Family that sails together, stays together
October 21, 2016
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The wind picked up as the salty waves splashed against the bow of the ship. He pulled the sails and gained speed as he sliced through the water. The sun beat down on him as a drop of sweat ran down the side of his face. The air surged around him as he neared the finish line.
His muscles taut and his mind intently listening to the wind, Cathedral Catholic High School sailor Ryan Ratliffe ’17, who has been sailing since the age of four, wins another major sailing victory.
But the real victory is the bond Ratliffe shares with parents as a result of their love for the sport, a situation creates many victories.
“My mom used to sail with my dad before I came into this world,” Ratliffe said. “She was sailing with my dad while she was pregnant and almost got knocked out one time.”
A twinkle appeared in Ratliffe’s eye as he recalled memories with his father.
Last year, the duo received a call inviting them to sail at the World Champions. They sailed together in Italy, adding the race to their accomplishments.
“I knew he would try [sailing], but of course did not know what it would lead to,” Ratliffe’s father Gene Ratliffe said. “Both Tami and I grew up boating. we met sailing on Mission Bay and a big part of our social network connects to sailing.”
Ratliffe has followed in his father’s footsteps to create a sailing legacy of his own.
He received first overall in the U.S. 29er Nationals in Rhode Island. He was on one of seven teams to travel to Holland to represent the U.S. at the 29er World Champions. He placed first overall in the Youth Champions. Ratliffe also represented the U.S. at the International Sailing Federation for the Youth World Champions in New Zealand.
Mr. Ratliffe, who sailed a boat called a snipe and won top five at an North America Championship, set an example for his son growing up. Now, Mr. Ratliffe spends his time carting his son around and supporting him at regattas.
“As Ryan has progressed in sailing in junior classes, it has not left a lot of time for us to sail and race together,” Mr. Ratliffe said. “But, our fun time together still revolves around sailing since his events take us to fun places.”
The Ratliffe family goes out of its way to have sailing time and more importantly family time.
Last summer, the family took a long road trip up to Oregon where there were events at Cascade Locks, Oregon and Richmond, California. Even though the parents of Ratliffe could not sail the boat with him, Mr. Ratliffe said, “We still had a ton of quality time and fun on the road seeing new places.”
Sailing cannot always be a relaxing trip down a lonely river. The sport requires hard work and dedication. Sailing is a physical and mental sport. Athletes must know how to direct the boat toward a designated finish line while competing against other boats.
The mental aspect involves knowing which way the wind is blowing and what position of the sails will coax speed from the boat.
“Each race is about an hour long with four races per day,” Ratliffe said. “The days are mentally exerting and physically exerting.”
Ratliffe not only sails for CCHS, but he also sails for the National Team. He works with the Olympic Development Program to train himself to eventually tryout for the Olympics.
The sailing section of ODP selected six different teams from the U.S. including Ratliffe. The teams participated in Nationals, World Champions in the Netherlands, training camps in Washington, and Youth Champions at the Coronado Yacht Club.
Sailing also requires an in-tune personality with the crew.
The 29er boats hold two people per boat. Both sailors must know how to sail or else the boat will not move as efficiently. The timing must flow smoothly with the pulling of rigs and the change of directions.
Ratliffe emphasized the difficulty of multiple tasks complimenting each other in order to win a race.
“We have come pretty close so we are messing around with each other, but when it’s time to be serious, there is no messing around,” Ratliffe’s crew member Sam Merson said.
Ratliffe steers the boat, monitors the main sail, and controls the jib at the bow of the ship. Typically, the crew controls the jib.
Ratcliffe also competes for the CCHS sail team.
The team only has had a few practices, but it welcomes anyone looking to join, no experience required. The team lost many seniors last year, and it wants to rebuild a strong team. New coach Doug Hart, who has won multiple champion titles, has been sailing his entire life.
Practices are held after school in Point Loma.
“The sailing community is very welcoming,” Ratliffe said. “It’s a community that everyone knows they can take sailing their whole lives and have a great community to share a passion with.”