For two students at Redondo Union High School, sailing is much more than a pastime. It’s a way to test their skills in a fast-paced environment and maybe someday compete in the Olympics.
A particular class of two-man sailing known as International 420 has captured the attention of RUHS junior Micky Munns and freshman Michael Fineman so much so the two practice roughly 15 hours per week during the school year.
Munns and Fineman are training especially hard in recent weeks to prepare for the 2018 International 420 World Championships in Newport, Rhode Island in August. But first they have to place well in the I-420 MidWinter Championships in Miami in February.
Their combined scores from MidWinters and a North American Championship in Miami from January will determine whether they are accepted to the world championships in Newport. To do so, they are raising up to $11,000 through a variety of local sponsors, their parents, a GoFundMe page and a fundraiser at the King Harbor Yacht Club on Sunday, Feb. 11.
For two young sailors on the west coast, the opportunities to compete in the I-420 class is rare. The pair had to travel to San Diego to lease a boat and find a captain with the skills to instruct them.
“It's a big challenge because the opportunities here are minuscule,” said father Harry Munns. “But this is the kind of boat they need to go to the next level.”
More common on the east coast, the I-420 is a unique boat that planes over top of the water when it gets under sail. This lightning fast vessel—at least for sail boats—requires agility on the part of the crew as the boat whips around, the boom flies overhead and they re-position for the coming tack.
“It's a very technically advanced boat, but once you figure it out and experience a high level of speed that makes all the hard work worth it,” Micky Munns said.
Equipped with a cable and harness, known as a trapeze, the boat allows one of the crew members to lean off the edge to counterbalance the weight, something most other competition-level boats do not include.
“It's kind of sketchy at times, but it's really fun,” Fineman, who’s the one hiking out because he’s taller and heavier than Munns. “It's kind of nerve wracking the first couple times, but it's also kind of addicting.”
Lately, the pair has trained from the King Harbor Yacht Club on their leased I-420 and a variety of other boats just to keep up their sailing skills.
The casual observer to the sport of sailing might not realize the amount of training that goes into becoming an expert sailor. During the summer they might train all day on the water and then spend the evening watching video or discussing strategy.
For Munns, the correlation between hard work and results has been obvious.
"Sometimes I don't always work hard at everything, but I learned to have a much better work ethic with this,” Munns said. “I enjoyed the challenge because sailing is a physical and mental sport, and it's not specialized. You have to be strong and smart.”
It was during a summer sailing class in San Diego that Munns met sailing coach Maru Urban, who coached the U.S. Sailing team in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Urban introduced him to the I-420 boat and suggested they compete in an upcoming contest in Alameda Bay.
After just a few hours practicing on the boat, Munns and Fineman placed fourth in the West Coast I-420 Championships in San Diego in November. Their quick-found success inspired them to work harder.
“We realized that if we continued to apply this approach,” Munns said. “If we were already doing this well locally we could continue this success.”
If they continue to perform well, both young men said they could envision pursuing a sailing scholarship in college. Munns is setting his sights on the Olympics in maybe 10 years. The Olympic 470 class that officially competes worldwide is just a larger version of the I-420, Munns explained.
“For now I'm just working with my good friend and trying to achieve as much as we can at this level,” he said.
To contribute to the team’s efforts visit GoFundMe.com/I420campaign.
The fundraiser at King Harbor Yacht Club is Sunday, Feb. 11 from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The event includes pizza and salad, along with a raffle and a discount sale of seascape paintings by Munn’s mother, Cindy Compert, a professional artist.