The Sabatier family, founders of BlackJack Sailing, are kicking off their second year at Sardis Lake with sailing camp sessions for children ages 8-17 throughout June 2017.
BlackJack Sailing’s Joe Sabatier, executive director, said his passion for sailing began while his brother, Charley Sabatier, was living in Washington D.C., where the two volunteered in sailing programs around Deale, Maryland, and attended many competitive races.
Joe’s main role in sailing was a passenger in the sail and chase boats until his father, Jim Sabatier, wanted to start a program to teach children how to sail in North Mississippi. Taking the backgrounds of sailing and summer camp, the Sabatiers wanted to combine the two into a sailing camp that serves everyone in the community. In 2014, that idea became BlackJack Sailing at Sardis Lake.
“It is a family affair; everyone is welcome,” Joe said. “We wanted to cultivate a sailing community in North Mississippi and help get underprivileged kids on boats. Anyone who is interested in an adventure, we want out there.”
A family affair is exactly what BlackJack Sailing is. Joe’s sister, Susan, is one of the founding members of the Sailing Club at Ole Miss. Linda Sabatier is the “Shore Mom” who oversees all landside activities and offers supervision and attention to campers who are not sailing. Charley Sabatier is a certified keelboat instructor through American Sailing Association and was a crew member on the award winning Pachanga in the HHSA racing club. Jim Sabatier is a U.S. Sailing certified small boat instructor and lifelong boater/sailor. He retired from Ole Miss as a professor of Physics and then decided to establish BlackJack Sailing as a way to connect sailing to the development of young people in North Mississippi.
BlackJack teaches everything from sailing safety to rigging and de-rigging the boats, tying knots, boat care and capsize recovery. BlackJack uses six Topaz boats, which are very simple to learn, easy to sail on and “very forgiving.” Tacking, jibing and weight placement are some of the fundamental sailing techniques that campers learn.
Simple knots are taught also, such as the Bowline knot. The step-by-step processes of rigging and de-rigging and the importance of life jackets are instructed by the counselors. Determining wind direction, steering, points of sail, upwind sailing, and departure and landing are some of the basic skills taught.
Capsize recovery is a focus of the camp as well. The campers are able to learn how to capsize in the shallow swim water, and as the counselors observed, it has become the kids’ favorite activity because they are able to swim while doing so.
A typical BlackJack sailing camp day begins on land where “short, to-the-point” lessons and skills are taught, then they are off to rig the boats and go out on the water. In the camp day, there is built-in swim time in BlackJack’s wide open swim space at Sardis Lake. At the end of the day, the kids debrief with the staff and go over lessons that were implemented during the session.
The last day of the camp, parents are asked to attend for a day of sailing while the kids are able to show everything they have learned. Joe said the parents usually enjoy the day on the water as much as the kids do.
“It is really gratifying to watch the kids overcome their fears and accomplish different goals they have,” Joe said. “If you can tell the direction the wind is coming from, I can teach you how to sail.”
The Sabatiers have a strong background in teaching. Joe teaches American government at Oxford High School and his brother, Charley, teaches Physics at OHS and is the head coach for the boys’ soccer team. Their father, Jim, is a retired Ole Miss professor and their mother, Linda, is a retired elementary and high school teacher. The Sabatiers have agreed that getting away from a desk, they are able to teach a skill and see how the kids learn the craft of sailing outside of the classroom.
The summer of 2016 was BlackJack sailing’s first set of summer sessions. Joe explains that throughout the course of the sessions, the improvement and passion was incredible to see in the kids. He said that the counselors saw an incredible amount of advancement within the small time frame. BlackJack welcomes all skill levels, and because of that, different levels of teaching and sailing skills are able to be met in one place.
“The fun thing about sailing camp is people have stories about sailing they tell their whole lives. The memory gets you caught by the sailing bug,” Joe said.
BlackJack’s available summer 2017 sessions are listed below.
Each session is held from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, on Sardis Lake.
Session 1: June 5-9
Session 2: June 12-16
Session 3: June 19-23
Session 4: June 26-30
BlackJack sailing is looking for counselors for any amount of time during the sessions as well as sponsors for the children from the Boys & Girls Club. Monetary donations are also welcomed to cover costs for lifeguards to maintain safety.
Go to http://blackjacksailing.org/ for more information.
“BlackJack sailing is strictly run by passion. We show our passion of teaching young people by combining sailing.”
Meggie Carter is the Marketing Representative for New Media Lab at firstname.lastname@example.org