Sailor Spotlight: Zach Higham
Zach Higham is a 16 year sailor from Pine Beach, NJ. Zach is a perfect example of someone we want sailing on the bay; he grew up sailing Optis at Pine Beach Yacht Club (the same club where his mom grew up), he loves sailing in high school and recruiting new teammates, he just bought an M-Scow to race in our BBYRA summer series, and he coaches the next group of sailors at the Island Heights YC. When most 16 year olds get their Learner's Permit, they want to spend the day driving a car. Not Zach. He couldn't wait to get home and tune up his M-Scow. Zach's love of the sport is exactly what makes him a life-time sailor.
Name: Zach Higham
School: Toms River HS South
Yacht Club: Pine Beach
1) Zach, give me a brief synopsis of your sailing career so far. Where did you go to junior sailing program? What boats have you sailed? I started junior sailing program at age 5 at the Pine Beach Yacht Club. When I began racing Opti more competitively I joined the Toms River Yacht Club Opti racing team and CERT. This helped me advance my racing knowledge and tactics tremendously. I had a pretty good Opti career placing 3rd overall in NJ Opti States in the Silver Division and winning the BBYRA Midget Championship. At the Mid-Atlantic Midget Finals I placed 2nd. My High School Sailing career started in the fall of 2015 at Toms River HS South. Sailing in high school is a lot of fun and I enjoy competing with other local high school teams. This past summer I began instructing at the Island Heights Yacht Club. Some of my fellow instructors were sailing M Scows, and I started crewing. At the end of the summer, on my 16th birthday, I bought my first M-Scow. One month later I placed 3rd in the Eastern Championship. Sailing has become a very important part of my life, and I don’t know what I would do without it.
2) What is sailing at Pine Beach Yacht Club like? You are one of the better sailors to come out of that club in a while, and I know your family is involved at the club. Tell me about the culture and what makes Pine Beach YC so great. The Pine Beach Yacht Club is a wonderful club which has given me so many wonderful experiences. My mom grew up sailing and later instructed at PBYC so it's been a part of our family. The club has evolved in many ways, and I have witnessed many of the changes. My father has been on the Executive board in many positions from the Treasurer to the Commodore during the 100th Anniversary, and he now serves as the Past Commodore. Over the summer, I am continuously around the yacht club participating in many of these historic events. Most summer mornings, I head down to the yacht club to hop on my whaler for my commute to work. Friday nights, I join in on a casual, yet competitive, Sunfish series. On Sundays my family gets together, and we all sail on my dad’s Capri 25 in the PHRF series. Pine Beach Yacht Club is great because of its amazing environment where the members get involved and are invested in the junior sailors. I have gained knowledge and experience through either sailing with them or just having a casual conversation at one of the social events. Pine Beach is a family club where all the members know your name. I am very proud to be part of such an amazing yacht club and cannot wait to hopefully bring home another Bay Flag as well as see the development of the future junior sailors.
3) You are one of the top sailors on the Toms River South sailing team (Go Indians!). What's your high school sailing experience been like? Pretend I'm an incoming freshman considering joining the South sailing team. Give me your pitch! I have been sailing in high school since my freshman year and have recently been named one of the two captains of our team at Toms River High School South. The transition in my freshman year from sailing a single handed boat like the Opti to a larger double handed boat like the 420 was a little difficult. I started as a crew which was something I was not used to, but I am thankful to have such great coaches who helped me with the transition. Towards the end of the fall of freshman year I began spending some time in the back of the boat. Ever since joining the team back in the fall of 2015 we have qualified for our Silver Fleet Championship every season as well as one trip to the Gold Fleet Championship. I hope that in these coming years as a captain and our A fleet skipper I can help lead the team to another trip to the Gold Fleet Championship. Overall high school sailing has been extremely rewarding for me. I have met new friends from my school as well as others, and I have grown so much as a sailor because of this choice. I recently recruited two new freshman to join our team for this spring season, and so far they both really enjoy sailing. Sailing is unlike many other sports because it is a lifelong sport. At the end of the day high school sailing is very rewarding, and if you have the chance you should give it a try even if you know nothing about sailing.
4) This weekend was the first HS sailing regatta of the season, the Icebreaker Regatta at TRYC. You sailed really well in very challenging conditions. What was your strategy and how did you approach the regatta? Going into the Icebreaker Regatta this past weekend my main focus was to get back to the basics of the fast-paced high school sailing races. With 15 boats on a large line and heavy wind, I focused on getting clean starts each race and keeping my boat as flat as possible. I also focused on sailing my own race the whole day and paying attention to my own boat instead of the other teams. On my very first race this spring season I put everything I have learned so far in high school racing together and was able to win the race. As the day continued the wind was building and the conditions worsened. Managing conditions with heavy wind and waves is difficult especially when sailing with a crew, but I am very proud of how well my crew, Paige Zelenak, and I worked together. Paige helped me tremendously throughout the regatta. As co captains we have realized the importance of teamwork. I look forward to future regattas such as the Spring Fleet Championship, SUNY Maritime Invitational, and the NJ State Championship as well as the conditions that they bring.
5) Recently you bought an M Scow to sail on Barnegat Bay. M Scows are very cool boats with a strong presence on the bay. What made you decide to buy a boat like that and how do you like it so far? Over this past summer, I was introduced to the M-Scow while crewing with a coworker at the Lavalette Sunday Series. After crewing on multiple M-Scows I just knew that this was the boat for me. The overall shape and feel of the boat intrigued me. So my dad and I began to look around for my own boat. After talking to many sailors in the M-Scow community and meeting new people through the Lavalette Sunday Series I found out that Tom Welsch was interested in selling one of his three boats. One night after a long day of coaching at Duck Boat Worlds, my Dad and I met Mr. Welsch to look at the boat. The boat was in wonderful racing condition-- white with two sleek blue stripes down each side and the name Jammin’ on the stern. That night I bought my first M scow. The next morning was my 16th birthday, and I went for my drivers permit. After that, I spent the rest of the day sailing my M-Scow. I didn't even want to go drive in a car; all I wanted to do was sail my M-Scow. Late in the summer I entered two weeks of BBYRA racing and then the M-Scow Eastern Championship in September. I had a great time racing that day and ended up finishing 3rd in the Eastern Championship. The M-Scow is a great double-handed racing boat on the Barnegat Bay which I truly love. I can’t wait to compete in my M-Scow next summer and for many years to come.