SARASOTA — Fourteen-year-olds Nico Schultz and Nick Hernandez will have no one to rely on but themselves this weekend.
And the two Sarasota Youth Sailing Squadron sailors wouldn’t want it any other way.
For 10 to 20 minutes, Nico and Nick will sail the waters of Lake Wannsee in Berlin, relying on the knowledge they’ve developed over the past three years to make the best possible decisions for their team.
“I like sailing by myself better because you don’t have to rely on another person to be there,” Nico says. “You make your own decisions and take the blame if you make a bad choice.”
Nico, a freshman at Suncoast Polytechnical High, and Nick, a sophomore at Pine View, left Oct. 23, for Berlin, and will represent Team USA in the BMW Optimist Team Race Cup Oct. 27.
The two teammates will be part of a four-man team with each sailor sailing his or her own boat against other teams from across the world.
Nico and Nick qualified for the BMW Optimist Team Race Cup after winning the 2012 USODA Team Race National Championship July 22 through July 24, in Sandusky, Ohio, with Team Florida Oceanic Racing, a travel squad based in Clearwater.
“I was very excited and happy because we’ve worked so hard for it,” Nico says of winning the national championship.
However, Nico and Nick didn’t know for sure if they would be competing in Berlin, because both boys also qualified at the U.S. Optimist Dinghy Association (USODA) Team Trials back in May to represent the United States in the 2012 North American Championship in Mexico.
“I was happy, but I also was a little worried, also, because the (North American Championships) in Mexico were at the same time and I was supposed to go to that,” Nick says. “I didn’t know that I was going straight to Berlin.”
After some discussion, Nico and Nick both decided to compete in the BMW Optimist Team Race Cup.
“I’m looking forward to all of the competition that’s going to be there and some good sailing,” Nico says.
“I’m excited about the sailors and the competition — seeing all of the old faces and people that we knew,” Nick says.
The more tenured of the two teammates, Nico began sailing at the Sarasota Youth Sailing Squadron six years ago after watching his father and sister sail. After developing a knack for the sport, Nico joined Team FOR (Florida Oceanic Racing) three years ago.
“It was hard at first because I was young and I wasn’t really sure what to do,” Nico says. “It was hard to take in all of the information and understand what to do at that age.”
Similar to Nico, Nick quickly developed a passion for sailing after participating in a youth sailing summer camp on Venice Island.
“I liked it a lot,” Nick says. “I like the fact that it’s a physical and mental sport. You have to be strong in terms of fitness, but you also have to know what to do.”
This weekend, Nico and Nick, along with teammates Hallie Schiffman, a seventh-grader at Pine View, Emmet Ward, of Clearwater, and Carolyn Corbet, of Richmond, Va., will attempt to bring a gold medal home to the United States.
“We just have to keep the team focused on what we need to do,” Nick says. “One team is always trying to slow down another team to pass them. We’ve been working with each other so much that we know what to do. It’s all muscle memory.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].