Come Sail Away: Senior William Kibler continues family tradition as a competitive sailor


Senior William Kibler and a teammate race in the Georgia State Championship sailing competition near Statesboro in February.

For most people, hearing that someone sails evokes an image of the son of a hedge fund manager or a trust fund baby, but one St. Pius X senior is working to buck that stereotype.

William Kibler has been sailing since he was in third grade. It is almost a rite of passage for a young Kibler man to learn to sail, as it has been in his family for at least three generations. Naturally, his father was his first instructor, passing down his 35 year old boat to William.

“Like members of my dad’s side of the family, I’ve always had an affinity for the water and quickly caught on to the sport. We read about the club online, went up the same weekend for a visit, and I sailed by myself for the first time in the same day. Pretty soon I started racing and eventually traveling for events. Some of my favorite places to sail are Charleston, Jacksonville, and Miami,” said Kibler.

Despite acknowledging that it “sounds cheesy,” Kibler admitted that he was “always drawn to the water,” beginning his prolific sailing career in third grade. He has since received a fair amount of teasing, receiving taunts from kids that it “isn’t a real sport” or “doesn’t require any skill” or is “a rich kids’ sport.”

But he’s quick to prove people wrong: “Sailing isn’t the old money sport that people make it out to be,” Kibler clarified, mentioning that his first boat cost less than $1,000.

The price can be expensive, but it shouldn’t be a great barrier of entry for anyone trying to get into the sport. The affordability depends on the equipment each person decides to use.

“Sailing is only as expensive as the individual wants to put into it and I know more pro sailors with used or borrowed boats than those with the latest and greatest equipment,” he said.

Kibler even claims that his cheap equipment made him a better sailor. Having to overcome the difficult handling of his first boat forced him to develop his technique, or as he succinctly put it, “it just makes you better.”

Another misconception is that sailing is a relaxing hobby. Although it can be for some, the competition can also put a physical and mental strain on its participants.

“It’s like chess on the water,” as Kibler puts it. “Once the physical aspects of sailing are under control, the winner of any given race is determined by their critical thinking and ability to formulate strategies on constantly changing weather conditions. Good sailors must be able to read conditions like clouds, patterns in wind shifts, temperature differentials, and at times changing currents while keeping the boat driving at top speed. Starts are especially hard as competitors have 5 minutes to read the course and jockey for a competitive spot on the line (while moving) without fouling others. I am usually more sore after a day of racing than a day of football practice.”

While he began sailing competitively at smaller events, Kibler eventually worked his way up to a larger stage. For fun he likes to participate in lower stakes races at Lake Allatoona in Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida. For bigger events, though, he prefers coastal locations like Annapolis and Charleston.

Kibler hopes his sailing career doesn’t end any time soon, aspiring to sail in college and eventually sail competitively in the Olympics.

“Wherever I go for college, I plan on joining the sailing team and hope to participate in national and international events with the help of my school. With support from others, sponsorships, and enough practice, I hope to have the opportunity to race in the Olympics in the 470/49er boat class or America’s Cup,” he said.

While the world of competitive sailing may seem impenetrable at first, it’s easy to find camaraderie among others in the community. Kibler has some advice for people trying to get into the sport.

“Reach out to people!” he exclaimed, “The sailing community is incredibly welcoming and more than likely to either loan you their boat, direct you to someone that can, or teach you to race themselves as a crew on their boat. I try to race as often as I can but the greatest challenge I always encounter is finding a crew to sail with.”