Sailor shows seafaring skills

by Sydney Castillo, staff writer

Feeling the wind in his hair and the flow of the ocean beneath him. The force of the wind pushes the vessel along the ocean. The sails catch as the boat coasts through the water, rocking with the currents.

Junior Hayden Christensen has known this feeling since he started sailing when he was seven years old.

His whole family sails, which is what influenced him to start. Christensen’s father, Jonathan Christensen, started sailing when he was a teenager and has influenced his son’s sailing dreams.

“When I was young, my mother bought a boat and we sailed through the Pacific and the Caribbean multiple times when I was about 14 years old,” Jonathan Christensen said.  “Ever since then, I lived a lifestyle that allowed me to be near the ocean.”

To Hayden Christensen, summer means going to his home in Oahu and sailing. He instructs sailing classes everyday during the summer at the Waikiki Yacht Club.

Sailing can go from leisurely to intense depending on the day or type of boat. Everyday on the water is different with constant changes, so sailors have to be ready for anything. The sport is a combination of mental and physical abilities.

“Sailing is fantastic in the way that it can be both calming and intense depending on what you prefer doing,” said Hayden Christensen. “I have never done anything more thrilling in my life than heading out on a windy day with a partner and just going out to sea to battle against the overwhelming force of the ocean.”

Hayden Christensen competes in sailing races that vary from club races to regional and national events.

“Every summer I compete in Hawaii’s Junior Olympic festival,” he said.

Hayden Christensen, who is working his way to the highest class of sailing said the sport is in some ways like golf. Whoever has the lowest score in his class win.

“When competing in sailing competitions it isn’t about winning one race, it’s about doing the best over all in your class,” Hayden Christensen said.

His coach, Guy Fleming, sees a lot of potential in him and has seen him improve.

“He is a good solid sailor who can handle himself in a variety of very challenging conditions,” said Fleming. “He has already achieved a level that most sailors will not reach and yet there is still a lifetime of learning left.”

Hayden Christensen is also a certified level-one sailing instructor. He had to pass written and hands-on safety tests to achieve this.

“Everyday, myself and the people I sail with learn to better prepare ourselves for the dangers of the ocean, so that we can provide a safe sailing experience,” he said.

Students must be able to control both powerboats and sailboats. Powerboats have an engine and are there in case a sail needs help.

Students must also pass a swimming test, show their ability of knot tying, and be able to recover from a capsizing boat.  Many hands-on tests are used to test sailors’ strengths and weaknesses.

“Sailing is like no other sport when you consider the fact that a small error in rigging (the set up of the boat) can lead to a deadly situation,” said Hayden Christensen. “The ocean won’t forgive carelessness and too many people have stories of disaster striking because they weren’t adequately prepared.”

Hayden Christensen also enjoys sailing with close friend Isabelle Rossi de Leon, who races in 420s with kites, trap, lasers, and flying juniors.

“We were sailing a 420 together (a double-handed boat) and he was super crazy and jumped out of the boat because he drank too much Monster,” Leon recalled of her favorite memory with Hayden Christensen.

Physics has helped Hayden Christensen improve his sailing skills. The angles and wind speed determine how fast the boat will go. Knowing how to judge those concepts betters his ability to go faster and win races.

“It is important to understand the basics of wind angles, forces exerted on the boat, and its sail and also hydrodynamics and the art of improving boat speed,” he said.

To Hayden Christensen, there is nothing more thrilling than a windy day out on the water. He enjoys the tranquil experience.

“The greatest thing I have taken out of sailing is friendship,” he said.  “No other bonding experience is more personal than spending eight hours in a boat coaching, being coached, and struggling on the open ocean with a friend.”