Thirty-five years ago, a young college graduate took over a sailing school in Colchester, Vermont. Robin Doyle grew up on the Connecticut coast in a racing sailing family, and her love of sailing made her want to share the sport with others who would never have even dreamed of world-class sailing so far from an ocean.
She, with the help of her beloved dad, gathered a small fleet of Solings and a few pocket cruisers in need of rescuing, fixed them up, and started teaching. She now has an ASA-award-winning school and club, welcoming beginners, cruisers, racers, club members (boat owners or not), and students from all over the US and Canada and even farther.
She has mentored more than one teenage kid looking to learn by doing; she offers programs to underserved youth and through the local parks and rec department, to people who wouldn’t have the means to try sailing. She has created a community of like-minded club members who are interested in developing their skills and helping others develop theirs.
Robin sets up and runs countless races, having repurposed her own trophies to commemorate these series. She is generous with her time and knowledge and is “Mama Duck” watching over all her little ducklings as they learn to venture farther from their home port.
Her business of owning and maintaining boats for club use allows people to sail without having to worry about doing all that for themselves until they’re ready. When her students pass their Learn To Sail, the cost of renting boats to keep practicing is the best deal going. Hers is a no-frills, pure sailing experience. She teaches her students to SAIL on and off a mooring, not flip a switch and drive off. One protege started the sailing club at the University of Colorado, Boulder; another student sailed a 39’ chartered cruiser to a dock in 25-knot winds after the prop shaft crapped out.
Last year, the residents of Colchester passed a bill to install sewer along West Lakeshore Drive, ostensibly to improve Lake Champlain water quality, but it has increased the value of the property along the bay. It will push out small businesses in favor of rich people getting richer and decrease access to the lake for people of average means.
Now, the International Sailing School and Club, of Malletts Bay in Colchester, VT, is losing its lease as of April 30th, 2023. Robin Doyle is being driven out of business, and the likelihood of her finding another spot in the bay or even on the lake to set up shop is minimal; people can’t find lakefront property, so they buy quarter-million-dollar powerboats to get the same experience.
The landlords gave Robin no warning or ability to meet new terms or negotiate in any way. A wealthy local businessman has somehow taken over the lease; it’s unknown what purpose he has in mind for ISS’s lot, but a boutique hotel comes to mind; or expanding his powerboat accommodations from the business he bought a year or so ago a couple doors down the road.
A GoFundMe page has been set up, to help raise money if there are any legal avenues that can be explored; to move the boats and 35 years’ worth of equipment off the property; to try to find a new location. This link will take you there: https://gofund.me/894c1385. A lot of GoFundMe campaigns go viral and raise much more than their stated goals. Wouldn’t it be nice to raise enough to buy the property outright!? But to do that, the word has to get out.
Losing this business will be much worse than a town losing tax revenue, or all the money it brings in to hotels and restaurants from “away” students; that might get replaced by power boaters. Losing this sailing school will erode the ability to pass on Robin’s love of sailing to people; will erode people learning a skill that will give them a lifetime of joy; will erode the confidence they gain; will erode the camaraderie and community that means so much. This should not be allowed to happen.