Students explore creation of high school sailing team

Several students are trying to start a high school sailing team in Milford, but they still have some obstacles to overcome: They need funding, boats and ultimately a commitment from the Board of Education.

Jake Burwell, who will be a senior at Foran High School next school year, has been pushing for creation of a team and he’s still pushing despite the obstacles.

Jake made a presentation to school officials several months ago, and while the schools Chief Operations Officer James Richetelli Jr. said he was very impressed with the students and their presentation, it’s just not the right time to spend money to start a new team.

This wasn’t a great budget year: The school system came in with a modest budget increase after seeing state reductions take a toll on funds typically delivered to the school system. And there may be more state budget cuts to come.

Add to that, past practice has seen students and parents work hard to create a new team: Lacrosse, for example, spent six years working to become a fully funded high school sport. The first two years of its existence, lacrosse was a parent-supported club, with parents spending about $80,000 on the startup, Richetelli said.

Then the lacrosse program was phased in at the high schools over a four-year period, and today it is a fully funded school sport.

“We were totally impressed with the work the students did, their dedication and drive,” Richetelli said about the local students pitching a sailing team, “but in the end, we financially can’t support it.”

Jake hasn’t given up. He is still hoping to create a Milford high school sailing team or club comprised of students from Jonathan Law, Foran and Lauralton Hall. He said he’s gotten positive feedback from students interested in joining, and he said there are other coastal towns with high school sailing teams, including Fairfield, Greenwich and Darien.

Jake has been hooked on sailing since he was 12 years old and a friend took him on his 34-foot sailboat.

“Being on the water is a huge part of my life,” Jake said.

A Milford high school team would likely compete in the Fairfield County league, and would be a spring sport, Jake said.

Jake and fellow Foran student Kyle Stuart initially brought the idea to the administration. Both sail out of the Milford Yacht Club, which has offered to help with start up of the club or team.

Bruce Scull, junior sailing instructor and a Yacht Club board member, said the Milford Yacht Club has offered to be the team’s host site. “That’s important,” Scull said.

“We feel strongly that Milford should have a high school sailing club,” he added.

The team or club will need an advisor and a coach, and it could be a pay-for-play team, Scull said. The Yacht Club has a few boats the students could use, and Scull said they may be able to borrow additional boats — two-man sailboats called Club 420 boats — to make up a fleet.

Ideally the club or team would buy a fleet of boats. The Yacht Club works with the Milford Sailing Foundation, which might be able to help with the acquisition of sailboats, Scull said.

The Milford Sailing Foundation promotes sailing, and encourages interest in sailing education and competition, according to the group’s website. It supports Milford’s junior sailing program by obtaining boats and other sailing equipment, and sponsors sailing clinics.

But first things first, Scull said.

“Phase one is to get the club off the ground,” he said.

Jake said he hasn’t found a coach yet, but has found teachers and administrators who are willing to be advisors.

For information or to get involved contact Scull at