Sailing is not an activity that is closely associated with North Mississippi. However, an Oxford family is attempting to change that. This summer, the Sabatier family launched Blackjack Sailing, a sailing day camp for eight to 17-year-olds.
The camp included three 5-day sessions during the last three weeks in June and had a maximum of 12 campers at each session.
Located on lower Sardis Lake, Blackjack Sailing, a nonprofit organization, owns six Uno Topaz sailboats, which are ideal for beginner sailors.
The Sabatier family’s interest in sailing began with the eldest son, Charley Sabatier, a first-year Physics teacher at OHS. Charley Sabatier learned to sail on the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia while teaching there. He became interested in sailing when a group of friends told him that he should try working at a sailing camp called Planet Hope, and he fell in love with sailing the moment he stepped on a boat.
“The first day I got in a sailboat, I loved it – the wind, the water, the freedom of the boat. If I’m in a bad mood, I get on a boat and feel the wind blow, and I’m instantly happy,” Charley Sabatier said.
During this time, his family lived in Washington DC, and Charley Sabatier took them sailing, sparking their interest in the sport.
On the other hand, Joe Sabatier did not have much experience with sailing prior to last summer. He had only ever been a passenger on sailboats with his family on sailing trips in the Bahamas.
When his father approached him with the idea of starting a sailing camp in Oxford, Joe Sabatier embraced the idea. He had grown up going to Camp Bratton Green, and had been both a camper and counselor there for years.
“He approached me, not as a sailing expert, but for my camp knowledge. My passion was getting kids to camp. I picked up and learned sailing along the way,” Joe Sabatier, the camp director, said.
With only five days for each camp session, their goal was to teach the basics of sailing and get kids in Mississippi interested in the sport.
“We kept the scope of what we were trying to teach simple,” Joe said. “We didn’t try to teach too much all at once.”
They got the kids comfortable in the boat, taught them how to rig the boat, taught them the basic methods of sailing, and gave them the independence to sail on the lake themselves.
“The more freedom we gave them on the boat without counselors, the more they wanted to sail,” Joe Sabatier said. “Remember the first time you got to drive a car by yourself? Imagine being 10 and getting to drive a sailboat by yourself.”
OHS sophomore Bryce Goszkowicz was a camper at Blackjack Sailing. He said that he has always had an interest in sailing, and when he saw flyers at Sardis Lake advertising Blackjack Sailing, he decided to participate.
“I learned basic knots, and how to sail and control the boat,” Goszkowicz said. “My favorite part was being on the water, relaxing, and just being by myself in a mini sailboat.”
The Sabatier family plans to continue their project in the summer of 2017 and beyond. They encourage members of the Oxford Community to become involved as counselors and campers.
“We want to cultivate a sailing community in North Mississippi,” Joe Sabatier said. “That’s our goal.”