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Gifft Hill School to launch sailing team for the 2024-2025 school year

Andrea Milam

May 31, 2024

Gifft Hill School to launch sailing team for the 2024-2025 school year

Gifft Hill School announces the launch of a competitive sailing team to begin in the 2024-2025 school year. With collaboration and guidance from the Kids and the Sea, Coral Bay Yacht Club, and the St. John Yacht Club, GHS will welcome sailing coach Sam Normington, who is currently the head coach and sailing program director at Richmond Yacht Club in El Cerrito, Calif. 

Like all Gifft Hill School athletics, the GHS sailing team will be open to all St. John middle and high school students whose school does not offer sailing. It will be designed to provide avenues for a range of children, from those who have no experience on the water to experienced sailors who want to continue to build their expertise at a competitive level. 

“We recognize the real momentum that KATS has built and we want to make sure that St. John has avenues for kids who want to continue sailing on their home island,” said Head of School Liz Kinsella. “This program puts us in a wonderful position to have representation in upcoming international events.” 

The opportunities for international competitions were a big motivator to SJYC Commodore Sarah Swan in supporting the GHS team. 

“Over the years we’ve seen involvement in youth sailing dwindle, especially when it comes to females, which is a bummer for me because when I was growing up, there were a lot of girls who sailed on a competitive level,” said Swan. “I think this program is going to attract a lot more interest in the sailing community. Growing up, I traveled to some really cool places because of sailing. Those opportunities are still out there.” 

CBYC Commodore Dave Dostall agreed that the GHS team is poised to further develop and enrich the St. John sailing scene. 

“I’m hoping Gifft Hill’s program will take racing and sailing on the island to a higher level,” said Dostall. 

The GHS team is expected to practice from October through May in after-school sessions in Coral Bay using KATS equipment. 

“We’re surrounded by water, so being knowledgeable about being on the water and activities you can do on the water are super crucial to the next generation, and to the community,” said KATS secretary Val Tarr. “KATS is more about water safety and recreational sailing. The Gifft Hill program will complement that by allowing sailors to compete at a higher level. We’re really excited about having a coach who can get these kids ready to go to regattas.” 

Normington, who will relocate to St. John this summer in preparation to begin his role with GHS this fall, said he’s excited to work with students at all levels — “whether you’ve never been on a boat before or you’re comfortable on the water and want to see where you can go next,” he said. 

As a member of the National Association of Independent Schools, Gifft Hill School serves St. John as the island’s only toddler through 12th grade institution. GHS provides high-quality educational programming to more than 200 students, many of whom are supported in their learning by scholarships, grants, and financial aid. The board of trustees is made up of business owners, parents, academics, and grandparents, all of whom actively support the island of St. John in many different ways. The time they volunteer and their personal generosity as donors are a testament to their commitment to GHS, to education on St. John, and their passion for this community. Please visit for more information.

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