• Program helps East Boston HS sailing team to get back on the water

    By: Bob Dumas


    BOSTON - The sport of sailing often conjures up images of yacht clubs and the well-to-do, and that's just the perception the East Boston High School sailing team is trying to fight.

    The school’s program was just relaunched and is getting ready to compete in the spring.

    Coach and East Boston high alum Jasmine Nijjar said this is a great way for these students to experience Boston in a whole new way.

    The program is run out of the Piers Park Sailing Center.

    Director Alex Defronzo said one of the goals to connect students to a natural resource in their backyard.  

    “East Boston has a unique history with the maritime trade and industry. A lot of big ships were built here, and we've disconnected from that in a lot of ways," Defronzo said. "This seemed a unique way to reconnect with the waterfront.”

    The school’s sailing program went under due to a lack of funding a few years ago.

    A grant from "My Brother’s Keeper," which supports positive programs for your people of color, got them back on the water.

    Defronzo said he believes the students learn life lessons as well as sailing skills.

    “When you are one of those small boats, you can capsize when you get a lot of wind," he said. "You need to have a team bonding experience to make sure you can really trust that other person that is on the boat, and they can trust you.”

    Sailing on the Boston Harbor can provide a great balance to life at an urban high school, according to Nijjar.  

    “It gave me sort of a place to be able to forget different stresses I had because of school or homework," she said.

    It was easy to see the calming effect sailing has on Jose Monterroza, one of the team members.

    He likes sailing because he doesn’t have to worry about other things when he’s out on the water.

    And it’s fun.

    The East Boston team is spending the fall practicing and will start competing against teams up and down the Massachusetts coast in the spring.  

    “We wanted to take something that’s historically been very exclusive and elitist and make it more accessible,” Defronzo said. “It’s a great thing because you know they are just participating in the sport like anybody else would be”

    The Piers Park Sailing Center is fully accessible and runs all kinds of sailing programs open to the community, including one for disabled veterans.

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