Homegrown sailors make waves at Cascade Locks clinic

July 16, 2011


Makenna Sullenger (front) and William Choi hit the water during the WIND clinic in Cascade Locks.

CASCADE?LOCKS -- In the Columbia River off Cascade Locks dozens of the some of the best up-and-coming young sailors from around the West Coast learn how to improve their skills at the Columbia Gorge Racing Association's annual wind clinic.

Many of the sailors come from Seattle, as does head instructor Ben Glass. Many more come from California. A smattering are from Portland. A few come from Cascade Locks.

Yes, you read that last sentence right.

After spending years rising in the esteem of the national sailing community and attracting top-notch sailors from across the globe, the town has a few rising stars of its own on the water.

William Choi, 16, and MaKenna Sullenger, 15, have both been sailing for about five years.

They both picked up the sport in different ways.

Choi first caught the bug when several sailors came into Cascade Locks school and talked about the sport. He got interested and started looking more into the sport.

"There is no other sport that I'm really good at besides sailing," he said. "I started from zero with no experience at all."

Sullenger got dragged to a CGRA open sailing night by her parents despite not having any interest in sailing.

That soon changed.

"I had never been out in a sailboat before," she said. "I went out on the water with a really nice lady and we sailed forever."

Like Choi, she was hooked.

Since their first sailing experiences they have both gone through numerous youth sailing programs through the CGRA and neither have any intent on letting their passion for the sport slacken.

Choi would like to continue racing in college and has his sights on an Olympic tryout in the future.

Sullenger would also like to keep racing in college. In fact, she's rather particular about it.

"I'm looking for colleges and my one criteria is that it has to have a sailing program," she said.

Both sailors started with zero experience at all; yet here they are five years later hanging with some of the best young sailors around.

"It's like learning to walk," Choi says. "First you have to learn how to crawl and then you learn how to walk. It takes many days of hard work."

However, the pair does have something of a home field advantage when the 40 sailors in the clinic hit the water.

Most of the other sailors are used to being on the water in lakes or sounds that have fairly calm waters and maybe 10-knot winds.

In the Gorge, the winds can routinely hit over 20 knots and the currents on the river caused by unusually high waters can make things tough.

"It's an extreme spot," Sullenger said.

It may make for some challenging sailing conditions, but that's what Sullenger and Choi both love about the area. They intend to pass that love on to future sailors as well. Sullenger's younger sisters have already taken up sailing, and both help out coaching at youth sailing clinics.

"More kids are starting to do it here," Choi said. "This is the best place to sail because we've got good wind."

Sullenger said she and other young sailors in Cascade Locks would like to see sailing be more than fad. They want to see it become a social activity, a sport that the youth of Cascade Locks can continue to love.

"We don't want to see it die," she said. "We want to keep bringing in kids."

Both Sullenger and Choi will be sailing in the WIND Regatta this Saturday and Sunday. The race is the third event on the 2011 Northwest Youth Racing Circuit and will also serve as the Area L semifinals for the 2011 Chubb U.S. Sailing Junior Championships for the Smythe Trophy in the Laser Radial class. It will be the first regatta for both in lasers. Racing begins at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and 9:30 a.m. Sunday at Cascade Locks Marine Park.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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