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