Batavia High School 11th-grader Charlie Kegler is carving out his niche as the “floater” for the Zing sailboat racing team that will represent the Youngstown Yacht Club in the 2021-22 IC37 Winter Series Lauderdale Cup early next month in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The lone youth member of the nine-person crew, Kegler (at right in photo above) has excelled in a highly-competitive sport that demands sound judgment, quick thinking, strength and stamina.
Versatility is the key to becoming a successful floater, a position recognized as the glue that keeps the crew’s moving parts together. Going into his second year on the major regatta circuit, Kegler has proven himself worthy in competition as his numerous trophies would attest.
Kegler was introduced to the sport four years ago by his father, Charles, who serves as vice commodore of the yard at YCC.
In an interview with The Batavian (where he was joined by his father and grandfather, Bill), the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Charlie said that his participation in sailboat racing has enabled him to value teamwork and to speed up (no pun intended) his development.
“For me, sailing makes me feel like I’m in a different world,” he said. “It’s a sport that I enjoy, can be competitive in different ways and on different boats and with different people.”
CHARLIE’S DAD CAUGHT THE SAILING BUG
Charlie’s dad got involved in the sport six years ago at the invitation of a friend, Shane Vanstrom, currently the junior sailing director at YCC.
“I sailed once and became instantly hooked,” Charles said, adding that in time he brought his only son along to experience the thrill of sailboating.
Charlie started in the junior sailing program where the goal, according to his father, is to emphasize the safety aspects of the sport while learning racing tactics and strategy. He quickly showed that he was up to the task, participating and winning in the 420 class (normally featuring two people).
This past summer, Charlie’s Zing crew competed in the Canada Cup Challenge and, although it didn’t win, plans to challenge the champion Defiant team, that includes four past Olympians, again this summer.
The Canada’s Cup, the second-oldest match race trophy in the world, started in 1896.
SEVEN TEAMS VYING FOR THE TITLE
In the immediate future, Charlie and his team are ready to compete from Feb. 4-6 in the Fort Lauderdale regatta’s IC37 division. IC37 is the type of boat (at 37 feet) that the Zing crew and six other entrants will be racing. The other teams are from Fort Lauderdale, Newport, R.I.; New York City, Tampa, Cohasset, Mass., and Norfolk, Va.
February’s competition is the second of three legs of the Winter Series Lauderdale Cup – the first was in November, when Zing placed fourth, and the final leg is in March. The Zing crew is looking to improve its standing -- banking on the experience it gained from the first leg.
“We’re confident,” Charlie said. “We plan to go as hard as we can – max power.”
The team’s other members are in their 40s, with the strategist, Chris Doyle, in his early 60s.
Charles said that it’s rare to see someone as young as his son become part of an international crew, especially representing YCC, “which has a storied reputation from the 1970s of producing world class sailors.”
ZING SKIPPER GIVES GLOWING REVIEW
According to Zing Skipper Adam Burns, who started in the sport as a child, the Zing crew is fortunate to have Charlie as part of the team.
“He’s phenomenal,” said Burns, who recently was elected as commodore at YCC. “He’s a team player with a great attitude in a role that is very unique. Not many people can do that and it’s nice to have an agile junior sailor on board.”
Burns said sailboat racing has embraced a more diverse population in recent years, encouraging women and teens to be a part of what is considered an amateur sport.
“Two of our crew are women, plus we have Charlie, and I think that is admirable the way the sports has become more diverse,” said Burns, a wealth management consultant in Buffalo. “I didn’t have this opportunity growing up.”
TRAINING AT CROSSFIT TO GET READY
To prepare for Florida trip, which could consist of up to 12 races in those three days, Charlie said he has been working out regularly at CrossFit Tsunami in Oakfield.
“It’s important to have arm strength to pull in the spinnaker (lightweight flying sail) and the retrieval line,” he said. “In my role, I have to move from position to position, help on the deck and with the mast team; whatever is needed.”
A B-plus student enrolled in the Diesel Technician course through Genesee Valley BOCES, Charlie is exploring his college options. While scholarships aren’t plentiful, there are opportunities for assistance at colleges with sailing programs.
Furthermore, someone knowledgeable in diesel engines would have a place working at boat yards as almost all of the sailboats are diesel-powered, said Charlies’ dad, who will be accompanying him on the Florida trip – cheering him on while keeping a trained eye on the team’s performance.
Charles and Charlie Kegler at the Youngstown Yacht Club.
Charlie going solo in small sailboat.
Overhead view of the Zing crew.
Charlie with some of the trophies he has earned as a top-notch sailor.
Submitted photos courtesy of Charles Kegler.