St. Johnian sailor Max Nickbarg won the Cressy Trophy in October, which means he is the best high school full rig laser sailor in the United States. Max is a senior at Antilles School, a private school on St. Thomas. He sent in his application for early action to Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA and in December was accepted, meaning that he’ll spend the next four years on the US West Coast.
As he waits for the next chapter in his life to start, Nickbarg has been keeping his head in the sailing game. The Antilles Sailing team practices three afternoons a week in 420s, keeping him sharp in the boats favored for high school and college events. On weekends he gets out on his laser, working to better himself in a boat and rig that no one else down here sails. He’s just transitioned into the laser full rig, and it’s taken some getting used to.
“I’ve gone from being a heavy radial sailor to a light full rig sailor. Right now I’m around 160-165 lbs, and I should be between 170 and 175. I’ve got to get to the gym,” he said. He also used to have people to practice against in the radial, but he’s the only one who’s made the move up to the full rig. It’s been hard to test his speed, and as for getting in any big fleet practices before regattas? Forget about it.
So what does a solo sailor suggest to keep up with the competition? “Be serious about practice. Don’t waste time. If you’re going to go out, it’s better to go out for a serious hour and a half than to float around for three hours and get nothing done. And with a laser, you have to be in shape too.”
As for 420 and FJ sailing, which is what he can expect in college, he’s pretty confident he’ll be able to handle it. “I’ve been sailing with the Antilles team for five years in 420s, and I’ve done a couple of regattas in the states in FJs. They don’t seem that different.”
What’s certain is that he doesn’t expect anything but the best from himself. He also has enough short-term goals and regattas to keep him busy and in the groove for the next few months: he’ll be in Florida several times between December and March for regattas, the results of which we’ll be sure to track. He said he hoped to place in the top five at the Orange Bowl Youth Regatta in Biscayne Bay December 26-30. Then he’s considering doing the Rolex Miami OCR, a grade 1 event where the world’s best sailors come to compete. Later on he’ll be at Midwinters East in St. Petersburg, Florida, which is the qualifying regatta for the Central American and Caribbean Games (CAC).
The Midwinters will be particularly challenging for him, not only because they serve as a qualifier, but also because he’ll be competing against his old high school teammates and role models, Thomas Barrows and Cy Thompson, for the two spots that are available for the CAC Games. Still, he’s looking forward to racing against them again, and, as he said with a little optimism, “I only have to beat one of them.”