Moving forward by providing opportunity

Published on September 24th, 2020

Serving the Mid-Atlantic region of the USA, The Downtown Sailing Center (Baltimore, MD) was selected as a location for the US Sailing Siebel Sailors Program which seeks to increase opportunity and diversity in the sport of sailing. Stuart Proctor, Executive Director for DSC, offers this report:

It was on September 22 which marked a very special day for The DSC when ten of our Siebel Sailors went sailing and nearly half of them capsized. Some of them capsized multiple times. The coaches assisted them in righting their boats, and people gawked from the docks.

As the Executive Director, I was a bit worried. Not for their safety, but about what others might think. We were supposed to be celebrating a small victory with the splashing of The DSC’s little powerboat, BOATY, but as we motored out for the sea trial our youngest sailors began capsizing around us. It was awful and awesome at the same time.

It was awful because we know there are health risks associated with poor water quality that we struggle to contend with. How reckless and naïve am I, as the person most responsible for the health and safety of our sailors, to send our youngest out in their own little boats to fend for themselves against the wind and waves?

It was also awesome because I saw kids in command of their own sailboats, right here in Baltimore. Black kids and white kids, girls and boys, all sailing individually yet looking out for one another. When the first boat capsized, all of the sailors maneuvered close by to offer help and words of encouragement.

Each kid may have been on their own boat, but every child made sure that no one was alone.

They righted their boats, albeit with a little help from their coaches. Then they climbed back in and set off again on a new course. In doing so, they marked a milestone for our city and our community sailing center.

I do not want our kids to be the pointy end of the spear. They do not deserve that fate. But we cannot live in fear. That is what sailing has taught me, and that is what our sailing community is teaching me.

The Downtown Sailing Center provides sailing opportunities for many people: adults who are fulfilling a childhood dream; people of all colors and incomes looking to experience the same joys and challenges as their most privileged peers; people with disabilities, who cannot walk, who cannot see, who cannot express with words what they experience.

We, The Downtown Sailing Center, put them in boats and shove them away from the docks with mere words of encouragement and many silent prayers.

The water quality in Baltimore will continue to challenge us. And it is not just in Baltimore, but on my home waters of the Albermarle; on both coasts; on the shores of our Great Lakes; and within rivers near and far. I have deep concern for the health of our waters everywhere, and poor water quality will soon be our greatest impediment to water access.

But should we not all have the opportunity to struggle for something as important as access to recreation on our home waters? Can we say that it is okay for a privileged few to go sailing in these waters, while denying others the same opportunity?

And are we so gullible that we should sit idly and watch the waves pass by? We must tread carefully, but we cannot fail to move forward simply because we are fearful.

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