SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Singer and songwriter Christopher Cross wrote the song Sailing (1979), which included the lyrics, “And if the wind is right you can sail away and find tranquility.”

Peace, tranquility, and joy are some words that people use to describe the reasons why they sail. Others see it as a competitive sport. For Gulfstream engineer Shane McCarthy, it’s a balance of both, peace and competition.

Shane McCarthy (pictured in blue) sailed competitively from the age of 8 to 18 years old.  He sailed on the Savannah Yacht Club Junior Sailing Team, participated in the South Atlantic Yacht Racing Association (SAYRA) Series, Sailing Optis, Sunfish, Lasers, and 420s all along the east coast from Florida all the way to Massachusetts. (Photo provided by Shane McCarthy) 

“I really enjoy the competitive side of it because of my competitive personality, but more often than not, a lot of the sailors that you find, find the peace and tranquility out of it. I recently traveled to the BVI’s (British Virgin Islands) for my honeymoon,” McCarthy said.

“As part of my trip I was able to sail with my wife who is not an avid sailor, never had sailed before in her life, but the idea of being able to cruise the islands and relax and kind of take in the scenery was something she enjoyed most about our trip.”

(Photo provided by Shane McCarthy)

He continued, “I share that with a lot of people who are first getting into sailing. The idea is not necessarily to get out there and go fast, it’s to kind of relax and enjoy the scene and the weather and being on the water.”

McCarthy considers one of the most beautiful places to sail is out towards Wassaw Sound, a bay on the coast of Georgia that opens up the Wilmington River to the Atlantic Ocean.

“The beautiful barrier islands that are off the coast, the seagulls and wildlife that are swimming in the water, it’s hard to beat when you’re out there near the ocean.”

Some may consider McCarthy to be an expert at knowing the concept of sailing, after all, he is a third-generation sailor, beginning with his grandparents John and Lois McCarthy, who sailed up and down the east coast. Lois also sailed competitively.

“Dating back to my grandfather, he was born and raised in New York, same as my father, and living on Long Island, sailing was a big hobby of theirs and so, you know, my grandfather grew up sailing.”

“I think there’s a vibrant sailing community in Long Island Sound,” said Maeve Gately, Communications Director of Hudson River Community Sailing. “There’s a real history of people owning their own boats but also a lot of yacht clubs and people accessing sailing that way. That’s a big thing in Long Island Sound, Connecticut, Long Island and Westchester.”

John handed off the tradition of sailing that started in New York to his son Steve, McCarthy’s dad, and eventually to McCarthy.

“I think that’s wonderful. New York specifically is a part of the country that recreational sailing has really come back to in the past 20 years or so,” Gately said. “It’s a working harbor, as long as people have been in this part of the world, they have been accessing the water.”

She continued, “That type of longevity speaks to both the power of getting out in nature and the community and connection with learning something like that and then passing that on to your children and having that be something they can take for the rest of their lives, which is what we’re hoping to instill in our students and our community.”

Speaking on that heritage, McCarthy said, “They continued that, sort of tradition by sailing here in Savannah. It was part of the reason why they moved here because they knew that Savannah had a great tradition of sailing and that sailing was a big sport in the area.”

Owner of three sailboats, McCarthy has already passed the torch to a fourth-generation McCarthy, his 6-month-old son Colin. He purchased the Melges 15, a double-handed dinghy sport boat, so that he can sail with Colin in the future.

“I’ve already had him out in a sailboat for a lazy sail on the river which was really exciting for my wife and I, knowing my kid will have that opportunity but we’re blessed to be members of the Savannah Yacht Club and they have a beautiful sailing program at the club for young children ages elementary up through middle school and so that will really be his opportunity to get out and learn how to sail,” McCarthy said.

“But part of that I think I’ll spend a lot of time with him sailing on my own, just kind of getting him acquainted with the sport and enjoying what sailing has to offer.”

McCarthy has also used sailing to provide an opportunity for those outside of his family as well, who perhaps need it the most, those battling cancer.

Last year he competed in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Leukemia Cup Regatta and earned 1st Place in the “Top Individual Fundraiser” category.

Since 1988, participants in the fundraiser have been sailing, powerboating, and paddling in communities throughout the country in support of the LLS.

Leukemia Cup Regatta fundraising teams have raised over $73 million dollars to fund the LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. 

“LLS’s signature fundraisers have helped move the needle forward for cancer patients for over 70 years, helping LLS invest more than $1.5 billion in cutting-edge research worldwide, fueling nearly every critical advancement in blood cancer treatment that spans the most promising treatment approaches.” said Amanda King, LLS Campaign Development Specialist 

While living in Savannah, John and Steve became members of the Savannah Yacht Club and McCarthy is a double Legacy member.

The Savannah Yacht Club is a private, family-oriented club located on the Wilmington River on Whitemarsh Island in Savannah, that was originally organized on June 14, 1869, as the Regatta Association of Chatham County, and was succeeded in 1876 by the formal organization of the Savannah Yacht Club. 

They offer a variety of recreational activities including sailing and boating.

For those who are adults and may have sailing on their bucket list, Savannah has various sailing clubs that accept individuals from novice to experienced.

“Currently, I believe there are five different sailing clubs within the Savannah area, one being the Savannah Yacht Club, of course, which is a private club, but you also have places like the Chatham Sailing Club, the Geechee Sailing Club, the Landing Sailing Club or even the Skidaway Island Boat Club,” McCarthy said.

“In particular of those five clubs, the Chatham Sailing Club offers a numerous amount of classes, training sessions, or even cruising sail days. Like where somebody who doesn’t know anything about sailing but wants to try the boat out for the first time, they have monthly events where people can sign up, come out and get on the water.” 

For those on the fence about whether to go yachting or sailing during the next traveling adventure, McCarthy offers some advice on that as well.

“So, I’ve actually done a lot of traveling, motor yachts, sailboat yachts, I’ve done cruises, of course,” McCarthy said.

“I’ll be honest, we had the opportunity to go on a motor yacht when we were in the BBI’s and looking back on it, we went with a catamaran, which is a two-hold sailboat and I wouldn’t change it for the world. The idea of being able to sail in the middle of the ocean, this calm breeze, no noise like running motors, you kind of take in that environment and really enjoy the peace and quiet of being out in the ocean and feeling the motion of the seas.”

He continued, “So if I can ever recommend anybody do that, that would be the way I would go. To add to that point, during our trip, we had this two-week vacation. Obviously, the first portion was for my wife and I but the second half of the trip, we actually invited some local friends down, all of which had never been on a sailboat before. In all honesty, they probably have been on plenty of motor yachts but never a sailboat and returning from that trip, I think they’d agree that it’s probably one of the best times they’ve ever had and would never do it any other way other than on a sailboat.” 

For updates on upcoming sailing events in the Savannah area as well as learning to sail opportunities click here.