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Posted 8/5/2015

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By Sean McBride
Charleston District


10 knots or 45 knots; you never know what a day sailing on the water is going to give you. Referring to wind speed, not a tied piece of rope, no day on the water is ever the same. The wind could be gusting or the waves could be choppy, but for two sailors at the Charleston District, that’s just fine.

Don Hill, chief of logistics, and David Gill, records manager, both believe that going through the wind and cutting through the water are the most peaceful moments in their lives. Their view on the best type of sailing differs, though, as Hill is a racer and Gill is a cruiser.

“When I’m racing a sailboat, I forget about everything else,” says Hill. “It gets the competitive juices flowing. You become one with the boat when you’re in the groove and that’s a good feeling.”

Hill learned how to sail from his dad but began racing sailboats about 15 years ago with the Charleston Ocean Racing Association. Through CORA, he has met dozens of new people that he competes with weekly. Hill owns his own boat and learned to drive it in order to compete in the racing series while he was competing in the racing series.

“Everyone will help you and bring you up,” says Hill. “They will give you help, even in a race, until you start winning and then they shut up.”

Hill finds it interesting that so many different types of people sail. He has met people from all ages, backgrounds and social statuses that would never intermix in life if not for sailing. Then they end up on the same teams and work hard to ensure they hold up their end of the team effort.

“A lot of people have the misconception that sailing is only relaxing, but it can be thrilling and intense,” says Hill. “We race every Wednesday night, and there are events like Charleston Race Week where you can compete against the world’s best sailors. Not many amateur sports enable you to do that.”

But there are those people that do prefer the relaxing side of sailing to the racing side. Like Gill, who has been sailing ever since he was in the U.S. Navy and a friend rented a boat and asked him to come along.

“I like to see where the wind takes us,” says Gill. “It’s all about going on the water and having a good time. A lot of people view sailing as an elitist sport, but what they don’t see is people that live on boats or do it just for the love of being on the water.”

Gill likens sailing to people that go golfing or watch sporting events and laughs about it lowering his blood pressure.

Both men consider sailing to have an entirely different feel compared to power boating, where Hill says you can’t even hear each other talk. Gill’s view is a little more profound.

“Power boaters use their boats to get where they want to go,” he says. “Sailors are there as soon as they step on board.”

The genuine love for the sport is evident in listening to these sailors discuss the camaraderie and helpfulness of other sailors. Gill references many books and stories of people helping others at sea, even during a race, if they are in trouble.

It’s easy to get involved too. In a city that is below sea level and surrounded by water anywhere you look, sailing is a popular pastime. The College of Charleston even has a public course you can take to decide if you like sailing.

“A good way to get started, if you have any inkling to sail at all, is to take a sailing class,” says Hill. “It will either get you hooked or show you that you definitely don’t want to do it.”

Hill and Gill are just two of the passionate sailors at the Charleston District who use sailing to break up the monotony of everyday life and do something exciting. Whether it’s sailing, golfing, watching sports or any other activity, learn what you love to do and do it with passion, like these guys.

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