Get to know Kayla Neuman!
Photos by: Pat Venturino from the Duck Challenge Regatta. Above Left: Pat McCarron, Kayla Neuman, Austin Neuman.
Sailing has always been something that I’ve loved and enjoyed. It’s something that lets me forget everything else, when my worrying mind won’t let me forget the 1000 other things I need to accomplish. I’ve sailed so many different boats: opti, laser, sunfish, c420, FJ, Lightning, J22. It never mattered what boat I was in as long as I was on the water. It has been six years since I’ve set foot in a Lightning. My boat has been sitting in my parent’s garage waiting to be used, me wondering if I’ll ever get the chance to.
In the winter of 2010, Mark Schneider, one of my long-time mentors, encouraged me to sign up and sail the Lightning Junior North Americans, which were being held at Metedeconk Yacht Club that summer. So, my dad bought me a boat, 14927, and the first time we took it out, we capsized and filled the boat completely with water. It did not matter though; I was hooked on the Lightning. That summer, I got a crew together and we raced at the yacht club on Sundays and prepared for Jr NAs. When we got there, it was windy, we were inexperienced, we capsized, broke a spreader bar, and had the most amazing time!
The following winter I crewed for Mark Schneider in the Southern Circuit, and this is when I got closer to all the amazing people in the class. Everyone there welcomed me in with open arms, gave me tips on the boat and encouraged me to keep sailing it. It was during the Southern Circuit that I truly fell in love with this class.
That next summer I sailed Jr North Americans and a few other local regattas, always excited about the next time I could get into the boat. The fall of my senior year of high school, in 2011, I was accepted into the United States Coast Guard Academy, where I would sail on the dinghy team. Since the academy is free, minus the 5-year military commitment, I made a deal with my dad, if I went to the Academy he would buy me a bright pink Lightning.
I graduated high school in June 2012, and reported into the Academy only 2 weeks after. While there, I skippered c420s, FJs, and lasers. I learned so much about sailing, being able to compete against incredible college sailors every weekend and having so many great sailors on my team to learn from. I was on the Women’s Team, where we made college Women’s Nationals all four years, and were named Women’s National Champions my senior year.
In the middle of my sophomore year in 2013, my dad upheld his end of the deal and only a few days before Christmas we drove up to Allen Boat Company and picked up my pink Lightning. Tom Allen wasn’t too sure about making a Lightning with such a bright interior, but I assured him that it was exactly what I wanted!
When we brought it back to my parent’s house, we stuck it in the garage, where it sat for the next five years. Due to the time commitment to the sailing team and my military obligations, I was not able to sail the Lightning while I was in school.
After graduating, I was assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Rollin Fritch, a brand-new ship that was based out of Cape May, NJ. It was an amazing experience, I was on the commissioning crew, meaning we went to the boat yard, picked up the boat and prepared it for Coast Guard missions. However, once again, with my obligations at work and being out at sea for half the year, I was still unable to out sailing.
Last summer, I switched jobs and now work on Staten Island at Coast Guard Sector New York. I also was married to my husband, who I met through sailing opti’s so many years ago and sailed with me at the 2011 Lightning Junior North Americans.
This summer, I set a goal of getting back into the boat. I first looked around to crew at the Central Atlantic District Championship at Surf City YC. Thanks to Steve Warren, I met Tim Robinson who let me crew for him at the regatta and we earned 4th place. After that, I knew I was ready to sail my own boat again. A couple weekends later, my husband and my college best friend, Christi McGee crewed for me at the Down Bay Regatta at Little Egg Harbor Yacht Club. The two of them made the regatta so much fun and really helped push me to do my best. We ended up winning the regatta, but that wasn’t the only thing that happened, it made me want to do more sailing. A few weekends later, we headed down to the Duck Challenge Regatta. That was another awesome regatta, with great breeze and a great showing of boats. I had so much fun! Once again, we ended up winning the regatta, which completely surprised me. I just showed up wanting to get back into the boat.
I really have so many people to thank for finally giving me the push to get back into the Lightning. My family, for encouraging me to keep sailing, bringing me to regattas, and getting me into sailing in the first place. To all my college coaches, including new Lightning sailor Doug Clark, and many teammates - you taught me so much, both on and off the water, perseverance, dedication, and the value of friendship. To Christi McGee and Pat McCarron, thanks for sailing with Austin and me and helping to get me back into the boat. Without you two, I do not think I would have had as enjoyable of an experience. And finally, my husband, Austin. I literally would not have gotten the boat into the water without him. He is the one that has driven the boat to the regattas, waxed the boat, helped me figure out how to rig the boat again and forced me to sail, and without his support, I would not have done it at all.
To the Lightning Class:
Thank you all for welcoming me back into the class with open arms. This Class is the best class I have ever sailed in. You are the happiest, the friendliest and the most supportive sailors around. I hope to meet more of the amazing members in the future. I’m already planning on heading to the Florida Winter Series and the North Americans next summer!
If you see a bright pink boat, please stop on by! I’d love to meet you!
Editors Note: We thank Kayla for her dedication to the Lightning Class and service in the USCG!