Dr. Nunn is an unsung hero of Barnegat Bay. He has spearheaded high school sailing not only in our area, but in the entire state of NJ. His selfless donation of his time has lead to more teams, weekday racing, and competitive regattas all fall and spring long. We all read that fewer kids stay in the sport and that we need to do more to help grow sailing. Well Dr. Nunn is doing just that; he is responsible for more high school kids than ever enjoying our sport. We are incredibly lucky to have him supporting sailing on Barnegat Bay.
Name: Dr. Randall W. Nunn
Schools Attended: Rutgers University, Georgetown University, University of Pennsylvania
Yacht Club: Toms River Yacht Club
1) You have been incredibly instrumental in the success of High School Sailing in New Jersey. For those who don't know, can you give a summary of how high school sailing works? High school sailing teams consist of at least 4 sailors, two skippers and two crews, made up of students in 9-12 grade that attend the same school. The Interscholastic Sailing Association (ISSA) is the national organization that sets the procedural rules and governs the sport. There are seven districts throughout the county and NJ schools fall within the Mid-Atlantic Interscholastic Sailing Association (MASSA) District. The New Jersey Interscholastic Sailing Association (NJISA) League is the organization that runs high school sailing in NJ.
Fleet racing consists of regattas with up to 18 different schools competing against each other at a time. Team racing is when 2 schools race in head-to head competition with three boats/six sailors for each team. Regattas are organized at the local, regional and national levels.
Some schools fully support their team, while others exist as “club activities” which are primarily parent driven and operate with a high degree of autonomy from their school, other than having the school’s permission to use their high school name.
A significant difference between high school sailing and junior or yacht club sailing is that the sailors do not bring their own boats to regattas; they are provided by the host and consist of a fleet of eighteen equal 420’s or FJ's.
A team’s four or more sailors are split into two divisions: A & B. The racing format consists of two short races (10-15 minutes) on a windward-leeward course by one division (A), who then return to the dock where the second division (B) sailors get in the boats, go back out to the to the race course and sail their two races. Races are usually held close to the shore to make changing boats as quick and easy possible.
At any given time, half or more of the team is on the dock while the others are out racing. This back and forth between divisions is repeated through the allotted time for the regatta. There’s a lot going on out on the water and on the dock at these events. It’s competitive and social. It’s also very unique as the only co-ed high school sport, where girls and boys compete with and against each other, as well as being the only two-season sport with regattas in both the fall and spring.
2) How easy is it for a high school to form a team? It’s actually not complicated at all. Step one is to get a few sailors from a school together and start from there. They can ask anyone they know who is already involved in high school sailing: sailors, parents or coaches. People should also go online to the ISSA website page to get information about starting a team: https://hssailing.org/documents/Start-A-Team-12-2017.pdf There is a lot of additional info online throughout the ISSA’s web pages. Organizing students and parents should talk to their school administrators to get approval and then make arrangements to get on the water to practice at a site that has boats.
What are the steps needed to get on the water and start competing? In NJ, teams practice in Perth Amboy, Shrewsbury or Toms River. Based upon their school’s location and logistics of getting to any one of these three sites, teams should make arrangements to practice. Coaching options vary, and depending on where a team will be practicing. Some teams combine and share coaching, other teams have their own coach.
3) How have you seen high school sailing evolve over the past 10-15 years? The sport has simply evolved in absolute numbers. Ocean County College and Toms River Yacht Club have made the growth possible with access and availability of their fleet of 420’s and facilities. Ten years ago, there were only 4 teams that routinely sailed and the NJ schools traveled to NY to sail in regattas. Now there are typically 12-14 different NJISA high school teams that sail every week in Toms River, and there are two other venues now providing high school sailing for practices and regattas: Shrewsbury Yacht Club with Monmouth University’s fleet of boats and Raritan Bay with Summit High School and Perth Amboy High Schools’ fleet of boats.
What are we doing well right now? What makes the NJISA league work well are the weekday afternoon regattas. We have the good fortune to have most teams within 30-45 minutes of Toms River, so we can get 2-3 hours of sailing completed in a Wednesday afternoon regatta. This is in addition to another two days on the water practicing. Likewise, there are teams close to Raritan Bay that can get together on Tuesdays to race in Perth Amboy. This provides more opportunities for NJ teams to compete than many other regions in our district and has contributed to growth of the sport in our locally. We also have several one and two-day weekend regattas in the league. Some of these NJISA regattas are qualifiers to advance teams to the district championships, with regattas held at venues spanning from Norfolk, VA north to Rochester, NY. Some of the district regattas then serve as qualifiers to advance to the national regattas.
What is the next step to making this sport even better? The upcoming challenge we face will be working on updating and replacing the existing, aging fleet of boats used for high school and college sailing in Toms River. A new fleet will provide more opportunities for the NJISA league to host future championship regattas at the district, and possibly national, level. Raising money for this large expenditure needs immediate planning.
4) What made you want to donate so much of your time to High School Sailing? Art Bailey asked me 10 years ago if I could help him out with coaching the Toms River South team, and my involvement just grew from there. I enjoy my time on the water and being part of the group of people providing the opportunity for these kids and teams to participate in this unique type of sailing. All of my kids benefited from the experience and this is my part of giving back. The cooperative relationship we have among the NJISA League, it’s teams, the hosts and venues make it a rewarding experience.
Is it a volunteer run organization? Yes, administration of the NJISA League and MASSA District and ISSA is done by volunteers and we are very fortunate to have people at all levels dedicate their time and expertise to the sport.
5) Besides High School Sailing, what other kind of sailing are you involved in? I started sailing in a Toms River pram out of Ocean Gate Yacht Club, then as a teenager into my 20’s crewed on auxiliaries in Barnegat Bay and coastal ocean races. I spent a lot of time sailing with my good friend and professional mentor, Dr. Drew Seibert, as well as Fred Wiedeke and Terry Kempton over several years in J24’s J22’s and PHRF keelboats. I have dabbled in Laser and M-scow sailing as an adult, but at this point in time prefer a casual sail with my friend David Morrow in his cat boat as well as getting up to Rhode Island each summer to sail with my friend Dante Gulino around the Watch Hill area and Block Island Sound aboard his classic 50' John Alden sloop. When the river and bay freeze, I am always eager to get the DN out on the ice.
What are some other activities you like to do? I am blessed to be part of a great profession, so going to work each day is an “activity I like to do”. I have enjoyed snow skiing my entire life and consider myself more a skier who sails, rather than a sailor who skies. I enjoy most outdoor activities, photography, going on adventures with my kids and of course hanging out with my new sidekick Jetty, the rescue Catahoula puppy.