Students balances books with buoys

A typical windy morning before a sailing race for St. Francis High School senior Jack Jorgensen starts when he arrives at the boat park at 9 a.m. The first race usually kicks-off a regatta at noon.

After a quick chat with friends, Jorgensen gets his 29er, a high-performance 14.4-foot skiff, rigged and clear Mylar sails up, double checks the rigging — it’s good. He changes into his sailing clothes and he and his crew launch the boat. It is now 10:30 a.m.

By the time Jorgensen gets on the water and sails out to where the course is marked, it is already 11 a.m. and it’s time to practice maneuvers and check the course, the trends of the wind and the current. The race is about to start.

“You’re really looking to get a good start because if you get a bad start like underneath [or downwind of] a boat, you’ll be sailing in bad air,” said Jorgensen. “Usually you have a mark at the top of a course and so your first leg is just going to that top mark and you’re looking to sail fast into the side you want that will help you leverage out of the fleet (of competing sailboats) by using the wind shifts — how the wind shifts.”

In mid-August, Jorgensen and his crew, Tucker Atterbury of Santa Barbara, brought home the silver medal from the 2011 U.S. Youth Sailing Championships in Narragansett Bay, R.I. Atterbury got Jorgensen interested in racing skiffs, in both the 29er and Club 420s, last year when the two decided to team up.

In last year’s championships, Jorgensen placed fourth in the double-handed class sailing a dingy manned by a crew of two. This summer, Jorgensen and his crew competed in the skiff class in the 29er that Jorgensen describes as a surfboard with a sail.

“Downwind in these boats is just a thrill,” Jorgensen said. “You’re right next to the water so the sensation makes you think that you’re going a lot faster than you are, and on top of that, you actually are going really fast, so it’s really, really fun.”

Jorgensen’s love affair with sailing began in a tiny boat called a Naples Sabot at the age of 7 when his father signed him up for lessons at the Alamitos Bay Yacht Club. Every summer, Jorgensen would head for sailing lessons at Alamitos Bay, until 2004, just three years later, when he got his first taste of racing.

“I actually started racing and sailing year-round,” said Jorgensen. “I really liked it and I was pretty good at it, so I just kept doing it.”

Sailing, however, isn’t all sunshine and sea spray for Jorgensen and his crew. Tuning up before the first race of a small Southern California regatta last year, the two were sailing downwind in windy conditions. Jorgensen admits that he did a bad job of jibing, or turning the boat while traveling downwind, sending the boom of the sail unexpectedly across the plane of the boat.

“It hit me right in the ear and we flipped really hard,” said Jorgensen. “Flipping’s not really a big deal, but getting hit that hard … I’ve never been hit that hard in my life.”

Jorgensen’s next goal is to make All-American or the list of top 15 college sailors in America. For him, this means getting accepted to a university with a good sailing team, programs found primarily at schools on the East Coast.

“I’ve met people that I know I’m going to know forever,” said Jorgensen. “It’s that kind of sport. The people you sail against now, you’re going to know for the rest of your life and you’ll probably be sailing against them for the rest of your life.”

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