La Jolla High sailing team part of historic regatta

By Vicki Nienberg


The young women of the La Jolla High School sailing team had the honor of participating in a historic event at the inaugural high school women’s sailing regatta just before school got out.

Sailing is a growing sport among the girls, but many high school teams are commonly crewed by girls while the boys skipper. The LJHS team is doing its part to change that. Sailing two days a week out of Mission Bay Yacht Club, team members are not only learning the skills of sailing but love for the sport.

There were six girls on the LJHS sailing team, all new this year and most new to sailing, so when they heard the rumor of a first-ever all-girls high school regatta, they were inspired. Once that event was secured, hosted by the San Diego Yacht Club, their excitement turned to determination.

Coming into the season, only one of the girls, freshman Marisa Nienberg, had sailing experience or had skippered prior to this event. Sophomore Alexis Tarakjian eagerly took the helm during practices, and recently, freshman Olivia Gu found herself joining the ranks of female skippers to give their all-girl team the necessary structure to compete in this historical regatta. With three girls at the helm and eager crew, sophomore Amber Urias and freshman Lydia Chim, they had the right combinations to make their mark in this regatta.

With coach Jimmer Montgomery, they set sail for what proved to be an experience they could not have imagined just eight months ago. With Marisa skippering and Amber crewing, they were one of the first teams at the line at the start of the varsity race on choppy waters of San Diego Bay under beautiful blue skies and great wind. Following them was the junior varsity “B” team of skipper Olivia and crew Lydia. They sailed eight rotations, 16 races and eight hours of sailing, on the first day.

The next day, they were back on the water with some new skipper and crew combinations. In “A” fleet, Marisa hit the course with her regular crew Olivia, who alternated with Amber, and fresh on the scene were Alexis entering “B” fleet with crew Lydia.

Both days provided stiff competition that included teams from The Bishop’s School, Cathedral Catholic, Francis Parker, Point Loma — all of which sail out of San Diego Yacht Club. There was also a team from Coronado High School, other parts of California, Michigan and Washington.

From the starting line to the rounding of the weather and downwind marks, the girls showed their competitiveness and respect. They went home with memories of this first all-girls regatta, marked by calloused hands and the signature cleat-mark bruise on the side of their thighs.

Even so, where there are girls, there are boys. This might have been an all-girls regatta, but there were boys all around. You just simply had to look for a pink shirt that said “Boat Boy.” They ran the races, helped when and where needed, and never complained about those pink shirts.

The top three finishers were Cathedral Catholic, followed by Francis Parker and Newport Harbor High.