CHATHAM, NJ - Four Chatham High seniors went "hiking" in San Diego recently.
But it wasn't the kind of hiking most people think about. It was the hiking sailors do when they're trying to even out a boat, holding on and leaning over the water to put their body weight as far upwind as possible.
"The idea is to keep the boat flat," Marisa Marino said. "A flat boat is a fast boat."
Chatham High's sailing team is now in its fourth year and this month four of its members - Grace Evans, Stephanie Gilsenan, Marisa Marino and Jillian Torrente - spent four days in San Diego competing in a national invitational regatta held at the San Diego Yacht Club.
The Lady Cougars were the only representatives from New Jersey and placed 12th out of 16 teams. Marino skippered the Chatham A boat with Gilsenan, and Torrente skippered the B boat with Evans.
Chatham High currently has 18 members on the co-ed sailing team, including two freshmen, nine sophomores, two juniors and five seniors.
"People also don't realize that sailing is most definitely a sport," Marino said. "When people think of sailing they think of people lounging on a boat during vacation. Not only is it a physical sport, but it's a mental sport because the conditions are constantly changing out on the water, so you have to think about the wind, the current, the course. There are so many factors that contribute to coming in first or last."
Marino and Gilsenan are two of the original members of the team. Gilsenan was recruited because the team needed another body to sail in one of the two-person sailboats.
"What shocked me is how much thinking is involved," Gilsenan said. "I thought it would be like track where you just run."
Evans had learned to sail in Bay Head when she was younger, and got back into it with the CHS team. Torrente moved from Chatham to California, where she learned to sail, and then moved back to Chatham and got involved with the team.
The team practices twice a week in Perth Amboy and competes in Regattas on weekends on the Raritan River and in Toms River. The fall season runs through Nov. 6 and then picks up again around March for spring.
"Sailing is a lifetime sport," Marino said. "You're always learning something. Your knowledge of sailing never ends."
Students and teachers at the high school are starting to learn more about the team. And the girls came in contact with people in San Diego who knew of Chatham High.
"One girl's mom had gone to Chatham High," Evans said. "Usually, people ask us if we're from Chatham, Massacusetts."
Chatham High sailing team members talk about the team and recent regatta in San Diego, l to r: Grace Evans, Stephanie Gilsenan, Marisa Marino and Jillian Torrente