Summer resident uses East Coast strategies to sail the Pacific
Nick Kaschak – a product of the Conanicut Yacht Club sailing program – was recently named to the Pacific Coast College Sailing Conference All-Conference Team. The longtime Jamestown summer resident sails for the University of California-Santa Barbara, and he said there is a big difference from what he grew up doing – sailing on the Atlantic Ocean – to what he has accomplished on the Pacific.
Kaschak said the traditional wisdom is correct on how the East Coast and the West Coast teams approach racing differently. “It’s a very, very different mindset.” According to the 22-year-old senior, West Coast teams focus on making the boat go fast, while East Coast teams prefer to win with tactics. He considers his style more West Coast.
“I’ve always been along the West Coast mentality,” he said. “Boat speed can make someone a tactical genius.” But he has used some strategies he learned in Jamestown to his advantage in California. For example, blocking the opponent’s boat and trying to slow it down.
“I definitely have applied a lot of tactical things,” he said.
Kaschak is the son of Jamestowners Chick and Alexis Pyle. He learned to sail in the Conanicut Yacht Club’s junior program, and now uses those skills to race for UC-Santa Barbara, and also coach youngsters at the Santa Barbara Yacht Club.
Next month he will have a chance to cap his college career off with a national title.
By coming in second to Stanford two weeks ago at the Pacific Coast Conference Team Championship, the Gauchos secured a berth in the National Team Race Championship, which will begin on June 3 in Austin, Texas. This will be the first time since 2003 the Gauchos have made it to the nationals.
Kaschak did most of his youth sailing in Jamestown, he said, because he had summers free to go out on the water. “I love the small town with its tight-knit sailing community,” he said.
Later, he sailed with his high school team in San Diego. In California, the sailing and racing continues almost year-round because of the weather. The only time that the sailing stalls is during the few weeks when there isn’t enough wind.
Kaschak said the East Coast teams may actually get into more regattas than the Pacific Coast teams because there’s a bigger concentration of sailing on the East Coast in a relatively small geographical area.
But the Gauchos have a busy racing schedule. “We have a good sized district,” he said.
The differences between sailing on each coast depends on weather. He said sailing on the West Coast is more predictable than sailing in Jamestown because of weather conditions.
The Jamestown breeze is frontal and driven by storms, he said.
“It can go from zero to everything in the blink of an eye,” he said. “In California, the breeze is on average lighter and a lot more predictable.”
The most predictable wind of all, he said, is in San Francisco, where the America’s Cup will be raced. Kaschak said he does plan to take a trip to San Francisco to see some of the racing. San Francisco will be home to the 2013 America’s Cup Finals, and will also host a pair of America’s Cup World Series events this year.
Kaschak goes to the gym three times a week, and he also bikes. “I’m on my road bike quite a bit,” he said. He has used cycling to complement his sailing for the past six or seven years. “I love it. It keeps you in shape.”
Kaschak said he fell into cycling as a way of training. He had always liked riding and happened to travel with high school friends who both biked and rowed.
Kaschak will graduate in June with a double major in psychology and physical anthropology. The two disciplines complement each other, he said.
“My school is one of the leaders in evolutionary psychology,” he said. He went on to explain how researchers in this branch of psychology apply Charles Darwin’s “natural selection ideas to how and why we think the way we do.”
He’s not sure yet about future plans but expects he will continue his studies and keep sailing. He plans to compete with club teams at the state and national level.
Enrolling in a graduate school program is one possibility, but he may even go back and earn another undergraduate degree in a different field.
“I’m playing things by ear,” he said. “There’s a good chance next year I’ll be in school and sailing and coaching.”
His father, Chick, said his son has been the advanced racing coach at Santa Barbara Yacht Club for the last four years. Most of the kids that Nick coaches are between the ages of 14 and 18.
He also expects to be back on the island at the end of the summer. Kaschak was born in Connecticut and moved to California when he was 5. He has a stepbrother and a stepsister. His parents are retired. His father owned a software company in England, and his mother sold digital computers.
So why does Kaschak like sailing so much? “It’s the most variable and challenging sport known to man. To me it’s like a game of chess that is always moving and has an infinite number of variables. The ability to work through a sailboat race is challenging and invigorating for the mind and body. Plus it is incredibly pure, as one only needs the wind.”