Sailor Spotlight: Jason Lutz
Jason Lutz wears many hats around Barnegat Bay. He is the coach of the CBA sailing team, one of the largest and longest tenured high school teams in NJ. He also coaches at the Bay Head Yacht Club, spearheading their Adult Sailing Program during the summer months.
When he's not coaching, Jason is sailing himself in either a Lightning or a J70 with his family. Most people know his dad Jody, uncle Jay, or his brother Jonathan. Together they are one of the prestigious sailing families on the bay.
Jason is a stand-up guy. He cares deeply about the sailors he works with, and he works really hard to get the most out of his athletes. He's kind and smart, and he's invested in sailing in this area. He's a huge asset to the Barnegat Bay!
Name: Jason Lutz
School: Christian Brothers Academy / College of Charleston
Yacht Club: Metedeconk River Yacht Club
1) Jason, you grew up in this area racing a lot of boats and coaching at local yacht clubs. Give me a quick summary of your sailing experiences. Like most in my age group, I was thrown into the Opti at age seven in the Metedeconk River YC junior program. I traveled a bit in the Opti, going to the Nationals, Midwinters and qualifying for Team Trials. When I was 11 or so, I started crewing in the Lightning for my dad, as well as sailing C420. I found a passion in skippering the Lightning, traveling to the Youth World Championship and winning the Junior North American Championship with my younger brother Jonathan and one of my best friends, Tommy Zanowic, crewing for me. I now spend a lot of my sailing time crewing for some talented people in the Lightning and J/70. While I was always a skipper first, I have really enjoyed crewing and learning from great teammates over the past couple of years.
While I had my dad to give me extra time in the boat, one unique thing about Metedeconk is they have an advanced sailing class in the Lightning in which any junior who is passionate about sailing can participate. Started by the great Jim Carson decades ago, juniors are able to experience a bigger one-design boat when they are 14, 15, 16 years old, hopefully propelling them to sail the Lightning when they graduate from the junior program. This has led to Metedeconk being a force on the youth Lightning circuit (seven junior North American champions!), only matched by the Buffalo Canoe Club on Lake Erie.
2) Now you are the coach of the CBA High School Sailing Team. CBA has had one of the best high school teams in the state for a really long period of time. What do you attribute to the longevity of your program? CBA had some great sailors pass through in the early 2000s (i.e. John Kempton, Marty Masterson, Ian Sutherland), but the school could never really get a formalized sailing program off the ground. With the backing of the CBA administration, we set a plan in 2007 and haven’t looked back: convincing my dad to be the first coach, gaining varsity status, and getting SAILING into the mix of CBA’s great athletic achievements.
We celebrated our 10th year as a team last spring, and I was taken aback by the excitement of the alumni who returned to sail in our anniversary regatta. It’s really a testament to all those guys that this program has flourished into the biggest varsity sailing team in New Jersey. We’ve won state championships and qualified for regional & national championships, but the bond of the collective group is really special. That’s what will ultimately keep CBA Sailing on the map for a long time, and I am excited to be a part of it.
High school sailing in general has become super popular in our area, thanks to Dr. Nunn and the formalization of the New Jersey Interscholastic Sailing Association (NJISA). It has also become a solid breeding ground for those who want to participate in collegiate sailing. Just at CBA in the last few years, we’ve had alumni go on to sail at George Washington, Miami, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, SUNY Maritime, and UPenn, among other great schools.
3) In the summer you have been working at the Bay Head YC helping their Adult Sailing Program. Tell me about this role and what opportunities there are for Bay Head adult members to sail. One of the best things about BHYC is they are ALWAYS open to new ideas, especially when it comes to sailing. I’ve had a relationship with BHYC going back to when I coached the Opti and 420 race groups in the junior program. A few years ago, Commodore Bob Koar approached me about serving as a “Sailing Pro” at the club. Commodore Koar really pushed for sailing to be accessible to every club member, from age 6 to 76 and everywhere in between, leading to the sailing committee’s purchase of 12 Tech Dinghies. We all know about BHYC’s dynamite junior program, but we also have private lessons for all members throughout the week, special clinics spread out through the summer, and special regattas for what seems like every single group and boat. I really enjoy helping the entire club membership get on the water, from running the 420 State Championship and Merrick Team Race for the juniors to doing our weekly “Women on the Water” clinics with enthusiastic women sailors at BHYC.
4) Speaking of Techs, last summer you were instrumental in organizing an "after program" team racing series at Bay Head. Instructors and sailors from the area descended on BHYC for a casual team racing night. Everyone agreed it was their favorite night of the week. Can you tell me more about it? Do you guys have plans to do something similar this year? Evening tech sailing is something I thought BHYC should have for the past few summers, but it takes a passionate group to get it off the ground. We had an awesome group (ranging from 15 to 35 years old!) last summer that came out to team race seven or eight times in July and August. We would run a dozen or more short races right off the club dock, and the skill level ranged from experienced to casual racer which made it doable for everyone. It’s amazing how many compliments we got afterwards from the members who watched the racing from the dock, even if they didn't know anything about team racing. It definitely became a much-anticipated part of our week last summer. The club officers loved the idea too, so we are definitely hoping to set a schedule of team race nights again next summer.
5) You come from a really impressive sailing family. Do you ever get to sail with any family members any more? What boats do you guys race? Yes, both my dad (Jody) and my uncle (Jay) have raced in just about every country imaginable and have really impressive resumes. Both are multi-class North American champions, including the Lightning, so my dad introduced both my brother and me to the boat as soon as we were big enough. The Lightning class, which is ultra-competitive, really prides itself on having family participate together. Last year, I actually crewed for Jonathan in the Lightning NAs, which was a fun experience down in Wrightsville Beach, NC. I also have been able to sail with my dad and Uncle Jay in the J/70 a bunch of times, which is a really exciting “new era” boat. This past summer, all four of us teamed up for the first time ever to sail a J/70 regatta in Marblehead, and there was much less arguing then you would have thought! Obviously, being able to do this sport with your family makes it really special.