Community Access to Sailing

by Chris Kameen on May 30, 2014

Community Sailing ProjectsDuring the last week I have had the most amazing opportunity to spend time with a great bunch of people in Newport Rhode Island at Sail Newport.

Sail Newport is a community based sailing project whose mission  is to promote and operate affordable public sailing instruction, rental programmes and to create opportunities to attract new sailors to the sport.

Brad Read, the founder and main driver of the project is quite an awesome fellow and gave me access to a number of his staff at what is a very busy time in the lead up to their short sailing season and as they prepare for the Volvo Ocean Race stop over next year.Instructor Training in front of New York Yacht Club

There were some key learning points for me:

  1. We are so spoilt in Sydney for year round access to dinghy sailing. It is a joke and an embarrassment that clubs stop at Easter. I never thought Australians would be such wimps! ;-)The air temp in Newport on the day of this photo was 15degrees and the water temp was less than 14. They just wear appropriate sailing kit!
  2. If we really want to promote sailing, we need to share ideas and work together in partnerships with other sailing stakeholders, not try and make money off each other! Sail Newport were more than happy to share everything of their inner workings for the betterment of the sport,
  3. Stakeholders include local governments/councils, local yacht clubs, sailing authorities, suppliers to the sailing industry and the local community.
  4. Access to the water and land on the water front is very precious. By operating as a charity, Sail Newport has been able to reside on a decent sized plot that allows them to secure alternative income streams such as storing boats which can then support sponsored sailing opportunities for the under privileged
  5. Organisations and people that wish to support and sponsor sailing want to see professionally run operations which fit with the goals and ethos of their brand and also give a measurable return on investment.
  6. Whilst Yacht Clubs focus on racing – a large proportion of their members just wanted to go sailing around the harbour.
  7. Utilisation of Assets is one of the best ways to ‘green’ our sport. having large fleets of matched boats that can be used for both teaching, racing and hiring out makes for an efficient model and reduces the impact of  things like the fact our boats are made of pretty nasty chemicals and materials.
  8. Even when you have waiting lists for your sailing programme, there are still things that you can learn and do better.
    1. The dinghies being used at Sail Newport were in my opinion old fashioned – Optimists and 420’s and when I asked how adults were taught in dinghies they say they probably weren’t, they were taught in J22 keelboats. I think they are missing an opportunity because of the boats that they are using.
    2. Sail Newport did not utilise on-line booking services which I found interesting.. surely this must be labour intensive, but does mean they keep the interpersonal relationships going.

Most of all what I found is that sailors are truly one big family, (we have the odd person – who is the obnoxious uncle or Aunt we don’t talk to!) we all want people to get involved in the sport and see it flourish. We make friends for life, a massive thank-you to all my friends that I stayed with and  had such an enjoyable time sailing with.



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