Clipping along: Salute to youth sailors at ‘Rock the Boat’

A sold-out crowd of 250 guests gathered to ‘Rock the Boat’ at the Moorings Yacht and Country Club the evening of March 25, celebrating the growth of the Youth Sailing Foundation of Indian River County and anticipating its future expansion.

Just over eight years ago, roughly 50 local children were given the gift of sailing thanks to YSF founder Charlie Pope and the support of dedicated donors and accomplished mariners. Pope said nearly 900 children have since gone through the program.

“We take kids out of the digital world and put them in the world of wind and waves,” said Stu Keiller, YSF executive director.

YSF began with a small fleet of one-person wooden Optimist sailboats and today more than 100 youngsters are capturing the wind in their sails in a fleet of 66 sailboats; younger children in Optis and high-schoolers in two-person, 14-foot 420s. Recent fleet additions include six racing Optimists donated in memory of the late Windsor resident David T. Shelby.

As guests enjoyed cocktails and perused silent-auction items, they watched from the balcony as YSF sailors showed off skills on the water. Plans are currently underway to build a Community Sailing Center to provide public access to sailing, boat rentals and storage.

“Community sailing is the fastest growing part of sailing,” said Keiller. “That’s where most of the input into sailing comes; not from private clubs and yacht clubs. We’re trying to get a sliver of the power plant to put the building there.”

“We grow organically,” said Pat Harris, YSF board chair, noting the addition of the Shelby Racing Team, paid adult lessons and private lessons, and the long-term goal of the Sailing Center. “When your model is free sailing, you have to hold things like this to provide more opportunities for more kids.”

“We’ve expanded 30 percent this year in the number of boats on the water,” said board member George Hinman. A past Commodore of New York Yacht Club, he and board member David Elwell know a bit about sailing – they won the America’s Cup on Intrepid in 1967. “It’s great for us to give something back to these kids.”

During a delicious dinner and before a spirited live auction began, YSF sailors circulated and answered questions posed by the guests.

“I think the best part is being able to make your own decisions,” said Brendan Williams, a member of the High School Sailing Team. “You’re in control of the entire boat, independent, but you’re also working as a team with your crew or sometimes with the other boats.”

Landon Flick, who attends Rosewood Magnet, said he really liked hiking, adding in explanation to landlubbers, “if your boat goes up on the side, you have to lean back and become like a board and it levels the boat back out.”

In addition to sailing skills, the program is infusing youngsters with self-confidence and skills that will continue to buoy them throughout their entire lives.

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Photos by: Denise Ritchie
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