Yacht Club's waterfront co-directors enjoy summer challenge

College sailors Genna Viggiano and Kate Cox co-direct the White Bear Sailing school while home for the summer.

Heading up the White Bear Sailing School as college-age kids sounds like a monumental task, but Kate Cox and Genna Viggiano aren't unfamiliar with the territory they're commanding.

Cox is from White Bear Lake and remembers coming to the Yacht Club since she was six years old. All of her family lives within five blocks of each other. She's a member of the Hobart and William Smith College sailing team in New York.

“I think it's kind of different because I grew up sailing here, and I was a coach here,” she said. “Now I'm a director. I feel like I've been within every aspect of the sailing school.”

For Viggiano, a Mahtomedi native who sails for St. Mary's College in Maryland, six years of sailing experience and prior coaching chops prepared her to step into the co-director role, as well. 

“What I wanted to get out of this was learning leadership roles,” she said. “I was a coach here before, where I was lower-ranked and didn't have much responsibility over people or the final say.

“But I love working here in the summers. You get to stay in the sun and meet all these new kids. You go around town and say, 'That was a kid in my class!'”

As directors of the school, Cox and Viggiano get to teach lots of classes — an Expo class in the morning and 420 racing team in the afternoon, to name a couple — while also staying on top of working with their fellow coaches and club employees and making calls on weather-related obstacles.

“We've had days when storms are coming in and we wonder, 'should we have them out?' or they're already out on the water and we're seeing lightning,” Viggiano said. “Always making sure everyone else is safe before you are. The captain goes down with the ship.”

According to Cox and Viggiano, everyone involved wants the school to succeed, and that makes their jobs easier.

“Balancing everyone's needs is a big part of the job,” Cox said. “We get a lot of help from board members and coaches.”

The sailing school summer ends Aug. 8, but before its conclusion, the Yacht Club is hosting the Opti Inland regatta July 28-30. Roughly 100 boats are expected to sail, with participants ranging from ages six to 16. It's the biggest Opti regatta in the Midwest, according to Cox. The directors will be out on the water all day with a variety of boats.

Cox and Viggiano could devote their focus entirely on their fall, winter and spring seasons on the East Coast, but contributing their summer to the sailing school means more than just a job.

“I think everyone has fun here,” Cox said. “And that's the whole point of the sailing school. Making sure we're having fun is important and we all have each other to lean on.”

“This might be my last summer in Minnesota, so I'll look back on having fun with all the employees and the students for sure,” Viggiano added.

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