A community sailing program in New London, CT that began with eight students now introduces hundreds of kids to the sport every season. “My Mom, Carolyn Leuze, and I started New London Community Boating 14 years ago,” said Katie Bradford, the organization’s President. “At an ECSA [Eastern Connecticut Sailing Association] meeting, Bill Squier [a Past ECSA Offshore Chairman] asked, ‘How can we get more kids – and therefore crew – into sailing?’ So, Judy Gibbs [an ECSA Director], Mom and I had lunch and the rest is success. The first year was in boats borrowed from Thames Yacht Club. We got the kids through a variety of charitable agencies in New London, from the public schools and the Recreation Department.”
“We go into the middle school in early May to recruit students,” Bradford continued. There are 37 ethnicities in that school, and we bring Optis and JY 15s right into the gym. With our years of lessons, several students have had older siblings go through – they are great salespeople! New London allows us to use a city property, Greens Harbor Beach, which has a building with changing rooms for the kids, lifeguards, and room to store the boats in the winter. They also provide bus transportation to and from the venue. The driver stays with us all day, so that if weather prevents sailing, we can take them on a field trip to the Coast Guard Academy, for example.”
“We are a 501c3 non-profit organization, and we have a small but dedicated board,” Bradford concluded. “Becca Wesley has been our Head Instructor since the beginning, and she inspires loyalty from her staff. Several of our students have become US Sailing Level 1 instructors. We paid the fees for one student, Angel Martinez, to get certified. We go to a few regattas, and for kids who are in a completely foreign environment, they do well – no one has ever been last!”
To learn more about New London Community Boating, call the New London Recreation Department at 860-447-5230, or visit their Facebook page.