by AMY VILLALBA
Kieran Quinn, Commodore of Nyack Boat Club (NBC) in Nyack, NY, says there are fluffy clouds that can only be seen in Nyack. He should know. Kieran’s served as Rear Commodore (Programs) 2008-2009, Vice Commodore 2010-2011 and Commodore since 2012.
“My best memory of sailing is rising at dawn with my wife, Robin, still asleep, hoisting an anchor and getting away, and having her awake with the sound of the water on the hull and the patting of her feet as she goes and puts a tea kettle on,” says Kieran. “It’s a beautiful image.”
Kieran shares his passion for sailing by encouraging young people to sail. “Both my boys competed for the Bemis Trophy and I’ve shared their experiences with young people and helped them decide upon goals that they can strive for. I’ve encouraged lots of new sailors over the years, and introduced people to sailing. I’m happy to say that several members of the club first sailed with me on my boat at Nyack. They learned to sail and then joined the club. I think all of them are racing now, so that’s fun!”
“The club has a strong racing program that I participated in for many years,” says Kieran. “Robin and I started with a Thistle and we raced it and raced it and raced it, and that’s a wonderful class boat to race. My kids learned to sail on a Thistle. One of the special things about the club is it still maintains a strong one-design tradition. We have competent sailors and strong racing programs in the Thistle and Lightning classes. One of the things I find particularly appealing about one-design boats is that there is less of a barrier to participation. When I bought my first Thistle, and the numbers have changed a little bit, I paid $2,250 for the boat. I kept it 11 years and sold it for $2,000 so that’s not very daunting. I also find it appealing in that there is less of an age ghetto in the club than there is in the rest of life in that you see teenagers beside 60-year-olds and their opinions and skills are equally valued and that’s really great fun.”
NBC has also run a strong junior sailing program for over 40 years, according to Kieran. “We have 36 students each session and two sessions each summer. The program is open to non-members, but we give preference to children of members.” The program is successful to the club, as a whole, in that “quite frequently if children become involved their families become involved. It’s hard for kids to get serious about sailing unless it becomes a family activity. We have a lot of parents who support their kids enthusiastically; if the parents aren’t sailors already, they often jump in too.”
In terms of depth of skills taught to juniors, Kieran says, “We start them out in Optis and we go up through the 420s, and we even sent a team to Nantucket Race Week this year. The kids go from the basics to being competent one-design sailors. We work on them to develop cruising skills and to develop skills to handle large keelboats.” Two well-known alumni of the NBC Junior Sailing program are Kerry Klingler of Quantum Sails, and Justin Coplan, First Runner-Up in the 2013 Lightning World Championship.
When asked if NBC’s do-it-yourself philosophy helped it recover from Superstorm Sandy, Kieran replied, “No question about it.” Like many clubs, there was extensive damage to all the facilities: the clubhouse, bulkheads, hoists, docks, piers, etc. “The recovery for the club cost us almost $400,000, but that doesn’t count the hours, the days, the members put in on the immediate recovery of the club,” he explains. “Following the storm we had people pouring into the club to help with cleanup. People didn’t have lights on at their homes for weeks, and they were coming to the club and working when they were still without power. They couldn’t go into their own jobs, there was a gas crisis and yet people were still coming to the club. It was utterly amazing.
From the word 'go,’ we were out there and we planned to move ahead and repair things. Having a reserve allowed us to move ahead. We had cranes and equipment on-site immediately for recovery of damage that wasn’t covered by insurance. If we didn’t have that we would have been in deep trouble.”
One year later, Kieran reports the physical recovery is almost complete with only the mast-stepping dock scheduled to be finished at press time. However, the financial recovery continues. NBC was extremely fortunate to have a substantial contingency reserve. Those reserves are depleted as a result of the cost of recovery. “As Commodore, I have regular contact with officers of other clubs and it’s clear to me that those without significant contingency reserves are in a very precarious position. Every little rock that makes a little wave in the pond nearly capsizes those clubs.”
On a recent Sunday, Kieran told a prospective member, “If you don’t like this, don’t bother coming back because it doesn’t get any better!” The Lightnings and the Sonars were pulling out, the Thistles were pulling in from the Paul LoGerfo Memorial Regatta, and the PHRF fleet was getting ferried out. “Man, I loved it!” said Kieran. “You saw everything happening at the same time. It was bright and clear with fluffy clouds which only occur at Nyack Boat Club. I truly believe that Nyack has one of the prettiest cruising grounds with the Tappan Zee and the enclosure of the mountains nearby. You go out sailing in the morning and have the mist falling over the Palisades. It’s really pretty, and I’ve sailed in a lot of places.”
According to Kieran, while sailing north through the Tappan Zee in 1609, Henry Hudson looked to his left and said, “Boy, that would be a good place to put a boat club.” Hudson’s vision is now our reward.