Sending Even More PNW Senior Sailors Off To Exciting New Adventures

As is true for student athletes in any high school sport, senior year is steeped in tradition for sailors around the Pacific Northwest. Each team has their own way of saying goodbye to those who are graduating and moving on to new adventures. For me, it meant recognition for my skipper and I at our end-of-season celebration with our friends and family, a handshake from my coach at my last regatta and, of course, the “senior splash” courtesy of my teammates. The “splash” tradition entails picking the seniors up, carrying them to the high section of the dock at Sail Sand Point (SSP), and pitching them into the water below (often fully clothed) at their last SSP regatta. I obviously would never condone this behavior due to the boldly printed NO SWIMMING signs…

But this year, the the spring sailing season has been canceled. Outgoing seniors of the Northwest Interscholastic Sailing Association (NWISA) aren’t getting their victory lap around the buoys. They don’t have the opportunity to feel the warmth of community recognition in the typical ways. Thus, we will honor their commitment to their programs and personal progress and on the water in a different fashion.

48° North has teamed up with local coaches to congratulate senior sailors around the region, and to showcase the future generation of the sport of sailing. Although we can’t present them with flowers at a banquet, shake their hands, or toss them into Lake Washington; we want these sailors to know that all of us in the sailing community of the Pacific Northwest are proud of what they’ve accomplished and can’t wait to see what their futures hold.

Part one congratulated seniors from the Willamette Sailing Club. Part two those from Newport High School, Port Townsend High School, and Bainbridge High School. Part three recognized graduating seniors from the Gorge Sailing Team. This fourth installment spotlights graduating senior sailors from Olympia.

A special note about the program in Olympia: Olympia Yacht Club Director and Head Coach, Sarah Hanavan, will be featured in an interview in the upcoming July issue of 48° North. In that interview, she said the following about the kids that sail with her:

I love talking about the kids on my sailing team. I love them so much, and I’m so proud of them for so many other reasons than just sailing—the way they treat each other as teammates, the dedication they give to something they’re passionate about, the amount of hard work they put. It just blows my mind.

Specific to this group of graduates, Sarah said:

Graduating six seniors, and having them all be wonderful young women that I have had the privilege to coach as a young female coach has been one of the most unexpected and wonderful things to happen to me in my life. There are so many memories I cherish. Having all of them graduate at the same time is bittersweet. I love them all so much, and I am so proud of everything they have accomplished individually and together. It is difficult to quantify how rewarding and immensely grateful I feel towards each of them for trusting me, and letting be a part of their growing-up into wonderful sailors and young women.  

Caroline Hurley 

Capitol High School

Plans for Next Year: I intend to study elementary or secondary education and sail at Western Washington University. 

What Draws You to Sailing? I grew up around powerboats and spent a lot of my childhood summers living on my family’s boat, and my family and I spent almost every day out on the water, but I hadn’t discovered the sport of sailing until I was in 2nd or 3rd grade when I did a summer sailing camp at OYC. I did sailing camps every summer after that first camp, and the summer before my 8th grade year, Coach Sarah was teaching my camp and she asked me to join the team, and I’ve been sailing competitively ever since! 

Coach Comment: Caroline is a Captain this season; and she has risen to the occasion, finding ways to keep her teammates engaged and stay positive. I wouldn’t expect any less from Caroline. Caroline joined as an 8th grader, and in five years has transformed into a 360 sailor — confident crewing and skippering no matter the conditions. Caroline is an all around fantastic sailor and competitor, she truly is a Corinthian sailor. She embodies the spirit of our team: a caring friend, passionate about all things water, committed, brave, and a serious athlete. I will miss her stories, and her ability to make any event with the team fun, and full of laughter.

Autumn Vandehey 

North Thurston High School 

Plans for Next Year: University of Washington

What Draws You to Sailing? I didn’t start sailing until 10th grade. Sailing looked exciting and fun and definitely something that would fit my thrill-seeking side. I had never sailed before joining the team but was instantly drawn to the sport after my first practice. Sailing in 15 knots of wind with the spray of salt water against my face is one if the best things I’ve ever experienced in life.

Coach Comment: When Autumn joined the team with no experience, I was excited but wanted her to understand it could be a steep learning curve. Stick with it long enough and anyone can fall in love with the sport — the challenge is getting them to do it… Autumn ran with it. She committed whole-heartedly. Her focus and dedication to improving her skills while also enjoying the act itself, has contributed to the team on so many levels. Every sailor who has had the privilege to sail with Autumn has gushed to me about how wonderful a teammate and partner she is. I am going to miss her quick humor, and aplomb no matter how crazy things get. UW is receiving another amazing North Thurston OYC Sailor!

Annie Buelt

Capital High School

Plans for Next Year: I will be attending the United States Coast Guard Academy where I will study Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering and sail on the intercollegiate dinghy team. 

What Draws You to Sailing? I was drawn to sailing at a young age, from when my family moved aboard a sailboat when I was four years old. After seven happy years of living aboard, we transitioned back to land. I was really missing being on the water, so I took a Laser sailing camp in middle school and immediately fell back in love. Since then, I spend as much time as I can with my sails up. Sailing has become my passion and substantially shaped my decision to serve in the Coast Guard.

Coach Comment: Annie has been a fierce athlete since she joined the team in 8th grade! She has always been a sponge for knowledge — asking questions, challenging herself, and growing her skill sets. A quiet and focused leader, Annie has led the charge to carve out a name for the Capital Sailing Team. I love how physical she is with her maneuvers; that she sails rudderless at practice without prompting; and helps with everything from boat maintenance to trailer rigging without being asked — leading by example instead. I am not surprised Annie will be sailing for USCGA, I know she will find a team that shares her passion and intensity. 

Joy Brennan

Capital High School

Plans for Next Year: Tufts University

What Draws You to Sailing? I love being on the water and the OYC High School Sailing Team was one of the most welcoming and genuinely kind-hearted groups of people I had ever met! Over the years, they have grown to be a second family, supporting me unconditionally while pushing me to be the best version of myself on and off the water.

Coach Comment: Joy also joined the team as an 8th grader, and from the get-go was a committed and solid athlete. Joy has worked to always strike a balance between the team, family, friends and schoolwork. She has so many passions and pursuits, yet she has always made time to be a committed teammate and grow her skills. Joy has applied her sharp mind, quick thinking, and poise to her sailing. From complex team racing plays, to making a memorable regatta weekend in San Diego, Joy is serious and fun all at the same time. I will miss Joy’s sincerity and maturity. She has given a part of her heart to this team, and I couldn’t be more grateful as a coach. 

Ann Li 

Capital High School

Plans for Next Year: I will be attending St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota next year, double majoring in Political Science and Musical Performance while in part of a Pre-Law honors program. Unfortunately, there’s no sailing team that I know of, but I would be open to starting something!

What Draws You to Sailing? I love sailing because of the connection to nature. I’ve seen so many beautiful parts of the Pacific Northwest that arguably, without sailing, I would’ve been less exposed to. 

Coach Comment: Ann has been an incredible addition to our team. Brought on by her Capital friends Annie, Caroline, and Joy. Ann rose to the occasion and, like Autumn, threw herself at the learning curve, applying the same tenacity and seriousness that she has for her music and schoolwork. It wasn’t any wonder that Ann became just as accomplished as an athlete. Watching Ann and Annie orchestrate a perfect Play 2 pushing from the back in a Team Race or being the only all-female boat rounding a race in 1st has been incredibly joyful for me and the team. Ann and all of her graduating peers have been the core of our team’s drive, spirit, and soul. I will miss Ann’s clever humor (sometimes sassy!), her laser focus, and most of all her golden heart.

Erin Pamplin

Olympia High School

Plans for Next Year: I will be sailing for the University of Washington sailing team. 

What Draws You to Sailing? There is something really satisfying when you figure out how to use the wind and tides and current to your advantage to move the boat. The feeling of the sails snapping full and the boat gliding through the water is addicting and, after I first experienced it, I couldn’t get enough. Sailing is such a unique sport because it presents as much of a mental challenge as it does a physical one, making it all the more rewarding. 

Coach Comment: Erin joined the team as an 8th grader as well (there’s a theme here!). Watching her grow up from being a quiet and determined middle schooler, into a confident and strong young women has been an absolute privilege. Erin is our other Captain this season, but she has been a leader on this team for a long time. Watching Erin and her former crew, Kevin, roll tack, or slice through the water perfectly flat in 17 knots while Team Racing at the Baker Trophy left me in awe; it’s not often you have a sailing pair that resonate so perfectly as a unit. A judge at an event once said Erin and Kevin looked like they were dancing, their sailing was so smooth and precise. Three Nationals, three District Championships, and so many events in between — Erin has been a pivotal player in our team’s success. She pushes herself to grow, but she pushes her teammates too. She is fierce skipper.

She has said to me that what she envisions is having fun and doing well with her teammates. When I hear that, I know how much Erin cares about the team and her people. I will miss Erin’s utter dedication to the sport and the team. She is a sailor’s sailor.