are changing that perception steadily,” Newman said. “SCYC and the island are now a destination. Training with stronger competitors with world-title expectations, it has made our local kids see what’s capable for them, and year after year, our home-grown kids have been building to a world-title level. Louise Martin’s father was in the Olympics in 1996. Now, we have the world titles. The kids can see right in front of them what’s possible. We can’t wait to see what’s next.”
The next event for SCYC is the Low Country Hook Ocean race on Sept. 17, a 27-mile ocean race from the south end of Hilton Head to the Wassaw Sound south of Tybee Island. The SCYC junior team has won the last two events on Fortitude and Vortex.
SCYC will host the annual Ocean Challenge Regatta Oct. 8-9 with PHRF spin, non-spin and Harbor 20 one-design classes.
“We are hopeful we can get some new cruisers and day sailors to come out and join the PHRF in a pursuit-style race this year,” Newman said. He also said the SCYC junior sailors would love to be part of crews to help newcomers navigate the racecourse.
For more information, visit scyachtclub.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tim Wood is a veteran journalist based in Bluffton. Contact him at email@example.com.