Colorado student sailors train with homemade boats on Dana Point’s Baby Beach

Platte Canyon “Yacht Club” teens prepare for Seventy48 race in Tacoma, Washington; the program solves two dilemmas – wood shop elective elimination and youth sailing participation.

DANA POINT—As a hobby, boating is one thing. On the other hand, it takes an immense amount of skill, time and teamwork to train for a sailing event, never mind that race requires its participants to build a homemade vessel to complete the race. A group of teachers, parents and high school students from Bailey, Colorado, however, arranged to test the three canoe-like vessels they built together to enter into the Seventy48 Race on the shores of Dana Point during the week of March 28 until April 3.

Two teachers, Steve Hanford and Kip Otteson, offered their guidance to the students in an effort to pose a solution to the lack of wood shop courses and also head to the West Coast for a sailing endeavor.

Otteson joked, “We originally wanted to enter Race to Alaska, but we thought our wives wouldn’t be too happy for us to be gone for too long. Instead, we decided to get the kids involved!”

Otteson added the boat building project was an answer to wood shop class, which he acknowledged was largely leaving school programs.

Platte Canyon High School, located in the mountains just southwest of Denver, Colorado in Bailey, created its own “Yacht Club” of sorts. The school’s efforts caught fire locally and in other places across the nation after it started a GoFundMe page.

One student named Eleigha, a junior at Platte Canyon High School, shared with The Log why this project with her teammates has been such a life-changing experience.

“Building the boats has been a good bonding experience. It’s kind of crazy to think we built something and we can go out on rough waters,” said Eleigha.

Boating activities for youngsters have been waning lately, especially when it comes to having more girls and women become active. Otteson stated it was equally important to recruit girls for the event, which could be seen by the mixture of boys, girls, men and women.

Eleigha grew up in partially in Michigan and said there she learned to have a love for those waters.

“I’ve always loved going back,” she said.

Building the boats, which were made to disassemble so they could be carried in a trailer, was also a process. David Czeiszperger, a math teacher who also joined the team, mentioned while the team members knew their boats were watertight upon leaving Colorado, they were not sure the boats would be wobbly when they got onto the open ocean. Once they were out on the water, however, it was apparent they were made exquisitely well.

Boating and sailing activities statistically has been known to build many skills for kids, including confidence building and more. For Eleigha, who stated she definitely has plans to attend college possibly heading into the medical field or law, she said teamwork was the biggest take-away from this experience.

Another girl on the team named Lisa, a senior, knew she wanted to be a part of the building process.

“I just enjoy building stuff,” she said.

Quite a few locals in Dana Point were curious and impressed by the activities taking place on Baby Beach. Sylvia Gildea, one of the original women’s outriggers in Dana Point, was on the beach. Students and Ottesen acknowledged the Outrigger’s Club had been especially hospitable and had taught the team some various rowing techniques.

Otteson said, “We average about 3.5 [nautical miles per hour], but the Outriggers were teaching the kids certain techniques that got them up to about 6 miles per hour.”

When asked about the challenges ahead for the race, Otteson was optimistic the team would place well, citing the fact they may have an edge on some paddleboarders that enter.

A Go Fund Me page, created by Otteson, has helped the students raise money for their entry. As of April 1, the students had raised $8,970 of their $15,000 goal. The page can be found at gofundme.com/pchs-yacht-club-to-seventy48.

Seventy48, also known as 70 miles in 48 hours, begins on May 31 in Tacoma. All vessels eligible for entry must be human-powered only, which means pedal, paddle or row, no motors, support or wind. There is also another unusual element to this race – it begins at 7 p.m. Participants have 30 minutes to cross the start line.

For more information about Seventy48, visit the race’s official website at seventy48.com.

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