SUMMIT, NJ - Most kids head into their summer vacations looking forward to some down time, and perhaps attending a camp geared toward their proclivities, such as a particular activity or sport.
Thomas Quinn, who recently graduated from Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School (LCJSMS), will be taking the traditional summer teen agenda up a few notches. Quinn has been selected to represent the United States in the Flanders Youth Regatta, which will be held in Nieuwpoort, Belgium,July 5-9.
The 14-year old Quinn, who was student council vice president during his final year at LCJSMS, began his sailing career three years ago, spending significant time in the sailing culture surrounding his family's beach home. He sails out of the Bayhead Yacht Club in Bayhead, NJ.
"We have a beach house, and everyone sails," said Quinn. At first, sailing was a diversion for Quinn but, after connecting with coach Jack Swickhaert, Quinn began sailing competitively, having success, and developing a true passion for the sport.
He competed in local races, entered a national competition in Newport, RI, and then connected with Clay Johnson, who became his next coach. Johnson, who barely missed qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, has brought out the best in Quinn, and the results followed. Quinn is a member of Johnson's Colie Elite Racing Team.
Quinn competes in the Optimist Dingy Class, which is a solo class governed by the United States Optimist Dingy Association (USODA). Under Johnson's tutelage, Quinn took part in a National Competition this year held in Portland, ME, and finished in the top 20 percent. It was not until a few weeks later, that he learned -- in what sounds like a scene from a movie -- that he was chosen to represent America.
Quinn's mother, Nancy, was attending her niece's wedding, set in a remote area, when she received an e-mail from the USODA notifying her of her son's selection. Thomas was elsewhere, in an equally remote location, when his Mom called his mobile phone. Between the calls getting dropped and the conversation breaking up, it took several calls back and forth before Mom and son were able to communicate the good news.
"It is both exciting and cool to represent the country, especially at this age," said Quinn. "I think it really sank in when the entire team and our coaches got on a conference call recently, and then all my team gear arrived."
Quinn will face variable conditions in Flanders, where he will encounter both "heavy" and "dead" winds. He will be sailing on the North Sea, unable to see land on any side of him, a real change from his home base sailing in the Bayhead Harbor.
Each race will last between 45 minutes and one hour, and his Mom will be accompanying him to Belgium, which will be his first real visit abroad -- his only other trip was when he was just six-months old -- and required that the family obtain an expedited passport.
When he is not sailing, which is virtually every weekend, Quinn enjoys golf, and -- during the school year -- focuses on his studies and, "Catching up on my sleep." He next challenges include learning and competing in the Laser 4.7 Class, being a team member on his High School and College sailing teams and, at this relatively early stage in his life, he has aspirations to become an architect.