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.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Feeling Courageous In Boston

The ocean, of course, was the key to the city of Boston's rise to greatness. In the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, merchant vessels, fishing schooners, warships and countless other sailing craft plied the narrow entrance to Boston Harbor, seeking out one of the continent's best natural anchorages. The city was often the first port of call for ships completing an Atlantic crossing from Europe, or the last departure point for those headed east. Sailing is in the city's blood, and yet by the time the late 20th century came to pass, evidence of this rich maritime heritage was barely visible.

Founded in 1987 to help re-establish Boston as a sailing mecca, and to positively influence local children through learning, growth and leadership, Courageous Sailing has already become a prominent part of Boston's social fabric. Hundreds of kids utilize Courageous's three locations each year, and graduate from the five-step summer program as more knowledgeable, responsible, and well-rounded individuals. This week, the US SAILING Roadshow was able to experience two of these sites, and came away awed by the scope and ambition of the center's programs.

On Tuesday, we visited Courageous Sailing headquarters, located at Pier 4 in Charlestown. It was from this site that the organization got its name, as it was once home to the two-time America's Cup winning 12-metre yacht Courageous. The boat itself has long since departed, but in its place is an operation that is the envy of coastal cities across the country.

An impressive fleet of J-22's, Rhodes 19's, assorted keelboats, Lasers and other equipment line the floating docks, awaiting an enterprising youth class or adult group to take them out. Earlier in the summer, Courageous helped host the visiting Extreme Sailing Series, and was named the official charity of the regatta. (You may recall us interviewing Executive Director Amy VanDoren at the event!)

While cloudy skies dampened the scenery somewhat, the weather could not suppress the enthusiasm of the students themselves, who were happy to stay out sailing the Roadshow O'Pen Bics until the last possible minute. Tuesday also saw Courageous play host the U.S. Rhodes 19 Junior Championships, which the neighboring Piers Park Sailing Center also took part in.

On Wednesday, we stopped by Camp Harbor View, located on Boston Harbor's Long Island. The main summer camp, which is a separate entity, has all of its sailing activities run by capable Courageous staff members. The Roadshow vehicle has been parked in some dramatic places so far this summer, but few can compare to the spot we had today on their huge pier. The truck was 500 feet out into the harbor!

Specializing in at-risk children from the cities of Boston and Chelsea, Camp Harbor View offers an impressive range of activities considering the camp itself is less than six years old. These include field sports, basketball, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, volleyball, sailing, and more. Using the O'pen Bic dinghies also marked the first time that each of the campers had sailed solo, having exclusively learned on a Rhodes 19. In a testament to the skill of the Courageous staff, each kid was capable of sailing the Bics around the area with minimal coaching assistance. Some became so confident that they asked to receive their first experience with capsizing, and into the water they went!

Without a doubt, the Roadshow crew got to experience community sailing at its very best this week, at two unique and beautiful locations. It really seems like the city of Boston is poised to take back its sailing identity once again, led by Courageous and its unwavering mission.


Some more photos!

Circling up at the beginning of class. - Courageous/ Camp Harbor View


Charting an expedition to nearby Thompson Island. 
- Courageous/ Camp Harbor View

Lunchtime. - Camp Harbor View

There seem to be infinite ways to sit in/on an O'pen Bic! 

Local professional sports franchises are frequent donors to Camp Harbor View. 
Go Pats.

A paddleboard mothership.
 - Courageous/ Camp Harbor View

Just plain adorable. 
- Courageous/ Camp Harbor View