Sailing for Fun
The Hillsboro Inlet Sailing Club is an outlet for fun-seekers with a passion for sailing
By Daniel Myers
Many reasons have driven people to the sea. Pirates and privateers were drawn by promises of money and glory. Scientists and scholars set sail in the quest for knowledge — Darwin’s “Origin of Species” was begun upon the HMS Beagle. Many more were drawn by the simple idea of adventure, as was Ishmael, who boarded The Pequod out of a deep need to join in the exploits of whalers; and Homer’s epic “The Odyssey” plays on the whimsical and brutal forces of the sea.
Glory, knowledge, and adventure are typically seen as the main reasons people set sail, but for Hector Arrellaga, Commodore of the Hillsboro Inlet Sailing Club, the motivation is simple.
“Our sole purpose is to have fun,” said Arrillaga.
Arrillaga has been Commodore of the Club for more than eight years. His personality and vision for the club is perhaps best captured by the picture of him on the Hillsboro Inlet Sailing Club’s website: the portrait of a man in a navy blue suit and sombrero, singing into a microphone. Arrillaga and the Sailing Club appear to be a part of a new take on America’s relationship with the sea. The days of privateering and whaling are past, but the Hillsboro Inlet Sailing Club continues to set sail, just for the fun of it. The Hillsboro Inlet Sailing Club has been active in the local area for over 25 years and, while other clubs might stagnate at that age, this one continues to grow. Today, the Club has over 400 members including the children who participate in the youth sailing program. Those members also have a total of 140 vessels to be used for their events. Besides an odd five or six power boats, all of the ships are sailboats, making the Club’s veritable armada a sailor’s dream.
The quest for glory is still to be found in the Hillsboro Inlet Sailing Club’s programming. Sailors interested in testing their skills—or just showing off—will find the Hillsboro Inlet Sailing Club a worthy platform for competition. The Club’s offerings are far from sparse, with races ranging from the casual summer “Beer Can Races” to the Coastal Races and Buoy Racing Series. The Club also runs 20 formal buoy races per year. These races constitute the bulk of the Club’s formal races and require a lot of planning.
Each sailboat is given an adjusted pre-race ranking based on their equipment, sail plan and that crew’s past performance. These adjusted rankings are implemented in the hopes that every shipand crew has a fair competition. In the spring and fall, the buoy races constitute a series—the team with the best cumulative score from all the races takes home the trophy.Coastal Races constitute the last of the Hillsboro Inlet Sailing Club’s racing offerings. While the buoy races are a couple miles long, the coastal races stretch up and down Florida’s east coast. This is a sailor’s prime opportunity to sail the coast of East Florida and prove they are worth their weight in sea salt.
For young sailors who have yet to get their sea legs, the Hillsboro Inlet Sailing Club offers the opportunity to learn their way around a sail boat. The Club’s educational programming is open to children between the ages of 8 and 18, so long as they can pass a swim test. Members of the Club with family memberships are eligible for free sailing classes for their children. Otherwise, the program is $75 for non-members. That money goes a long way, though, as it pays for a four-week session. The educational programming is volunteer-led by certified members of the Club. All instruction is led with two boats— the instructor supervises and teaches from a rowboat while the student is by themselves or in pairs in a small sail boat. This system ensures safety and promotes independence for the fledgling sailors.
Perhaps there are those among our readership who are neither experienced, competitive sailors, or young newcomers to the sport. Yet, they find themselves drawn to the sea like Ishmael. For those among us that are interested in adventure, this may be the Hillsboro Inlet Sailing Club’s greatest offering. The Club has around 20 cruising events every year. Cruising events begin in the Hillsboro Inlet with the rest of the Club. Crews board their vessels and prepare to set sail for ports near and far. Locations include domestic ports in Florida as close as Lake Boca Raton, and foreign ports in Abaco and the Bahamas. Hillsboro Inlet Sailing Club Cruises are purely social events and, as such, many of these cruises are themed. In the past, sailors have set sail donned in Halloween costumes, loaded with German beers for Oktoberfest, or stuffing their faces during an on-the-water pancake eating contest for Father’s Day.
The social events are not strictly bound to the ocean, the Club also holds plenty of events on dry land, too. Regular formal dances, dinners and picnics are hosted by the Hillsboro Inlet SailingClub to celebrate the already existing membership and to attract newcomers. On the more casual side, the Club typically gets together after the races for some socializing.
According to Club Commodore Hector Arrillaga, the Hillsboro Inlet Sailing Club is the most active sailing club in the area.
“For some events, we have forty or more ships just for one event,” he said. “I mean, it’s amazing because that’s the amount of members that some clubs have total.”
The Club’s events are spaced out to where they always have at least one event every other weekend. The Hillsboro Inlet Sailing Club will be having a land-based social event on October 21. To learn more about the Hillsboro Inlet Sailing Club, visit their website at hisc.org.