By Lillian Boyd, Dana Point Times
A group of 13 students will represent Platte Canyon High School in a 70-mile outrigger race in Tacoma, Wash. after a week of training in Dana Point.
The students and five teachers arrived in Dana Point on Saturday, March 23 and have been camping at Doheny State Beach. The students on the crew have been taking their outrigger, which they constructed themselves, out in the harbor from Baby Beach each day to train for the SEVENTY48 race.
The event, which starts in Tacoma and ends in Port Townsend, Wash., requires participants to complete 70 miles within 48 hours using a human-powered vessel. No motors or sails are permitted.
“Our goal is simply to finish within that time frame. These kids have never done anything like this before,” said Kip Ottesen, a special education teacher at PCHS. “We plan on rowing straight through until we finish.”
The PCHS Yacht Club launched its three-piece outrigger in ocean waters for the first time on Sunday, March 24 at Baby Beach. The Dana Point Outrigger Canoe Club stood by in support as the students ensured their watercraft was built to float.
The boat’s design is based on plans the team purchased online. The plans are modular, allowing the students to dismantle the outrigger and fit its entirety on a 16-foot trailer on the trip up to Washington.
Ottesen and staff had reached out to the Outrigger Canoe Club for assistance in the construction process. Jay Sponagle is a member of the Dana Point club and has experience in woodworking for human-powered vessels.
“Anybody who paddles is part of our ohana,” Sponagle said. “It was important that we show our support as a club and welcome this group of kids to the Dana Point community.”
Members of the Dana Point Outrigger Canoe Club offered tips and adjustments to the PCHS yacht club, including shortening the shaft of the paddles, which had been too long and could potentially put strain on the shoulders of the tallest paddler.
“I love it. I love any program that takes a bunch of kids out of their comfort zone and guides them to create something they’re proud of,” Sponagle said. “I used to be an art teacher, and seeing these kids be excited about this adventure and what they’ve been able to do reminded me of the joy of seeing my own students create something they’re proud of.”
Ottesen says the athleticism required for this race is new to the students on the team.
“This project has served as a way for students to problem-solve, conceptualize designs and execute the work required to create a stable, sturdy canoe,” Ottesen said. “This has been an important opportunity for our kids to apply themselves, work as a team and experience something new and different. We couldn’t be more appreciative of the community’s support.”
The PCHS Yacht Club will race in the SEVENTY48 on Sunday, March 31 beginning at 7 p.m. in Tacoma. To follow the students’ journey, follow @PCHSYachtClub on Instagram.