Sailor Spotlight: Greer Scholes
Greer Scholes grew up at the Island Heights Yacht Club. He was an active sailor in the IHYC Junior Sailing program and then sailed for Roy Wilkins at OCC. In 2009, though, he and his wife Heather (Switlick) had the opportunity to move down to the US Virgin Islands - and they haven't looked back. Heather is a teacher at the Antilles School, and Greer is the Club Manager at the St. Thomas Yacht Club. These guys live in paradise. The weather is fantastic and the sailing is some of the best you'll get. Now Greer works closely with the young Opti sailors, teaching them important skills to set the foundation for a lifetime of sailing. Greer's calm demeanor and patience with young sailors makes him really effective and appreciated as a coach. Greer is a great guy, and you'll still see him on the bay whenever he's back up in Jersey for a visit!
Name: Greer Scholes
Yacht Club: Island Heights Yacht Club
1) Greer, you grew up in New Jersey and sailed here as a kid. Tell me about life when you were a junior sailor. What kind of boats did you sail? What was your experience like? We lived in Island Heights in the summers across the street from Nelson’s boat yard which was an awesome back yard. As anyone from Island Heights would tell you, it is a special place to grow up. I sailed Diamonds in the IHYC Junior Sailing Program then moved to Laser M and Radials with the occasional Blue Jay regatta. The thing I remember most is that when program was over for the day, we usually went back out sailing for fun just to be on the water.
2) You've since moved down to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. That's a big move. Why did you decide to move down to the islands? Heather and I moved to St. Thomas basically because the opportunity just presented itself. We where both in the job market in 2009; Heather was offered a teaching position at the Antilles School and the Club needed a new head sailing instructor so it worked out well. I knew STYC had some good kids coming out of their program and was excited about teaching and coaching full time so here we are.
3) Talk to me about your current role at the St. Thomas Yacht Club. What's the atmosphere like down there? I have been the Club Manager for the past three years and the beginner through Green Fleet coach since we moved. It is nice because I still get to coach and teach four days a week and still have a real job outside of that. As you might expect the atmosphere is pretty casual which I really enjoy. There is a real small town feel and you get to know everyone from the gas station owner to the grocery store clerk. The club is right on the beach and is family friendly. Like I said, everyone knows everyone, and I think that makes for good relationships.
4) St. Thomas has produced A LOT of very talented sailors recently. Obviously the weather and sailing conditions are fantastic, but you guys have talented coaches working with the kids and a system that works. What do you guys do down there to develop your sailors? Are there any disadvantages to living on the island (from a sailor development point of view)? To be clear, St. Thomas was producing great sailors long before I got here, and I think a large part of that is the conditions. The sailors learn to sail ten feet off the beach. After that, they can sail just a half mile and be in the open ocean. So we have great conditions to practice in. That said, one of the things that we try to work on with our racing kids is proper technique from the start. We are fortunate to have Argy Resano as our advanced coach, and he has taught me a lot about opti sailing. Perhaps most important is to teach the proper technique from the start so by the time the kids are ready for him they can focus on strategy and tactics. Of coarse nothing beats time in the boats, and with warm temperatures and a long season we manage to get that in. By the time the kids reach high school their boat handling and knowledge is amazing.
One of biggest challenges here is the small pool of kids. Not everyone wants to be the next Olympic champion so keeping the numbers up in the racing fleet can be challenging some years. Also it is very difficult to simulate the big fleet experience that you get in states and of course the cost of traveling to the major regattas is much higher.
5) Recently St. Thomas was hit pretty hard by multiple hurricanes. How has the island recovered? Are you guys back up to full strength or is there more work to be done still? The Island has come a long way and you would hardly notice how “mashed up” things were. It may sound silly but people really went out of their way to help others in the weeks and months after the storms. One thing is for sure, it was windy during Irma. All in all, the island has rebounded and is doing well. I will use this opportunity to promote tourism and invite Barnegat Bay Opti sailors to come and race in the International Opti Regatta and Team race here June 10th – 16th. It's a great opportunity to learn and race before the junior sailing programs start up there. There are short term rentals near the club too so it's easy. Hope to see you then.