Sailors don’t have quite as much control of their outcomes as athletes in other sports do, but that’s OK with Kate Cox, who runs the local sailing school.

“What I love most about racing, and sailing in general, is the feeling that whatever happens isn’t always up to you,” she reflects. “You can only control the race up to a certain point; beyond that, it’s Nature’s call. 

“It makes you feel connected to the wind, water, weather, whatever is going on above.”

Even better, she said, is sharing the experience with your crew or skipper, usually a close friend or family member. Connection, to nature and your teammates, could be called “the essence of sailing,” she mused.

The White Bear Sailing School (WBBS), in its 64th year connecting kids with boats and the elements, is back in operation as of July 6. 

It started a month late due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As with recreation programs, turnout is lower than usual, but the school is confident that it has made sailing safe, and is seeking to add students.

“We wanted to make sure we could properly socially distance and make a safe environment for our sailors before jumping into anything,” said Cox, whose title is waterfront director. “We think we have successfully done so.”

Protocols vary, depending on the class. All classes are held outside (in bad weather, they reschedule or use Zoom); students wear masks while using the pavilion; and boats are washed after each class each day.

To avoid crowding, the school cut adult group lessons along with several youth classes. Instead, several private lesson packages for adults, kids, and families are on offer. The main focus this summer is the racing classes, but the school also has a beginner Opti class for age 10 and up.

“We really don’t have to compromise our sport much to make room for the pandemic,” Cox said. “You can still have a safe and almost riskless summer here while having fun doing the sport.”

Natalie Water Seum, a board member, added, “We’re feeling great about this opportunity for children (and adults) to get outside in a safe and fun environment.” She also cited “all the lifelong lessons that sailing teaches: responsibility, critical thinking, communication, water safety and quick thinking, just to name a few.” 

Cox, who comes from a White Bear Lake sailing family and started at WBSS at age 6, is a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York State, where she had an excellent collegiate career. She was a first-team all-conference skippers as a junior, helped the Herons place third at 2018 nationals in Norfolk, Virginia, and competed at nationals three times.

WBSS is not just for sailors as competitive as herself, she noted.

“If you want to achieve the highest level and become a competitive racer, then that’s totally possible and great; and if you just want to have fun, and be able to sunset cruise around the lake, we can make that happen, too.”

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