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The Caravan

The student news site of Mount Carmel High School

The Caravan

The student news site of Mount Carmel High School

The Caravan

MC sets sail with a new Caravan team

Tim Baffoe
(left to right) Wyatt Knight, Alex Kazmierczak, Gavin McGovern, Matthew Potter, and (background) Kyron Wright return from practicing in Jackson Park Outer Harbor on May 4, 2024.

In all of the 124 years of history at Mount Carmel there have been many sports programs, but not in any of those previous years had there been sailing. That changed this school year as Caravan Sailing launched in existence.

So far the team members are having a good time learning how to sail and are hoping to possibly end the spring season with a  scrimmage race  against another school as they did last fall when the program commenced. 

The team practices down at the Jackson Park Yacht Club only a few blocks from campus, and their roster is looking quite big for a sport in its first year at MC. The team right now is made up of all grade levels: seniors Tasi Koutsis and Matthew Potter, juniors Blane Bertalmio and Leslie Cleveland, sophomore Bryce Mason, and freshmen Alex Kazmierczak, Wyatt Knight, Gavin McGovern, and Kyron Wright. 

The MC Sailing team started this school year in the fall with Mr. Brooks Nevrly coaching. Due to conflicts with also coaching volleyball, he had to step down as sailing coach, and the administration needed someone else from the MC faculty or staff to take on the job. Mr. Tim Baffoe stepped up to fill the role.

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“Why not?” said English Teacher Mr. Baffoe. “They needed somebody. The school put out the call for someone, and no one besides [school president Mr. Brendan] Conroy was taking up the offer. I thought about it for a while. I was curious about it, and thought it seemed very interesting. I knew nothing about sailing. I’m not a sailor. I’ve never been on an actual sailboat in my life. It’s something that piqued my interest, and I thought that Mount Carmel getting a sailing team was extremely cool.” 

Due to Mr. Baffoe having no experience, he is very grateful to the volunteers who gave up their time to teach the team: Coaches Bob Szyman ’65; Commodore Karen Harris, who is former Commodore of Jackson Park Yacht Club and current President of Jackson Park Yacht Club Foundation; John Zimmerman, who is the father of current sophomore Ben; and Kate Mattiello, who is a sophomore at Jones College Prep, have been a really great help to the team. 

MC is the only Catholic  high school on the Far South Side of Chicago that offers sailing at all. It is a very unique thing that MC is blessed to have, partly due to its location so close to the lake. 

It takes teamwork to sail, such as launching a boat into the water. (Tim Baffoe)

“Being out on that water it’s something unique because it’s not something you get to do every day, especially as a high schooler,” said Koutsis. “Learning to sail is something that I think is very special. It’s a special opportunity that we have here at Mount Carmel now. So I’m grateful that I was able to be a part of it.”

Koutsis has a relatively unusual story of how he joined sailing. 

“Actually it wasn’t my choice,” said Koutsis. “My parents thought it would be something good for me to do and I was against it at first. But I kept an open mind to it and when I came I saw the guys who were involved, got a little bit of hands-on experience with it and it ended up being a whole lot of fun.” 

Some students just signed up because it looked interesting or they had done it before. 

“I did it the summer before the club actually started,” said Mason. “I was actually talking to someone at the yacht club if we are doing it or not, and since they decided to do it I thought it would be fun. It’s just really enjoyable to be able to be out on the open water, and it feels like you’re flying in a way.”

Some colleges, if there is a body of water close enough, do offer sailing, so it could be a nice extracurricular to parlay into meeting people after graduation.

 “I don’t know if I would join a program [in college] necessarily,” said Koutsis. “I have people in my life who own sailing boats, so I’ll definitely keep sailing after, but I don’t know necessarily about anything organized within my college. I’m definitely open to it if it’s available.” 

The plan for the program is to build from scratch and get enough Caravan sailors acclimated to the sport to eventually field a competitive team where they could then race against other high school sailing teams in the area. The Interscholastic Sailing Association MISSA district includes schools from the Chicago area who compete against one another such as Loyola Academy, Fenwick, St. Ignatius, DePaul College Prep, Jones, University of Chicago Laboratory, New Trier, Latin, Walter Payton, Whitney Young, Evanston, and Lake Forest Academy, as well as Culver Academies in Indiana and several schools from Wisconsin. 

Senior Tasi Koutsis coaches his teammates on the experience after finishing a sail in windy conditions on April 27, 2024, while freshman Wyatt Knight sails in the background. (Tim Baffoe)

For now, whether it’s the free openness of the water or a nice extra thing to do on a Saturday morning, it seems quite a few guys at MC have found something new to compete in. 

“It’s fun to go and disappear for three hours with some guys that you know from school and get to learn to do something that is actually pretty fun and cool to do,” said Koutsis. 


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About the Contributor
James McCormac '25
James McCormac '25, Staff Writer
James McCormac is a junior at Mount Carmel. He lives in Bridgeport and attended Old Saint Mary's Grammar School. James is a member of the Varsity football team, the chess team, boxing, and The Merchant. Outside of school James enjoys doing volunteer work. His hobbies are reading and lifting.