Longtime SA supporter UK Sailmakers presents the first of a series of articles that aren’t pimping their product, rather, pimping the sport. And that’s a good thing.
Those of us that race sailboats lead a privileged life relative to what others in our communities face daily. Not every sailor can afford a boat and those that can’t end-up sailing OPBs (Other People’s Boats). Yes, it’s a hell of a life we lead when the biggest challenge we have to face is choosing between Mt. Gay and Goslings. But put down your umbrella drink for just a moment and give a thought about what you’re doing, where you’re doing it, and (here’s the tough part) who you are. Then, after you recognize all that sailing has given you over the years, perhaps it time to ask yourself what you can do to give something back to the sport of sailing.
You don’t have to be a bleeding heart liberal to considering giving back…or paying it forward. Consider these opportunities:
Get involved with a local community sailing program. It could be a formal organization such as Boston Community Sailing or Sail Newport. It could be a local Sea Scouts post. It could even be a local high school’s after school program. You got your sailing chops by sailing with and learning from someone willing to share sailing with you…perhaps you can pass along that gift.
Become part of the adaptive sailing community. No, you don’t have to be disabled to be part of adaptive sailing. However, there are numerous organizations such as Shake-a-Leg and Sail to Prevail that focus on sharing sailing with disabled people and, as is the case with Florida’s Freedom Waters Foundation, at-risk kids. If you really want an experience, become a sighted guide for a blind sailor—that’s a real experience as you’ve got no downtime. Or, as the Larchmont and American Yacht Clubs have done with their Robie Pierce Regattas, start your own adaptive regatta or program. NY’s Nyac Sailng Club has a “try sailing” weekend for people with disabilities that…if nothing else…give them rides on sailboats. However you go about it, you and your club will never be the same again…in a very good way.
Become a mentor for a junior sailor. Doesn’t have to be your kid, so every sailor can do this. If it’s your boat, make it a practice to have at least two kids sailing with you every race. (Two is the magic number as the kid will feel more comfortable if there is a “friend” along.) If you’re a crew, tell your skipper you’ve got some fresh meat that wants to sail. They will learn, they will do whatever you tell them to do, and they will be your most loyal crew for years to come. We’ve all seen kids with a passion for sailing develop into excellent sailors…and people; but that doesn’t happen without someone like you who is willing to invest in a junior’s future.
I speak from experience in this area. Tom Nash started sailing with me on my Express 37 when he was eleven and shortly thereafter brought his eight-year old sister Eileen. They were part of my regular crew for over a decade. Today Tom is the captain of an 80-footer with his 100-Ton license and Eileen is a third engineering officer on a merchant ship with a double degree from SUNY Maritime.
If your club doesn’t have one already, start a junior big-boat sailing day. You’re not going to rob them of their dinghy sailing, but you’ll show them another aspect of the day. It doesn’t have to be racing because we all got hooked on sailing by just messing around in boats. Fun, engaging, and empowering…and easy to do.
Some of these ideas are major commitments of time or resources, yet others can be done more easily or merely require only a slight attitude adjustment. If you really love sailing, maybe not it’s time you considered giving something back to the yachting community. If you’re one of those folks who can whip out a Sharpie and check off the boxes based on what you have/are/will be doing, that’s really terrific. However, if you’re not giving back yet, Sharpies are only a buck so buy one, get into gear, get involved, and start checking off your own boxes.
Sure, UK Sailmakers’ focus is on making fast, durable sails, but we also are interested in feeding the roots of the sport.
Adam Loory, UK International’s General Manager.