Youth sailors perform like craft-y veterans at ‘Rock the Boat’


During the Youth Sailing Foundation’s Rock the Boat fundraiser at the Quail Valley River Club, some of the young sailors in the program ably maneuvered their craft, demonstrating to their supporters that they know the ropes.

The delightful event kicked off with a cocktail hour, and as guests watched from the marina, younger students in 8-foot, one-person Opti craft, and high schoolers in 12-foot, two-person 420 sloops, set sail during the warmup to show off their tacking skills.

Members of the Vero Beach Pipes and Drums then provided a rousing start to the regattas, with Mary Morgan, YSF sailing director, providing race commentary.

“This is some difficult wind to sail in,” said Morgan. “It’s an easterly, coming off of the land, so it might be a little shifty out there for them and it’s very puffy.”

She said some of the students had just competed in a four-day regatta which saw winds blowing up to 40 knots and 4-foot seas, adding, “They braved it and lived to tell the tale.”

Quail Valley served up a delicious outdoor buffet dinner, providing ample opportunities for everyone to watch the young sailors, and to review the items that were bid on later in an auction led by attorney John Moore.

Among the nautically themed items was an 18-foot Annapolis rowing wherry, painstakingly built by Stu Keiller, YSF executive director. “It took me about three months,” said Keiller, saying much of the time was spent on its eight coats of varnish.

YSF has grown considerably over its 13-year history, in the number of participants, programs, its fleet and overall stature within the sailing community, with many students having proven their mettle in races across the state.

There are some 400 children who participate annually in their recreational and competitive programs, 40 percent from underserved homes. There is a nominal fee for the programs, but scholarships are available so that any child who wishes to can participate. YSF also offers adult sailing.

Before the start of the auction, Morgan introduced the young sailors, who were questioned by Moore about their sailing experiences and goals, which included everything from simply becoming better sailors to competing in the Olympics.

The nonprofit is currently embarking on the creation of a $3 million YSF Community Sailing Center and Marine Recreation Park where its current base is, at the water treatment plant by the foot of the Alma Lee Loy Bridge.

“It’s a 10,000-square-foot building,” said Keiller. “It’s where we sail from now; it’s the perfect spot for it. We’re happy to announce that we have about $1.8 million already.”

The two-story building will offer 400 feet of waterfront viewing from its porches, indoor and outdoor space for classrooms and social gatherings, boat and paddle sport rentals, and picnic pavilions. Floating docks and launch ramps for small crafts are already in place.

For more information or to take a tour of the site, call 772-492-3243 or visit

Photos by Mary Schenkel

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