Wednesday, September 7, 2011

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

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