Growing Sailors from Sailors

Published on August 11th, 2016

By Molly Mulhern, Windcheck Magazine
Can you remember how you learned to sail? Chances are you were taken aboard someone else’s boat, your family’s, the one at your local sailing club, your neighbor’s, where someone else was at the tiller, had commissioned the boat, had planned the outing. Sailing is unique in that it involves a host of things that have to be coordinated: the boat, a crew, access to water, etc.

Of course, you can dive in and buy a boat and struggle on your own to learn the ropes, literally, and many do. But rewards come in spades for those of us who were lucky enough to have a mentor or teacher who took our sailing education as their responsibility. And it is just this realization that has prompted many yacht and sailing clubs to begin and foster mentoring programs. The organization and aims of these programs vary, as does their age, from long-term to brand new, but they all share the idea that sailors grow sailors.

Nicholas Hayes, the author of Saving Sailing and an ardent supporter of the sport, is lukewarm about mentoring programs in clubs, seeing them flawed because they depend on passionate volunteers. Such programs often start in a flutter of enthusiasm and then sputter out as those who started them move on or away. This is a legitimate observation, yet not a reason to say “No” to this enthusiasm. We should foster any and all sailing mentoring, however imperfect. It is simply a core way to pass along our love of sailing.

If you doubt the value of such programs, consider what mentoring has done for the Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club (BHSC) in Buffalo, New York. This paper club, with no facilities, boasts over 350 members, with high retention rates from its various mentoring programs. Established in 1977, BHSC is the antithesis of the stuffy, blazered pedigreed yachting scene. Its focus is sailing, with a good dose of racing thrown in. For years, the club has run a popular women’s mentoring program that attracts over 200 women annually. – Full Story.

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