By Tony Wittkowski | Reporter | MLive – Muskegon Chronicle
SPRING LAKE, MI — When it comes to November, sailing is not the first thing that comes to mind for most people.
But for the high school students who take part in the Spring Lake Sailing Club, it seems the waters are always acceptable. In brutally cold weather wearing wet suits, they raced in Chicago and qualified for a national race.
Spring Lake coach Joe Rotonda runs drills with the club on Tuesdays and Thursdays and has seen the willingness of the 24 members exceed everyone’s expectations.
Beginning on Saturday, Nov. 22 and carrying through to Sunday, Nov. 23, the Spring Lake Sailing Club will have four representatives in New Orleans for a national regatta known as the Great Oak Invitational. Those four students include Frank Reeg, Caleb Boone, Rachael Rantenen and Tommy Clover.
“We go out to an event every weekend,” Rotonda said. “The team is where it is today because of the parents who volunteer their time and the community that has backed it. The success we have has been a result of that.”
Reeg’s father, Patrick, said after practicing at the Spring Lake Yacht Club throughout the fall, those four will now be going up against the nation’s best.
“My son is sailing well this season. The high school team started four years ago as a club sport,” Patrick Reeg said. “It’s been a great opportunity for these kids to sail. We’ve been getting bigger and bigger each year.”
Having done well in the Great Lakes Championships and winning the Michigan State Championship, the team moved from regatta to regatta.
“We had more kids in the fall season than in the spring this year,” Rotonda said. “We are one of the few public schools in Michigan to have a sailing team. I mean, Grand Haven has one, too, but most of the time it is a private school that has one.”
Rotonda, who has sailed his whole life, said he started coaching as a way to pass some of that knowledge onto others.
“It’s a culmination of all our practices and we compete every week,” he said. “I think the kids are pretty excited. To go somewhere like New Orleans and sail is pretty cool.”
The two-day event will include 40 teams, which will be divided into two separate fleets on the second day – considered the gold and silver fleets.
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Nov. 21, 2014)