In the wake of 16-year-old Zac Sunderland’s voyage around the world that started in Marina del Rey, another event involving young sailors has come down the pike.
The nonprofit organization Lifesail, whose mission is to “promote a character-building experience through sailing and seamanship,” is currently training three young mariners for a challenging 19.5-mile sail in eight-foot dinghies across the ocean to Catalina Island.
Accustomed to fair weather sailing inside the safety of Marina del Rey’s harbor, the young adventurers are scheduled to leave that comfort zone on August 27th and brave the open ocean elements in boats about the size of a bathtub.
The three boys, Steven Schulz 12, Daniel Dimal 13, and Alex Legaspi, 14, are all members of the Lifesail organization, which looks to employ real-life situations as learning tools for their kids.
The trio has been engaged in regular training sessions conducted by Lifesail founder Matt Schulz (father of Steven) aimed at acclimating the kids to the more rigorous conditions they will face as they attempt to make their way from a location near King Harbor in Redondo Beach to the final destination, Two Harbors, on Catalina.
Along the way, the young sailors sailing Optimist sailboats could likely see five-to-six-foot swells and 15-to-20-knot winds as they approach the island.
The kids are excited and ready for the journey and Schulz believes his squad will be prepared and better for the experience.
“I want them to have the extreme,” Schulz said of the training that is exposing the team to true ocean sailing. “Then, when we go out there on the trip, they’ll know what they’re looking at. Most likely, we won’t have the same conditions, but you always train for more difficult conditions.”
Beyond achieving the goal at hand, Schulz, a longtime marine surveyor who once crossed the Atlantic in a 27-foot sailboat, is quick to point out that safety is the most important element of the trip.
He has had the kids and chaperones practice man-overboard situations and VHF (very high frequency, marine radio) etiquette, and he has provisioned the boats with flares and added flotation.
In a worst-case scenario, such as a capsize, Schulz stresses that chase boats will always be very close.
“They know that if they are swimming and floating we are right there,” he said. “We will be within 50 feet of them always.”
The hearty little boats, with 35 square feet of sail area, should average around three to five knots, making the trip a five-to-seven-hour run, depending on tacking angles.
It’s thought that the youngest and probably most experienced sailor in the pack, Steven Schulz, a quiet, polite and calm young man, will be the youngest person to ever make the crossing single-handed. While he confessed to being a little nervous about the journey, he has been climbing around and sailing boats since he was an infant, so it’s certain that his anxiety will soon be replaced with excitement.
Lifesail is seeing this event as a pilot for other programs in the future that will challenge, teach and act as formative experiences that kids can draw from for the rest of their lives.
“I have other ambitions that in the next year or two we may have programs that will see youths capable of being able to sail a small boat to the other [Channel] Islands,” Schulz said.
In the meantime, Lifesail is focused on seeing the successful voyage of Steven, Alex and Daniel in the hope that they will learn their own lessons and at the same time inspire their peers.
For more information about Lifesail, www.lifesail.com/.