Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Roadshow Signs Off: Thanks for An Incredible Summer!











Sailing Has A Home: The New Hall of Fame In Annapolis

Cooperstown, NY. Canton, OH. The mere mention of these places usually elicits only one image in the minds of American sports fans: The Halls of Fame. The temples where particular sports are honored. Until now, however, American sailors had no such place to gather and celebrate the heroes of the past and present. How can this be?

We are the nation that claimed an overly ornate cup from the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1851, and defended it for 132 years. We are the nation that produced the world's first solo-cicumnavigation. We are also the nation that has won more Olympic sailing medals than any other. 

In other words, America needs a Sailing Hall of Fame! We certainly have enough amazing stories to fill one. Check out the video above to get the details about this ongoing effort.

-Will Ricketson

Supporting Sailing When Summer Ends: The Shelter Island School

When Labor Day comes and goes each Summer, it usually signals a slowdown in sailing activity in the northeast United States. Boats are dismasted, sails stored, engines winterized, and many high school kids are left landlocked.

However, on Shelter Island, a small town on the east end of Long Island, NY, a different narrative is being written. Shelter Island Yacht Club boasts a large and successful summer junior sailing program, but for decades has closed its doors at the onset of Fall. Blessed with sturdy ramps, a spacious yard, several club-owned 420's, and a capable motorboat fleet, the club recently decided to use its resources to give back to the local community. This was the beginning of the Shelter Island School Sailing Team.

The 2010/11 Shelter Island School Sailing Team, with alum Amanda Clark (right)

Despite being surrounded by water, island kids had never before enjoyed year-round access to the ocean. To remedy this, SIYC offered the school the full run of its facilities and fleet. The final pieces of the puzzle were the generous donation of sails by Connecticut College Varsity Sailing, the recruitment of dedicated parent/coach Peter Needham to run the program, and local USSTAG Olympic role model Amanda Clark volunteering additional expertise. The result? A future in which hundreds of Shelter Island kids will learn first to sail, and eventually, to race at a high level.

This is a wonderful example of a club using its gifts and good fortune to both develop the sport and spread goodwill. Hopefully similar organizations will take notice, and ponder ways to do the same.

-Will Ricketson

Where the City Meets the Sea: Baltimore Downtown Sailing












Standing on the main pier of the Baltimore Downtown Sailing Center, it is easy to get distracted by the vista spread out before you. The city skyline provides a dramatic background to all of the many ways that one can now enjoy the harbor front, such as museums, restaurants, parks, and, of course, sailing!

The main pavilion at DSC.

Leading the charge in re-igniting on-the-water activity in the area is the Downtown Sailing Center (DSC), which provides a truly impressive range of programs to local residents. From introductory classes aimed at both children and adults, to weekly racing, to disabled-accessible sailing, and even to regional cruising, DSC has something for sailors of every background and skill level.

We were fortunate enough to be on hand for two days at DSC, and got to participate in a couple of their  flagship programs. The first was Thursday night racing in J-22s, which provides the best competition, at the lowest cost, of any sailing program in the area. On Friday, we helped out with the Accessible Sailing Program, which allowed some disabled sailing students access to the water on both Sonar-class keelboats and the (extremely) fun Access Dinghy.

Programs like this are, I believe, the future of sailing. By taking boat ownership out of the equation, community sailing programs are opening the doors to a massive chunk of the American public that otherwise would never be exposed to the sport. At places like DSC, you can sign up for a yearly fee of a few hundred dollars, and get months of no-hassle, low-cost, and rewarding sailing, right in your neighborhood.

Check out the video above to see how the staff of DSC is changing the face of the sport in Baltimore.


PS- DSC was just featured in the Baltimore Sun!

More photos!
Thursday night racing.

DSC Executive Director Kristen Berry (right) and Member Relations Manager Grady Byus (Left)

The Accessible Sailing Program underway.

Will getting hauled into an Access Dinghy.

And away we go! The Access Dinghies are steered by a pulley-powered joystick, and are an absolute blast to sail. 

Capital City Sailing: Georgetown & GW Universities

On the surface, it might seem like an unusual pairing: One of the oldest and most successful college sailing programs in the country, and another team that has great ambition, but is just getting started. Nevertheless, in joining together for practice on a daily basis, Georgetown and George Washington Universities have both benefitted from a larger combined fleet (32 double-handed boats) and increased competition. On the shores of the Potomac River, these two teams are helping one another reach their goals, all while displaying a model of cooperation, sportsmanship, and generosity that others can emulate.

Georgetown University Photo

As an alumni of GW who watched this partnership form, I really can't overstate how rewarding it is to sail at either of these great schools. Centrally located in the MAISA conference, you are a reasonable drive from most regattas, and you get the added benefit of living in one of the most exciting cities in the country. Want to get as much sailing time as possible, all while watching history unfold? Take a hard look at either GW or Georgetown.

Check out the video above, and get some insights into what it's like to sail in DC!

-Will Ricketson

Melanie Moore (GW '11) Photo

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Trying Out at St. Mary's College of Maryland

Through our travels this summer Will and I have picked over how different our college experiences were. Big school, city. Little school, rural. Developing club team. Varsity. There is such a wide spectrum of colleges and schools one can sail at, it's hard to say for sure what a "college sailing experience" looks like. However, there is a tight community of college sailors who share an experience of similar regattas, friends, friends of friends, and even the concept of team racing is a very specific niche of sailing that college sailors share. I can't say what a college sailing experience will be like at all schools- but looking the process SMCM goes through the first week of each fall might give some insight into how college sailing teams work.

Each year seeing the freshman arrive on campus at SMC feels like watching your favorite movie with a friend who's never seen it before. At every corner and every step of the way, you can't wait to tell them how awesome the next scene is- but you (try to) hold your tongue to not spoil the ending or talk over important dialogue.

Current teammates talk before a final team meeting 
Looking back at my own experience during tryouts is pretty typical of the growth one experiences at St. Mary's and as a part of a college team in general. At SMC, I think everyone remembers their freshman year tryouts vividly. I sailed with team captain Mike Kushner on a hot, humid, day with no breeze. We left the dock, did two tacks, came back. It was so unconventional, I was a little nervous not knowing where to put my feet, but Mike assured me through the process. A year later, it was just exciting to be a sophomore on the team when I sailed with Gordie Lampshire his tryouts. Like myself he was little nervous, and as a sophomore it felt like a responsibility to keep his head in the right place like Kushner did for me. As a Junior, I was experienced enough to know the ropes and confidently welcome the freshmen and show them around. By the time senior year rolled around, it was my role to remind my teammates that freshmen might be nervous- and to keep that in mind when sailing with them.

Now as an alum I get to return to see Gordie running tryouts as a team captain, and Mike stepping back as the team's new assistant coach. As only the team and team captains pick the freshman class, it's an example of the unity and leadership a college sailing team needs to grow. It also says a lot about how a team needs layers of individuals beyond just the top six to survive. For me one of the most rewarding parts of being on such a competitive team was coming home from regattas and realizing how talented and diverse my stacked team was in remote St. Mary's. Previous SMC captain and current Assistant Coach (alongside long time coaches Adam Werblow and Bill Ward), Mike Kushner knows the system just as much as anyone else, and his experience adds a lot to what makes a college team mesh. Check out what he has to say and his experiences below:











I think the St. Mary's tryouts system says a lot about the dynamic of what makes a college team tick. Whether it's developing club team which went through exponential growth in the past four years (keep an eye on Will's college trip!) or established varsity programs such as St. Mary's, Boston College, Georgetown, Charleston, etc- it takes a some independent leadership from each team member to make the team run. St. Mary's definitely puts an emphasis on this, but for those in or planning to participate in college sailing it's something to keep in mind that college sailing is much more than trying to get to Nationals in the spring. On the whole it's a community about growth and with a lot of growth- and an amazing experience for young sailors with all types of backgrounds.

Photo courtesy of Franny Kupersmith

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to School!

As summer is winding down and schools are in session, the next topic for many sailors is back to school. A few years ago when I was immersed in the college sailing circuit, I wrote an outline on Scuttlebutt for fellow or incoming college sailors to help get a head start. In time with the fall season, Scuttlebutt has republished it. For all college sailors or anyone interested, check it out below!

In honor of the fall season and college sailing, Will and I are spending the day with out alma maters. Check back for Will's visit as an alum to the George Washington and Georgetown sailing teams in DC, and my journey down south to visit St. Mary's College of Maryland. This will be our first time back on campus as alums and stay tuned for posts about what makes the college sailing experience so unique.

Offshore Priorities: Massachusetts Maritime Academy

This week, in a fitting theme for early September, the Roadshow will be visiting several scholastic sailing programs. In honor of this, I thought it would be a good time to look back at a college team that played a big role in an earlier stopover:

Located in the great state of Massachusetts, MMA has been churning out world-class sailors for over a century. As is the case at other service institutions such as the Naval, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine Academies, sailing is an integral part of the curriculum. I was privileged to race with the MMA Offshore Sailing Team earlier this month, and got some insight into how learning to work as a team onboard a racing boat helps these men and women prepare for their future careers at sea.

Having a continuous supply of highly skilled merchant marine and naval officers is vital to our country's continued security and prosperity. If you have a boat (especially an offshore racing sailboat) that you are thinking of selling, please consider donating it to MMA's excellent program. You will be making a big difference in the lives of these cadets.


Click here for more pictures of my time with MMA, including the dramatic loss of our our mainsail mid-regatta!

Program Directors

The junior summer sailing circuit is officially at an end and it's time for back to school shopping. With a couple exceptions, programs are done and all of the planning, logistics, energy, fundraising, and spark that goes into them. Now that there's a moment to take a deep breath and evaluate the summer, it might be time to look at some successful programs and see what makes them tick. Over the summer Will and I have seen the spectrum of every type of sailing program- from the most esteemed yacht clubs to creative community sailing centers.

At the end of the summer what seems to come out of the planning of every program is a curriculum to keep the kids engaged. Some kids come from "sailing families" and are expected to reach a certain level of racing proficiency in an Opti. Some kids are being bussed in from the inner city where they have never seen the ocean before. The struggle of many community sailing centers is to support a competitive program for the few kids who naturally enjoy racing while keeping the other majority of kids engaged on the water in "messing around in boats".

If you're a program director or active in supporting junior sailing, these are some people that may shed light on what it takes.


Drew Carlson, Director at Stage Harbor Yacht Club











Directors from the newly sanctioned Stonington Harbor Yacht Club Foundation:





















Courageous Sailing Boston, Harbor View Camp Program  











Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The C. Thomas Clagatt, Jr. Memorial Regatta: From the Water

If there's anything difficult to get you're head around when sailing an adapted boat, it's how much the sailing stays the same. Beyond the tangles of spectre line and motorized seats, I can't say that there's much different sailing an adapted boat than any other boat. It's hard imagine that boats designed for sailors who have lost some degree of movement is just as athletic- but for me sailing a Skud 18 was something like trading in a stationary bike for an arm bike. The athleticism and concepts are the same- just the mechanics are different.

Scott Whitman and Brooke Thomson in a Skud 18
Photo courtesy of Thornton Cohen

Being in a Skud feels a little bit like riding a bike blindfolded. All the movements are just as intuitive but only with some things taken away. Luckily my skipper Scott Whitman who is currently campaigning in the Paralympics was able to walk me through it all. As the crew singlehandedly trims the main, jib, kite, along with hoisting and dousing- there was a lot Scott needed to talk me through. All the rigging was adapted seamlessly to control all the sails on a "dashboard" of lines, which made everything possible but was also overwhelming.

After that, the weirdest thing for me to get used to was the seat which is designed to hold a body without lower body movement. Scott steered using two levers, one for windward and one for leeward. Each lever also had a button to control his chair. More than once I had to take a deep breath of blind faith that it would all work out, and somehow it always did.

It was frightening how easily I forgot I had use of my legs while in the Skud. Each time I left the chair it felt unnatural. One mistake was giving into my fears of being strapped into the boat and passing on the seatbelt. I didn't take into account that the Skuds are so fast, that it would be a decision I would later regret. Even after four days of Skud sailing, I would sometimes remind Scott as we were planing at a hot angles, "just remember, I don't have a seatbelt!"

The biggest thing I took away from the Clagatt is how much sailing a Skud or any adapted boat is more of a psychological journey than physical. On the surface it's easy enough to understand that instead of hiking, the sailor moves a chair to the other rail; and instead of sore quads you're going to expect dead arms at the end of the day. However, it's harder to describe the sinking feeling of claustrophobia when you're expected to get strapped into the boat. Or talking to previous Paralympic Gold Medalist, Maureen McKinnon-Tuker on how the instinct to hike never totally goes away. Or how scary it is when a chair breaks. On top of that, the logistical obstacles these sailors deal with daily struck home form be while watching the 2.4 sailors getting hoisted in and out of their boats, the adapted vans and helpers of the athletes, and just overhearing casual conversations about traveling that involve ten times the logistics of a regular Olympic campaign. At the end of the day what these sailors at the Clagatt Regatta are doing is beyond amazing. And the most fun I've had on the water in a long time.

Don't just take it from me though. Listen to what Scott's regular crew, Julia Dorsett, has to say about adapted sailing in Skuds and her new 2.4.


 Sounds from Tuesday afternoon by US SAILING

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Well-Deserved Recognition

The US SAILING Roadshow would like to congratulate one of our recently visited programs, Camp Harbor View in Boston (Whose sailing activities are run by the Courageous Sailing Center) for the wonderful profile broadcast today on National Public Radio. The sailing program was mentioned prominently, and we're very happy to see this special place get the attention it deserves!

Click here for a link to the report. 


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

There's Just Something About Islands: Quinipet Camp & Retreat Center

When your summer camp is perched on perhaps the most idyllic piece of waterfront land on Long Island, having a terrific sailing program becomes less of a luxury than a necessity. Luckily, this is the attitude of Camp Director Greg Nissen, who began his time at Quinipet Camp and Retreat Center running sailing activities before taking on responsibility for the entire organization.

The Quinipet Gazebo, a Long Island landmark and symbol of the camp.

Under Greg, sailing at Quinipet has not only continued, but flourished. An impressive fleet of boats now crowds the shoreline, centered around a sailing facility that is listed in the New York Register of Historic Properties. Sailing classes quickly fill up each Spring, and this year all sessions were full by the time campers bagan arriving in June. Their extensive array of programs include sleep-away camps for teens, both weeklong and monthlong community sailing day camps, and adult classes.

The historic Sailing Barn. Quinipet is currently trying to raise funds to save this centuries-old structure. If you are interested in aiding in this effort, and ensuring that thousands of children continue to learn to sail at this special place, please contact the camp.

While Quinipet may outwardly resemble other community sailing programs, there is a magical quality to this place that is hard to pin down. It may stem from the camp's location on an island only accessible by ferry. The saltwater moat that divides Shelter Island from the mainland does more than physically separate Quinipet from the rest of the state. When campers come from the "outside world," they enjoy the added sense that they have reached a place where external cares simply do not matter. Everything just seems so far away. All that's left is sailing and sunshine.

Instructor Reilly Bergin-Pugh running a tacking drill.

Few other programs I've seen on our 49-stop tour have been as successful at injecting fun into a curriculum designed to foster seamanship skills. Tacking and gybing drills are puntuated by sunken canoe races, sponge tag, and beach time. Expeditions to nearby Crab Creek offer exciting insights into the marine environment for campers, many of whom are from urban homes. Evenings are highlighted by campfires, singing, storytelling, and talent shows.

Quinipet campers are not only exposed to sailing during their stay, but are immersed in it. They are also welcomed into an amazingly rich and diverse community, which features staff and campers from many parts of the country, and the world.

Instructor Caroline Ruby overseeing sail cleaning.

When you are here, it is not hard to find enjoyment in small things. "Our FJ fleet came from Hobart & William Smith Colleges," said sailing instructor Reilly Bergin-Pugh, explaining the large "HWS" markings on the sails. "So usually I just tell the kids it stands for Hogwarts School."

Personally, I can hardly think of a more apt comparison... Except that Quinipet has a beach, and therefore, at least in my book, gets the edge.

-Will Ricketson

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Foundation-Building In Jamestown, RI

Running a sailing foundation seems like a challenging, albeit rewarding, occupation. Spreading a passion for the sport to new people, and especially to kids, could easily be considered the highest privilege of any sailor. Starting such an organization almost from scratch, however, seems like a task of an entirely different magnitude.

Not one to be daunted, Conanicut Island Sailing Foundation director (and 2004 olympian) Meg Myles has stepped up to the plate in Jamestown, Rhode Island. While many of her counterparts spend their days poring over spreadsheets in an office, Meg seems most comfortable waist-deep in the ocean, helping young sailors push off the beach.

A principle reason why the US SAILING Roadshow exists is to get the word out about energetic and often unheralded efforts to enrich the sailing community. After seeing over sixty kids leave the Fort Getty (Jamestown) beach wearing big smiles, I'm definitely a true believer in the future of CISF.


Hear from Meg herself about the present and future activities of CISF:

Interview with Conanicut Island Sailing Foundation Director Meg Myles at Fort Getty by US SAILING

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Experience Meets Determination: The Clagett Memorial Paralympic Clinic

    The US SAILING Roadshow was privileged on Saturday to take part in a performance clinic preceding the C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Regatta, a prominent event on the North American paralympic sailing calendar. Held annually at Sail Newport in Rhode Island, the mission of the Clagett is to provide an environment in which aspiring paralympians can hone their skills in a competitive but educational setting, before facing tougher international competition abroad. An amazing group of coaches took part, including Betsy Alison, Craig Guthrie, Stan Schreyer, and Ken Legler. Several current USSTAG paralympic team members were on hand as well, and used the clinic as a great way to stay sharp for the next phase of the U.S. paralympic trails for the London games.


Also, definitely check out some great personal stories from USSTAG paralympic athletes Bradley Johnson and Paul Callahan:

Finally, here are some of the best photos from a stunning day on Newport Harbor!

Spotted In Newport...

....The world's largest single-masted sailing yacht, Mirabella V. I completed a circumnavigation of the beast along with John Ingalls, head coach of the Salve Regina University Sailing Team, and Clagett volunteer.


Appreciating the Ocean (Above and Below) in Stonington

Just across the street from the Stonington Harbor Yacht Club Sailing Foundation (CT), a pair of cannon batteries stand watch over the village green. Relics of the War of 1812, they are an impressive reminder of why you don't want to bet against the people of this town. "It cost the King ten thousand pounds to have a dash at Stonington," wrote American poet Philip Freneau of a failed British naval attack on the harbor. Upon arriving at the Sailing Foundation, it soon became clear that the current generation of residents are no less energetic.

Many junior sailing programs, having reached the level of success of the SHYC Sailing Foundation, would be content to rest on their laurels. With over 500 students passing through its various programs each year, and standout graduates populating the ranks of top high school, collegiate, and olympic teams, SHYC-SF can be justifiably proud of what they've already built.

However, this is no normal program. Continuing with business as usual is simply not an option.

Improvements and planning are underway on almost every aspect of the operation. Their recently-acquired compound, purchased from the Mohegan Indian Tribe, served for decades as the site of a productive lobster fishing business. An expended pier system is in the works, along with two renovated warehouses (Gotta get those old lobster tanks out!) and a refinished office, among other projects. Even though the site came with a significant amount of indoor space (spread between three buildings), SHYC-SF has already swelled to occupy all of it. A wide variety of beginner, intermediate and advanced sailing programs are complimented by a paddleboard and windsurfer rental program, an outdoor adventure program, adult classes, and, perhaps most impressively, a marine biology program with classes for kids aged 4-17.

  Mike Smith, Marine Biology Program Director at Stonington Harbor Yacht Club by US SAILING

At Stonington, they are not satisfied with simply giving kids a quality introduction to the sport of sailing. They are also intent on giving their students a broad and comprehensive appreciation of the ocean environment as a whole. When you see the marine biology program in action, with dozens of kids ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the latest marine creature caught by instructor Mike Smith, it all seems to fit seamlessly with the boating program. Considering how nature-dependant our sport is, it seems especially important to give kids as complete an understanding as possible of their natural surroundings and how human activity can affect them.

If all of this seems remarkably ambitious, that's because it truly is. However, I would not make the mistake of the marauding H.M.S. Terror two centuries ago, whose captain chose to underestimate the sailors of this town. Already an impressive and successful sailing program, SHYC-SF stands to become a leader in marine education in the New England region.


Friday, August 19, 2011

GBSA and the Legacy of C.J. Buckley

When you first enter the The Greenwich Bay Sailing Association compound, the energy that permeates the place is immediately apparent. The Roadshow vehicle was quickly swarmed by kids eager to help us get started, and by many more parents and instructors who offered warm hellos. So strong is the positive atmosphere here that it can survive even a heartbreaking event like the passing of GBSA sailor C.J. Buckley in 2002. A passionate high school sailor, C.J. embodied what GBSA is all about. It's clear that his story has become an important part of the fabric of this program. Additionally, with the rise in prominence of the C.J. Buckley Team Race Championship, GBSA has made an enormously positive annual contribution to the national sailing community. Check out the video above for some insight into how all of this came to pass.