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Fun, Friends, Freedom At Shattemuc Sailing Academy

OSSINING, N.Y. – Konrad Biedermann, 12, rocked his sailboat back and forth on Wednesday in an effort to catch some wind, but the weather was too calm to make the boat do more than drift.

"I like the feeling of the boat going fast on water. You need to trim the sail correctly so as to catch the wind the right way," Biedermann said as he sat in one of the sailing academy's one-design 420 sailboats.

Biedermann, who lives in Garrison, NY, was one of about 20 students in the Shattemuc Yacht Club's sailing academy who were practicing sailing on the Hudson River on Wednesday. The students are mostly between the age of nine and 15, and all the academy's instructors are former students of the academy.

While the weather on Wednesday was so calm that most kids opted for instructors to tow their sailboats back to shore at noon, Tuesday was so windy that Biedermann's sailboat capsized after catching a heavy gust.

Biedermann had already sailed before entering into the Shattemuc academy because his parents own several boats, but most students enter into Shattemuc with no sailing experience, said Guy May, the director of the academy.

On their first day, students learn how to capsize their sailboat and how to bring their boat back up after capsizing, May said. Within their first summer, students as young as nine years old go out sailing by themselves.

"A lot of kids are intimidated by going out by themselves, but once they do it once or twice, they get over it. Then on windy days you have to tell them they can't go out by themselves when they want to. They get confident so fast," May said.

The sailing academy lasts for four weeks or eight weeks during the summer, depending on what kids and parents choose, May explained. The academy has three types of sailboats available for students: the two-person 420, the two-person Optimist Pram and the one-person Open Bic.

Aside from hands-on sailing, students also learn how to tie knots and they spend time in Shattemuc's outdoor swimming pool.

"It's really relaxing. It's a great sport. When there's lots of wind, it's really fun," said Jack O'Hanlon, 13, of Ossining, as he prepared to enter an Open Bic.

Peter Gross, 16, of Ossining, agreed.

"I like the freedom of being out on the water and being with friends," he said.

Once students get hooked on sailing, they tend to keep in touch with sailing friends and to keep coming back to the academy for years, May said.

"It's really cool to see how these kids keep sailing even after the program is over," the director said. "I just got an email from two past students saying that they had bought a 33-foot sailboat and are planning on sailing to the Caribbean together."

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