Sailor Spotlight: Jamie Wright (Wasco)
Jamie Wasco isn't your typical Barnegat Bay sailor, but I think that's what makes her even more impressive. Jamie had never sailed a boat until her high school friend, Casey Bailey, took her out on her dad's boat for a Wednesday night race. Since then she's been hooked. Jamie sailed in college at Kean and OCC, on Saturdays in the BBYRA, and she's now the head instructor at Metedeconk Yacht Club. She's combed parking lots at yacht clubs looking for a ride with anyone who will take her. She's also a new representative on the Sailing Foundation of Barnegat Bay, spending her time giving back. It's hard for non-sailors to make their way into our sport, but I have a lot of respect for those that do. Jamie wears a lot of hats and genuinely loves to sail. We're lucky to have her on the bay!
Name: Jamie Wright (Wasco)
School: Kean University/Ocean County College
Yacht Club: Lavallette Yacht Club/Shore Acres Yacht Club
1) It's the first week of junior sailing programs and you are the head instructor at Metedeconk River Yacht Club. Is your life just crazy right now? What's the first week like for a head instructor? Oh man, is it crazy! It's actually even crazier because I am a teacher, and the school I teach at doesn't graduate until the end of the first week of program, so my days consist of going to Metedeconk in the mornings, driving up to Perth Amboy to teach, and coming back to the yacht club to supervise the day's wrap up with a lot of texting and calling my coaches and coordinators in between. I'm so thankful that the membership at Metedeconk is so supportive and my coordinators are truly awesome. I work directly with the Fleet Captain every year to make sure all twelve of our junior program motor boats are up and running, and that is not a small task. There is also a huge amount of effort that goes into ensuring that our eleven opti rentals and three Fevas rental are ready to go. My coordinators and I talk and meet all year long to hire coaches, project fleets and schedules, talk about new ideas, and do everything else! The first week is huge for a head instructor; it's really where all of your work all fall, winter, and spring comes together to create the organized chaos that is an 8-week junior sailing program. It's so much fun to see all the sailors you haven't seen for months and watch many of them take on the challenge of sailing in a new fleet.
2) Metedeconk River YC has one of the largest junior programs on the bay. What do you think Metedeconk does really well that has so many kids participating? Yes, Metedeconk's program is huge! We also don't take sailors from outside of the yacht club membership, so I think it's extra impressive that they are able to maintain their size. I think Metedeconk does a couple of really special things to keep sailors in program. We have an apprenticeship program where the older sailors (16 and up) can work in small bits during their junior sailing hours to help rig and launch the beginners and younger opti fleets. If you've ever been to Metedeconk, you know we launch the largest program on the bay from one of the smallest square footages, so everything at Metedeconk is organized vertically and it takes a lot of teamwork to get set up for the day and all packed up in the afternoon. The apprentices are so helpful to the instructors in getting the younger fleets' boats in and out of the water via our very small ramp, and they get the added benefit of being able to earn some spending money and hold a job while continuing their junior sailing careers. Metedeconk is also probably the most family-friendly club I've ever been to and offers a huge variety of options for sailing. I think the families being so involved helps keep sailors in program for much longer too. We almost always have the sailors in program until they are 17 and we offer Tuesday Night Auxiliary sailing with families and an evening advanced Lightning class to keep it interesting for the older kids and teach them beyond the typical junior sailing fleets.
3) Metedeconk River YC is host to the Powder Puff Regatta which is typically one of the largest, most popular events of the summer. Tell me about this regatta and what it means for your club and women sailing in general. The Powder Puff is one of the best days of the summer in junior sailing! The regatta was founded in 1984 by Past Commodore Vivian Dooren. The first year saw 17 sailors participating in the event in only sunfish and it has grown ever since. These days, we regularly have 250+ girls participating in optis, lasers, 420s, fevas, and sunfish and it holds the title of the largest all-girls junior sailing regatta! Vivian and the Powder Puff committee are all instrumental in encouraging girls and women in sailing. Sailing at a competitive level can often be seen as an "old boys' club," so I love that the Powder Puff brings spirit, camaraderie, and enthusiasm for girls in sailing. Metedeconk is home to some really influential female forces in the sailing world, and it's so important that we continue to encourage girls in the sport in every age range. Sailing is one of the few sports that you really can do for life, and there's almost no point in a junior program if you're going to give up the sport at 14 years old. Powder Puff is a celebration of "sail like a girl" and the strong female friendships that are formed on and off the water and often last for life, regardless of whether you're winning or losing.
4) Your story is pretty unique in that you didn't grow up sailing and started a little later. Tell me about how you got going and what lead you to get into this amazing sport. Ha, this was my little secret for quite a while! I didn't grow up in a junior program at all. I started sailing casually in early high school with my best friend Casey Bailey's family on Wednesday nights. They taught me everything I knew for a long time sailing on her father's boat and A Cats with friends. Her father, Art, introduced me to Roy Wilkins and the Ocean County College team as I was graduating high school and I was obsessed from there. Coach (Roy Wilkins) runs an incredible program and his main focus is bringing outsiders into sailing -- something that I will forever thank him for! I had the time of my life traveling all over the east coast for college sailing in 420s and I really wanted to continue during the off-season and after college. People used to laugh and say that I was always the girl wandering the parking lots before a regatta looking to crew on any boat that would take me, but hey, it works! I've sailed with so many people and on so many different types of boats. There are always people who need crew and are looking for people willing to learn. I sailed E-Scows for 8 summers in the BBYRA and have since transitioned to M-Scows and B-Cats. I thought for a long time that I couldn't coach in a junior program because I never sailed an opti, but I quickly learned that the fundamentals are all the same no matter what boat you're in and a good enthusiasm for sailing is more important than anything.
(Shameless side note: If you're looking to encourage juniors and newcomers into sailing on the Barnegat Bay, please consider donating to the Sailing Foundation of Barnegat Bay! Our annual fundraiser is Sunday, July 8th at Mantoloking YC at 4:30 PM. All are welcome!)
5) You and your husband, Brad Wright, both sail together on a bunch of different boats now. What boats do you guys sail and which is your favorite? I don't think I can pick! Brad and I met in a 420 on the first day of college sailing practice, and we've been sailing with one another nearly nonstop ever since. I'm currently sailing Melges 24s on Tuesday nights with a Metedeconk crew, M-Scows and B-Cats with Brad on the weekends, and Manasquan Winter Prams in the off-season. We also occasionally race other boats and tried out a Jet-14 at their national regatta in Brad's late father's honor two years ago. Brad grew up on B-Cats, so that's probably his answer, but I would say the M-Scow. My favorite experience sailing together was winning the M-Scow Easterns a couple of years ago at Toms River Yacht Club. It was directly in the spot where we used to race for college practices on the river, the committee blew dinghy starts, and set a very short college-style course. The whole event felt as familiar as a college regatta, and we were comfortable on the course and very fast!